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Shooters raise a stink, NRAI blinks

other Updated: Jan 12, 2009 23:11 IST
Ajai Masand

A sparsely furnished room on the ground floor of the District Rifle Association of Idukki (DRAI) complex, which was serving as a rest room for shooters till Sunday, was turned into a 15-lane 10m range on Monday.

Though the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and DRAI officials said the step had been taken because of the “unusually large number of pistol shooters at the 52nd National Championships”, HT learnt it was done following protests from managers and shooters who were barely getting 10-15 minutes of practice time.

“With a 19-lane main air-conditioned hall for 10m air pistol on the first floor, how much practice time could one get with 600 shooters around? Just 8-10 shots at the target and some holding practice! Thankfully, the DRAI has made this new range overnight. It has eased our burden,” said a team manager.

Another official said their hour-long meeting with NRAI and DRAI officials turned out to be stormy with most of the managers hauling up national coach Sunny Thomas for the poor arrangements. “He finally apologized for the shortcomings at the range,” said an official from a northern state.

Still, a lot needs to be done to make the conditions optimum. “There is no ventilation in the range and gases from the pistol cylinders and exploding lead pellets are a health hazard. How could a national coach for more than 15 years ignore such a crucial aspect? There was no proper lighting till Sunday. Today, they are rectifying the fault with just a few days left for the Nationals to conclude! But at least we have been allotted a couple of lanes for practice,” said the official. The air pistol event commences on Tuesday.

Skanaker for coach

Ragnar Skanaker of Sweden is tipped to succeed Csaba Gyorik as the next pistol coach after the Hungarian's contract was not extended by the Sports Authority of India. “Skanaker has agreed in principal and we are working out the details,” said an official.

Skanaker, a 1972 Munich Olympics gold-medallist, also won silver in 1984 and 1988 at the Los Angeles and Seoul Games. The Swede is one of the most decorated marksmen in the world, having won several World Championship gold.