The National Rifle Association of India's (NRAI) new selection policy makes it compulsory for all shooters - even those who have earned Olympic quota places for the country - to compete in the Asian Championships at Doha in January. The final selection for the London Olympics will be done after its completion, leaving less room for the shooters to earn more quota places.
So, instead of the Asian Championships being an opportunity to garner more quota places, it is turning out to be a tournament where shooters will be protecting their spots.
Under the new policy, in place from December 2, all shooters who have already won quota places cannot give the championship a miss, as it will reduce their chances of going to the Olympics, and, at the same time, make it more difficult for other contenders to get a place in the national squad.
"Those shooters who have already won quota places should be replaced by others in the Asian Championships, which is the last chance to earn an Olympic berth," said a shooter, who has already won a quota place.
However, national coach, Sunny Thomas, said, "We have not changed the selection policy. We've only made minor modifications. Sending the other shooters in lieu of quota holders to the Asian meet will not serve any purpose. How can we expect those shooters who can't even make it to the team through direct selections to win quota places for the Olympics?"
Even if we believe Thomas's statement, how is it that some of the shooters, who have won quota places already, are still not in the top-five in the national rankings. Hariom Singh, who had secured an Olympic berth, is not among the top three prone shooters.
No wonder, shooters are distraught. "Even after a year, we are not clear about the old selection criteria for the Olympic squad. And now with the NRAI replacing it with a new one, it is going to be really difficult for us to figure out who all will compete in London. With this attitude, the NRAI, instead of helping us prepare for the Games, is making matters more complicated," said one of the quota-holding shooters.
The job of the administrators should be to set up a policy and then stick to it since athletes plan their schedule according to that. After all, India need to get past just making it to the Olympics, and aim to be in the best position to win more medals.