On a day when India should have rejoiced for sweeping the four gold medals on offer in the Commonwealth Championships, there was anguish among its top marksmen.
With the government not “recognising their achievements” in major competitions like the Asian Championships and World Cups, it needed just one question to bring out the frustration.
“We get only warm handshakes but no money,” said ace rifle marksman Gagan Narang, who clinched his second gold — the individual 10m air rifle title at the Karni Singh Ranges on Saturday.
Speaking on behalf of compatriots like Ronjan Sodhi, Suma Shirur, Sanjeev Rajput, RVS Rathore and Manavjit Singh Sandhu, who are yet to be feted, Narang, asked if he had been rewarded for winning at World Cups and Asian Championships, said, “Incentives in time are a big motivation...but we get nothing.
“Only six shooters have won World Cup medals. The event is more competitive than the Olympics with top marksmen from 60-70 countries participating. Aren’t we winning medals for our country? And why shouldn’t our coaches also get rewards,” he asked.
National coach Sunny Thomas, seated next to him, chipped in, “One day before the C’wealth Championships, they (shooters) came to me…they wanted to do something. I do not want them to protest but once that happens I cannot stop them either.”
Sources told HT that Thomas also raised the issue in NRAI’s general body and said that shooters could also stage a protest like hockey players did last month.
Back in the competition arena, double-trap marksman, Mohammed Ashab, along with senior team-mate, Vikram Bhatnagar, started the gold rush by winning the pairs event despite the presence of Atlanta Olympic gold-medallist Russell Mark of Australia. The duo aggregated 187/200 for the title with the 22-year-old Ashab notching 96/100 and Bhatnagar 91.
Narang, after an average second round in ‘qualification’, when he shot a 97, rectified his “position” to reel off some fine scores on way to individual gold in 10m air rifle with a 699.5 (595+104.5), pushing team-mate Sanjeev Rajput to second spot.
Anisa Sayyed found the going easy in 25m air pistol, winning the title with a score of 776.5 (578 + 198.5). Amanpreet Singh strove even less on way to gold in 50m pistol.
He aggregated 654.4 (560+90.4). India have a tally of six gold.
The 10m air rifle medal ceremony got chaotic with the organisers unable to find a second Tricolour, as India had won gold and silver.
After some effort, order was restored.