The third edition of the Asian Airgun Championship in Doha from December 16-22 will also double up as the qualification event for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games to be held in Singapore next year.
“The Youth Olympics has a similar qualification criterion as the Olympics. The Asian Airgun event is the only tournament where Indian youth can qualify for the Singapore event,” said national coach Sunny Thomas. “We have some very good shooters who can make it to Singapore and among them Ayonika Paul, Shruti Bhattepatil and Neha Sapte are the frontrunners,” said Thomas.
With so much at stake, it’s strange that the sports ministry was having second thoughts on clearing the youth team till yesterday. “After we made the ministry aware of the importance of the event, some names were cleared. I am hopeful that the other names will also get the nod,” said Thomas.
As always, India is sending a big contingent but the exact number could vary depending upon the government’s clearance. While the fate of some youth hangs in balance, some senior shooters too could face the axe as the ministry has revised its list of core group shooters for the Commonwealth Games. It is learnt that the ministry first cleared the names of marksmen figuring in the original list of core group formed last year.
However, the list has been revised recently and a few shooters in the original list have been axed. “Yes, there is some confusion regarding the core group. Some 4-5 shooters who figured in the original list but whose names are not in the revised list might not get the nod,” said Thomas. “But, on the other hand, the ministry has cleared the youth team, which is good.”
A strong team led by rifle shooter Gagan Narang and pistol marksman Samaresh Jung will participate in the event, which also has the likes of PT Raghunath and Sanjeev Rajput among others.
For Gagan, it will be a good time to test his new shooting equipment. However, Indian shooters will again miss out on the chance of winning a few more medals, as there is still no participation in the running target. “The machinery is very much there at the Karni Singh Range but it’s been lying idle. Nothing is happening on that front. There is precious little space required for running target, still it’s not been installed,” said Thomas.