Rathore's exclusion from Olympic squad is galling

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has done more to popularise Indian shooting than anyone else in the country. The double-trap marksman is a pioneer in the sense that he earned the country's first individual Olympic silver medal and motivated hundreds of shooters to take up the sport long considered elitist.

On Sunday, as the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) announced the squad for the London Olympic Games, the name of the Athens Olympic silver-medallist was missing. The federation could well have given the Colonel the opportunity to do an Athens encore, but instead preferred a young shooter from Punjab, Heena Sidhu, to don India colours at London.

While the federation was spot on in giving Kolkata-based rifle shooter, Joydeep Karmakar, a slot in the Olympic-bound squad, as he has done everything right in the past decade, Rathore's exclusion is galling to say the least.

He is a multiple World Cup medallist, has withstood the pressure on the biggest stage and motivated a whole generation of shooters. But when the federation was presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to select him, it let him, and the country, down.

Premature choice?
Sidhu's claim to fame is her sterling performance in domestic events and a silver medal at the 2009 World Cup in Beijing. To compete in the Olympics one requires nerves of steel, a resolve cemented by years of experience and a temperament, which comes with hours of training. A certain Abhinav Bindra or a Rathore will tell you about the pains and pangs of competing at the highest level. Both of them put in years of hard work before they achieved greatness.

Sidhu is young and energetic, has the talent to excel at the top, but, perhaps, this is not her Olympics. She could have been a reserve for the future, a flame to ignite the country's aspiration in Rio de Janeiro or beyond. But, this should have been Rathore's Games.

Been there, done that
He might not have given a very impressive performance at the recently concluded National championships and the trials, but he has 'been there, done that', not to speak of the world record-equalling 148/150 performance at the inaugural Asian Shotgun championship at Kuala Lumpur two months back.

Or, if Rathore was not in their scheme of things, courtesy his reported allegiance to an opposing group in the NRAI, rifle shooter Anjali Bhagwat wasn't a bad option either. Who knows the fighter in the three-time Olympian in 10m air rifle, would have carried her to the podium.

But then, the federation's decisions frequenlty defy logic. What does one expect of a selection committee that doesn't comply with the basic government norms and whose president doesn't have the time to attend its regular meetings.


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