Gunning for glory
Despite missing Abhinav Bindra, the shooters are India?s best bet in the Asiad, writes Ajai Masand.
They have been gunning down medals all year round and are still hungry for more. Talk of Indian prospects at the Asian Games and the discipline that instantly comes to mind is shooting.
While some three decades ago, there were only stray names like Karni Singh and Randhir Singh who did India proud at the international level, now the country boasts of a whole new breed of marksmen firing hard to make a mark.
It now seems that the jigsaw pieces which were meticulously being assembled all these years are now firmly in place and India can hope to look forward to a windfall at Doha.
World champion Manavjit Singh, Athens Olympic Games silver-medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, rifle marksman Gagan Narang, Avneet Kaur Sidhu, Anjali Bhagwat, Samresh Jung and the like have the potential to bring Indian shooting to the forefront this time around — and break the jinx of not clinching an Asiad gold after 1994. A certain Jaspal Rana had spurred the imagination of the country then by winning the prized booty in centrefire pistol at the Hiroshima Games.
Those sepia-tinted images of a young boy buried under garlands at the Delhi airport and being carried by his supporters are still fresh in the minds of the sport's followers. Somewhere down the line, the poster boy's motivation might have come down, but his contribution to the sport — in spawning a whole new breed of shooters — will not be lost on the country.
Coming back to the present, the year started with a gold-glut at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the piece de resistance came at the World Championships in Zagreb where India won three gold medals. Then there were the very creditable achievements at the Asian Clay Championships in Singapore, where India made a clean sweep, and Rathore's World Cup Finals bronze with a personal best of 144.
India's prospects in Doha? Some lack of foresight on the part of the officialdom could cost India dear: The shooters would get only two days to acclimatise to the conditions despite the fact that they had the opportunity to train there in September. Another setback came when world champion Abhinav Bindra dropped out of the team due to a back problem.
But all said and done, India would like to exorcise the ghosts of the Changwon Shooting Range at Busan in 2002, when the shooters could manage only a couple of team silver medals. In the individual section, all top stars failed except Anjali Bhagwat, who lost a medal by a hair's breadth, literally. Anjali, then 32, lost the bronze by just 0.1 point and the gold itself by just 0.9 point. It sure seems that lady luck would shine on her this time around!