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Shooting stars shone bright in 2006

The shooters - junior and seniors together - picked as many as 129 medals, including 31 silver and 29 bronze.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 12:59 IST

They shot at sight in every major competition, returning with a sacful of medals, including 63 gold, six Olympic berths and three world titles, making it a glorious year for Indian shooting.

Making light of a stingy supply of ammunition, Indian shooters excelled at the various ISSF World Cups and World Championships across the globe, the Asian Games in Doha and Commonwealth Games in Melbourne to become the toast of the nation.

The shooters - junior and seniors together - picked as many as 129 medals, including 31 silver and 29 bronze.

The year was also unique in the sense that the sport found new heroes in 'Goldfinger' Samresh Jung and promising rifle shooter Tejaswini Sawant while Jaspal Rana made a historic comeback, winning three gold medals at the Asia besides one slilver.

Abhinav Bindra became the country's first-ever world champion and Manavjit Singh, who clinched the title in trap event, became the second Indian within a week's time to win the World championships in Zagreb, Croatia.

The duo surpassed legendary Dr Karni Singh's watermark of trap silver medal attained at the 38th World Championships in Cairo, Egypt in 1962. More

Rana rolled back the years to corner glory at Doha and sum up the year on a golden note for the country, starved of shooting gold since 1994 when as an 18-year-old he had won the first gold for India in Asiad.

Rana, now 30, however, minced no words when he said shooters might not be able to repeat their feats if their problems were not addressed.

He complained about inadequate ammunition, equipment and even the ranges, besides the absence of a 'worthy' coach. He demanded his Australian coach Tibor Gounczal back while levelling allegations at current pistol coach Casaba Gyorik of Hungary.

The burly marksman, who never considered contesting in Olympics in last 12 years, also announced that he was now targeting the 2012 London Games -- although only time will tell if it is just a political gimmick of a sportstar inclined to the Bharatiya Janata Party or a marksman's promise.

Samresh Jung, who had set the momentum early in the year by winning as many as five gold medals in pistol events and also being adjudged the Best Sportsperson at the Commonwealth Games, had only given an indication of the dazzling time ahead for the Indian shooters.

Jung did not admit it publicly, but he did confess that had he got adequate supply of quality ammo, it would have been a different story for him.

Upcoming rifle shooter Gagan Narang kept his promise by putting up an excellent show in the Commonwealth Games and then clinching the first Olympic quota place for the country by beating Chinese marksmen in China to claim the title in the first World Cup of the year in Guangzhou immediately after the Commonwealth Games.

Narang climbed fame charts as well as the ISSF rankings to be placed on the top among the world shooters after this feat.

Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was more in news for reasons other than his on-field heroics.

The Lieutenant Colonel, who was struggling to adjust with his newly acquired double bore Perazzi, struck form at right time and clinched the Olympic quota place by winning the double trap gold medal at the Cairo World Shotgun Cup.

But what captured more news space was that an airlines misplaced Rathore's gun on his way back home and it was damaged when he recovered it.

It meant the 37-year-old had to once again adjust to the gun and it put paid to his aspirations at the all important World Championships, where he could not even qualify for the finals.

Rathore, who could not perform to his potential in the year's last major assignment in Doha Asian Games, managed an individual bronze and a team silver. But he again made news when the Games organising committee accused him of being "rude" with the volunteers and security personnel at the event.

He also blamed the organisers for not conducting the shooting competition professionally.

"The targets were intentionally not released at regular intervals," he alleged.

However, despite a not so memorable year, Rathore proved on various occasions that he had nerves of steel. First in Cairo where he missed five birds out of 40 but shot all the remaining 10 to win the gold and surprise the field.

In Doha also, he fumbled in the second round of the qualification but more than made up for his lapses by being the only shooter to hit a perfect round of 50 and bouncing back in the competition.

Among women, Anjali Bhagwat might have lost her place to Tejaswini Sawant in her pet evet 10 m air rifle, but she showed her class by winning the Olympic quota place in the rifle three-position in the second World Cup of the year at Resende, Brazil.

Avneet Kaur Sindhu, an emerging talent, also secured a quota place early enough. The six quota place winning Indian shooters also included Manavjit, who had won trap silver at Kerrville World Cup, and Bindra.

First Published: Dec 22, 2006 12:59 IST