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Indian shooters’ flop show a reflection on mindset

Instead of stepping up their performance at the Olympics, Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul crumbled under pressure

olympics Updated: Aug 07, 2016 12:57 IST
Navneet Singh
Ayonika Paul during the women's 10m air rifle qualification at the Olympic Shooting Centre in Rio on Saturday.
Ayonika Paul during the women's 10m air rifle qualification at the Olympic Shooting Centre in Rio on Saturday.(AP)

Six months ago, air rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela said she was on the right track for the Rio Olympics. “I’m doing fitness and allied processes to prop up my performance.”

That’s history. On Saturday, all eyes were on her when she stepped on the ranges to compete in the Olympics. It was hoped she would create history.

But it turned out to be a disappointing show. She not only failed to repeat her recent score of 416, but also couldn’t reach the final.

Apurvi, 23, finished 34th with a score of 411.6.

What went wrong? She may have wilted under pressure; otherwise there isn’t a reason why she couldn’t repeat her recent performance.

In a series of low-key global events last season, including World Cups, the Rajasthan shooter had consistently shot 415-416.

She started on a positive note on Saturday by scoring 104.2, but slipped in the second series as she shot 102.7. Perhaps, it could have put pressure as halfway through she wasn’t on the right track.

In shooting, one bad shot in a series puts pressure. To advance into the top eight, she should have been in the 104 range.

Instead of stepping up, she slipped again in the third series, scoring 103.3. She could have controlled her mind as she still had a chance in the final series. But the way she struggled --- her score was 101.4, hinted that she was tense.

During the test event at Rio, Apurvi had shot 415.7, but she faltered when it mattered, and it reflected in her training and mindset in the days leading to the big event.

It also shows her temperament. She won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but her Olympic debut was a damp squib.

Ayonika Paul’s tale was similar. She had shot 415 earlier, in fact, fared better by scoring 420.6 during the 2014 World Championships at Granada, Spain.

At Rio, she could manage 403, indicating she lacked the temperament for the Olympics.

In the men’s 10m air pistol, Army shooter Gurpreet Singh scored 576 in the preliminary round. He started with a series of 94, 96, 93, 99, 99, 95, hitting 21 tens and ended 19th overall.

If he couldn’t advance to the top eight, he wasn’t to blame entirely. He is more at home in rapid fire pistol. Had the federation changed his event to rapid fire, he could have done far better. Perhaps, it is a reflection on the federation’s policy to field shooters for the Olympics.