India’s top shooter denied a chance at medals, points
By barring Saurabh Chaudhary, India’s top 10m air pistol shooter who is ranked No. 4 in the world, from competing for medals in the next two editions of the World Cup, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) may have dealt his hopes of breaking into the top three a severe blow.
The reason proferred by NRAI is that since Chaudhary, 17, has already sealed a 2020 Olympic quota berth, others must be given a chance. India can get two Olympic quota berths in the 10m air pistol.
So the Asian Games gold medallist will participate in the MQS (Minimum Qualification Score) category at the next two World Cups, in Beijing (April 21-29) and Munich (May 22-29). A shooter in the MQS category cannot compete for medals and will not earn any world ranking points.
NRAI selection committee member Moraad Ali Khan said this was standard procedure in the year before the Olympics, but it also means that Chaudhary, gold medallist in last October’s Youth Olympics and the World Cup in New Delhi in February 2018, finds himself at a dead end. The policy was put in place just before the 2016 Rio Games.
“I do not agree with this policy and have raised this with the NRAI a number of times. Why would you stall the progress of a shooter when he is doing really well?,” said double trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi, a former world No. 1 and 2010 Asian Games gold medallist.
A good showing in the next two World Cups could have given Chaudhary—who is on 965 points and secured an Olympic Games quota place at the New Delhi World Cup with a world record score of 245 in the finals—the chance of moving past South Korea’s Lee Daemyung (1107 points) and perhaps even Russia’s Artem Chernousov (1464 points). Veteran South Korean marksman Jin Jongoh leads the rankings with 1785 points.
NRAI secretary Rajiv Bhatia said that since Chaudhary has earned a quota berth, “we wanted to give others a chance to earn the second Tokyo Games quota.” So, Shahzar Rizvi, Abhishek Verma and young Arjun Singh Cheema will be competing for medals in Beijing and Munich.
“Till such time we are not able to maximise our Olympic quotas in an event, we have a policy that the marksman who has qualified for the Olympics will be kept out and shoot only in the MQS category,” said Bhatia.
This means Chaudhary will not be able to compete for medals in a World Cup till those selected by NRAI can bag the other quota place. That would also deny him the chance of getting used to the pressure of a World Cup final. “By moving him to MQS, he will be out of his depth when he has to compete in the finals of the Olympic Games,” said Sodhi.
“If he had been included, India’s chances of a World Cup medal would have increased as he is better than the three who are going,” said Nitin Chaudhary, the shooter’s brother who also manages him.
Bhatia conceded that Chaudhary stood a good chance of winning medals at the World Cups and that he would lose valuable ranking points.
The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) has also recently proposed giving direct Tokyo Olympic quota places to shooters ranked No. 1 in the world till January 2020. If passed, federations will have no say in the selection of that particular shooter for the Olympics.