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ISSF decision to increase number of shots for women shooters defies logic

The International Shooting Sports Federation’s (ISSF) decision to increase the number of shots in women’s shooting events has been termed a regressive step by many within the shooting fraternity.

other sports Updated: Jan 09, 2018 11:11 IST
International Shooting Sports Federation,ISSF,women’s shooting
Women shooters will have 20 more shots to take but the ISSF’s decision does nothing for gender equality, feels former international shooter Shimon Sharif. (Image for representative purposes only) (PTI)

Shooting has been seeing dwindling audience despite there being a huge potential for amassing medals and honours at the biggest sporting stage, the Olympics. So, the International Shooting Sports Federation’s (ISSF) decision to increase the number of shots in women events has come as a surprise. In fact, many in the shooting fraternity are terming it as a regressive step.

As per the new rules for women’s shooting, they will have to shoot 60 shots instead of 40 to qualify for the finals in 10m air rifle and air pistol, while in three-position, it has been increased from 60 to 120 and in trap and skeet from 75 to 125.

The ISSF has made these changes in line with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) goal of bringing about gender equality in sports. This will make shooting sport more time-consuming, as the new rules will add more time to the already energy-sapping competition --- not the least deter the audience from coming to the shooting ranges.

In the age of T20, when even ODIs might lose their charm, increasing the number of shots will make it look like a Test match in cricket!

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What did IOC really mean by gender equality? Did it mean more women’s participation at the Olympics or making women’s events as challenging as men’s events.

Last year when the ISSF had announced its decision to axe the men’s double trap, 50m rifle prone and 50m pistol from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it had received flak from the biggest names in world shooting. The move was to achieve 50 per cent women’s participation in the Olympics by Tokyo 2020. Double trap event was replaced by trap mixed team, while 10m air rifle mixed team replaced 50m rifle prone. The men’s 50m pistol event was replaced by 10m air pistol mixed team.

When three events have been added for women, what was the need for changing the qualification formats for women two years before the Olympics. Ideally, such changes in format should happen after the Olympics.

A decrease in the number of shots from 60 to 40 for men would have also made it equal and, at the same time, more interesting and ensured faster qualification.

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The Bundesliga in Germany, the world’s top shooting league, has a 40-shot format in air rifle and the best in the world compete there —Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang have shot in the league over the years.

The biggest challenge facing shooting is how to make it spectator friendly. I have shot at the World Cup and a few international competitions and one thing I have seen is that apart from the participants, coaches and team officials, there is hardly anyone interested in coming to watch a shooting match. The Karni Singh Ranges during the 2010 Commonwealth Games saw extremely poor audience and recently during the ISSF World Cup Finals in 2017, there was absolutely no audience.

Post the London Olympics, the ISSF had made the format of the finals longer in all events. Although the new elimination format is more interesting, it has made the finals longer. As if the long finals were not enough, the ISSF has now made the qualification phase for women even more time consuming.

While earlier it took 50 minutes to finish a 40-shot match, it will now take 1 hour 15 minutes.

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Since the 2012 London Olympics, shooters do not carry forward their qualification scores into the finals, so it doesn’t matter if the qualification scores are out of 40 or 60 shots. Fewer shots in qualification would have meant faster results and also save the cost of ammunition and targets.

The worst hit is the women’s three-position event where competitors will have to shoot double the amount of shots they were shooting until recently. The time limit will increase from 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hour 45 minutes. It will also test a shooter’s stamina. One wonders if it’s shooting or a full marathon!

(The writer is a former international shooter. Views expressed here are personal)

First Published: Jan 09, 2018 11:11 IST