Shooting Rewind 2017: Youngsters shine, Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai prosper
India’s gold medal in the Shooting World Cup final and the performance of the youngsters has put shooting in safe hands in 2017.Year Ender 2017 Updated: Dec 31, 2017 09:52 IST
The World Cup Final gold in 10m air pistol mixed team — introduced this year — partially lifted the gloom that had descended after the dejection at the Rio Olympics last year. The pair of Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai, ranked No 1 in the event, lifted the trophy, but there was disappointment after that as the two couldn’t emulate that performance in individual events. The dependable Jitu faltered in 10m air pistol and 50m free pistol, while Heena failed to make an impression in her favourite event. However, Amanpreet Singh came up with a bronze medal-winning performance in 50m free pistol to bring down the curtain on the global event.
The glittering trophy and the bronze spurred Indian marksmen to achieve success in other international events ,with Heena shooting an excellent 386 in qualification to top the table in 10m air pistol at the Commonwealth Championship in Brisbane. On her way to gold, she was equally impressive, scoring 240.8 points in the final.
In 10m air rifle, Ravi Kumar earned the accolade for being the most consistent Indian shooter. His coach Manoj Kumar says that the signs are positive. “He dominated the national scene and reached the final round of two World Cups out of the three he participated in,” said Manoj.
And, in the year-ending Asian Championships in Japan, Ravi claimed bronze. A change in training, says Ravi, has made the difference. “The emphasis is on the basics and not big scores. It has improved my overall performance. I was on the fringes and now I am rubbing shoulders with the best.”
In the women’s section, 10m air rifle shooter Pooja Ghatkar from Maharashtra was equally impressive, winning bronze in the season-opening World Cup in Delhi and finishing fifth in the third edition at Gabala, Azerbaijan.
The year also saw some teenage shooters make an impression at the senior level, hinting at a bright future. Anish Bhanwala, the 15-year old from Haryana, was crowned champion with a world record of 579 in standard pistol at the Junior World Championship in Suhl, Germany.
Anish winning silver in 25m rapid-fire pistol after topping the qualifying with a score 577 in the Commonwealth Championship proves that he is mature enough to handle pressure. Yashaswini Singh Deswal claimed gold in women’s 10m air pistol. Junior team coach Jaspal Rana is hopeful of youngsters making the cut for the Commonwealth and Asian Games. “A majority of them are consistent and should wear the senior team jersey next year,” he said.
In shotgun, 14-year-old Shardul Vihan too surprised one and all at the nationals, winning gold in the senior double trap after outclassing pros like Ankur Mittal. The teenager also won the junior title, defeating another upcoming marksman Shapath Bharadwaj. The 19-year-old had also qualified for the World Cup Final.
The year also brought good tidings for Ankur Mittal, who was ranked world No 1 in October. He won silver in the Delhi edition of World Cup, followed by gold at the Mexico World Cup. He also won silver in the World Championship in Moscow. However, trap shooters missed the mark at the world level.
The new year will be about more challenges but the Indians are expected to do well in the first half when they compete in the Commonwealth Games. However, the real test will begin after that when they compete in the Asian Games from August 18 and then immediately fly to Changwon, South Korea for the World Championships, the first competition that will offer quota places for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.