Going great guns: Indian shooters make a beeline for London Olympics
Indian guns are booming loud and clear and the wagers are already on in the shooting circles on the number of medals India is going to win at the 2012 Olympics.other Updated: Jun 13, 2011 01:15 IST
Indian guns are booming loud and clear and the wagers are already on in the shooting circles on the number of medals India is going to win at the 2012 Olympics.
The cause for the excitement is that seven shooters have booked their ticket for the London Games and more are on course to be there at the ranges at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London.
With a dozen marksmen expected to make it to London, India will be going in with a record line-up at the Olympics - a testimony to the shooting boom in the country, triggered by Rajyavardhan Rathore's silver at the Athens Olympics seven years ago followed by the country's first-ever Olympic gold won by Abhinav Bindra in Beijing in 2008.
National coach Sunny Thomas knows it is a tough task for the shooters, but he is confident they are ready for Olympic challenge."Our boys are doing well in international competitions and their scores have been encouraging. They have done well in the World Cups, where competition is very tough. Consistency will be key for them in London," he said.
The London rush began with rifle shooters, world-record holder Gagan Narang and Hariom Singh, booking their berths at the World Championships in Germany last year.
Another rifleman, Sanjeev Rajput, and shot-gun exponent Ronjan Singh Sodhi followed suit by winning gold and silver in the South Korea and Beijing World Cups this year.
Next in line are pistol shooters, Vijay Kumar, Annu Raj Singh and Rahi Sarnobat. They grabbed three quota places in last month's World Cup at Fort Benning, the US Army Post in Atlanta.
With at least eight more qualifying events lined up in the next seven months and some top sharpshooters like Abhinav Bindra, Rathore, Samresh Jung, Anjali Bhagwat and Tejaswini Sawant in the queue India can expect to get another five-six quota slots.
Indian shooters will also stand to benefit with the arrival of famed Russian pistol coach Alexander Melentiev, whose world record of 581 in the 1980 Moscow Olympics is still untouched.
New pistol coach
Melentiev, who was with the US team before coming to India, was offered a short-term role before the Commonwealth Games, but refused as he wanted a longer tenure. The Russian finally agreed to take up the assignment when the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) approached him during last month's World Cup in the US. Sodhi, double world record holder, said that the impressive showing by Indian shooters is a result of the world class training they have received in the last three years for the Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi.
The government was quick to acknowledge the shooters' potential by earmarking Rs.43 crore for their Olympic training.