Aishwary Pratap Tomar offers India hope in rifle 3 positions
- 20-year-old Tomar has made a rapid transition from being one of the most talented juniors [he held a junior world record (459.3) set in 2019] to winning his first senior international World Cup medal.
Heinz Reinkemeier, who coached Abhinav Bindra to 2008 Olympics gold, while complimenting Aishwary Pratap Tomar for his rifle three positions gold at the 2021 World Cup here, had an interesting observation. “Since when are Indian boys involved in .22 shooting?” he wondered in a social media post.
The German was not off the mark. That was the impression reserved for India as far as rifle 3 positions is concerned not too long ago. In air weapon category, Indian youngsters have been breaking new ground. But, when it came to the most gruelling event in shooting – which requires .22 ammunition to be shot from kneeling, standing and prone position – only a few seasoned campaigners like Sanjeev Rajput and Anjum Moudgil carried the hopes.
In that respect, the 20-year-old Tomar has made a rapid transition from being one of the most talented juniors [he held a junior world record (459.3) set in 2019] to winning his first senior international World Cup medal on Wednesday. That too, against a heavyweight field which included a world No.1 and a world champion.
In doing so, Tomar has proved that Indians can be equally good handling tough outdoor conditions. The good thing was that besides Tomar, Sanjeev and Niraj Kumar made through the qualification round into the eight-shooter final.
“To master three events in outdoor condition – wind, light everything together – it is a big challenge. It was windy during the qualification. In 3 positions, we are not known to be strong. To have three Indians in the final was a big achievement and a young boy winning gold beating a tough field was a special and important victory,” said Tomar’s coach and Olympian Suma Shirur.
At the world stage, success in the event has been far and few for India. In 2011, Rajput won a World Cup gold in Changwon, and followed it up with two silver medals in 2016 and 2019. Akhil Sheoran clinched a gold medal at the 2018 World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico but hasn’t been able to do replicate the success. At the Tokyo Olympics, both Rajput and Tomar have won the quota places.
“You need maturity in 3 positions to calculate the wind, the conditions and then shoot. Patience and presence of mind is needed. Aishwary has shown maturity beyond his age,” said Shirur.
Ammunition also plays an important role in the event. A shooter has to test different batches and choose what is best suited for his barrel and technique. Tomar got the option to pick from a large batch, provided by the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy. One of the reasons the Europeans have dominated the event is because they have free access to weapons and ammunition.
Tomar, who hails from Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, followed his cousin into shooting at the MP Academy. His calm temperament has been a big plus. “He has a good sense of humour and we can laugh even in tough times. He has a lot of hunger to win. He does not go just to participate but to win,” said Shirur.
Women's pistol team wins gold
The sports pistol team of Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker and Chinki Yadav won gold beating Poland. It was India’s 10th gold and 21 medals, including six silver and five bronze medals. The Indian women’s rifle 3P team won a silver medal.
Also, in a bizarre event two of the world's top rifle shooters -- world No. 1 Istvan Peni and 2010 world champion Peter Sidi – refused to line up together for Hungary team’s rifle 3 positions final against India.
Hungary (Peni, Sidi and Zalan Pekler) did not report on the firing lane, even as the Indian team of Swapnil Kusale, Niraj Kumar and Chain Singh waited for clarity. The gold match was eventually called off and rescheduled for Friday with third-placed USA replacing Hungary as India’s opponent.