Teammates fight, pull out of shooting World Cup final
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 at the ISSF World Cup.
It must be a rare moment of embarrassment for a team to withdraw from the final of an international tournament because of discord among teammates. That’s exactly what happened as 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 at the ISSF World Cup here.
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. It is a new event the international shooting body (ISSF) body has introduced and only three teams were in the fray.
Peni alleged that Sidi was not following the equipment rules. His point of contention was a bipod attached to Sidi’s Walther KK 500 rifle that is used to rest the weapon during the competition.
“I have an issue specifically with his equipment (rifle) which is in a grey zone,” said Peni. “From the outside it is clearly illegal. The rules state that the bipod can’t be used during the shots, even if it is folded, even if it is fixed. The only reason he is doing is because he wants to fight with us. If we (Hungary team) don’t stand together, he will continue to do this.”
The ISSF technical judges did not raise any issue with Sidi’s weapon. “The way he was using the bipod, if it is fixed with the rifle, then is allowed,” said a jury member.
It is not the first time that Sidi - winner of five world championships medals, including gold in 2010 - has been in Peni's firing line. He has been accused of flouting the rules in domestic competitions in the past. However, this time the scene was being played out in an international arena between two shooters who will represent Hungary at the Tokyo Olympics. Sidi has played in all five Olympics since 2000 Sydney while 24-year-old Peni is the new rifle star of Hungary and has three World Cup gold medals.
Sedi competed in the 10m air rifle event here and his weapon went through all the checks.
“Everything is fine with my gun. The jury, the technical delegate, the NRAI have all accepted my rifle and there was no problem. If the jury says it is a problem, I will change. Just 10 minutes before the final, Peni decided not to shoot because he knows if he shoots with me, (it will mean) my gun is internationally correct, then why not in the nationals?” Sidi said.
Two weeks back, at the Hungarian Indoor championships, they had a similar showdown. “Twice he tried to red flag me in tournaments in Hungary complaining about my weapon and it worked once. He was ruling against the jury there, his team as well. If Peni had shot here with me, he would confirm that it was okay at the national level as well," Sidi said. “It is like asking Lewis Hamilton to change his helmet just before a race. You train with this weight for years to find the perfect balance, even 10gm can be huge.”
Peni claimed Sidi is a repeat offender and there have been complaints “ranging from body taping himself to reporting late for finals.”
Records show in 2012, Sidi was disqualified from the World Cup in London for violating the jacket rule. In 2014 at the European Cup final, Sidi was again disqualified because he fixed a filter in his rear sight during the competition. At the 2014 World Cup in Munich, Sidi was again red flagged by the jury members because of not following the equipment protocols.
Asked whether he was getting any advantage, Peni said “technically there was no advantage when you use a bipod, but our contention is that it is against the rules, and that is unacceptable.”
Hungary has a job at hand to make their two top shooters agree with each other before they head to the Tokyo Olympics.