The proposal of scrapping the 50m men's pistol event from the Olympic Games has left a host of Indian shooters not only upset and angry but also in contemplation about their grim future. Many of them, will have to now consider competing in the other categories post this decision. As for the 50m event, it will be replaced with the 10m air pistol mixed gender team event, in order to bring forth more gender equality in the sport of shooting.
The decision was conveyed by Beijing Olympic gold medalist, Abhinav Bindra, who heads the committee of the International Shooting Federation (ISSF) that made this recommendation to the parent body.
Forced change in training methods
Shooter Jitu Rai, who can be considered the flag bearer of the 50m pistol event in the Indian scenario, was quoted as saying to ESPN, "Bahut gehra dukh hua hai (I'm deeply saddened). Such a decision should have never been taken. To drop the free pistol event from the Olympics is unacceptable. I've been training for it all these years."
The World No. 4 and a gold medallist at both the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games further went on to admit that as a result of this decision he will be forced to concentrate solely on his other event, the 10m air pistol.
Prakash Nanjappa, another shooter who participated in the event at the Rio Olympics, also voiced his opinion against the decision to ESPN, “The way to achieve gender equality shouldn't be through scrapping existing events, especially one that's so popular. It could have possibly been done by introducing free pistol (as the event is also called) to female shooters instead."
Nanjappa will now begin preparations from scratch to compete in the 25m rapid fire pistol event in addition to the 10m air pistol, but it will be a difficult run for the athlete since the two events are very diverse in terms of the required training. "Preparing for both events would mean training your mind to be fast and slow at the same time. It's crazy," Nanjappa said. "Also, training for the rapid fire event is twice as expensive both in terms of money and ammunition."
Four-time Olympian trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu termed the decision as a ‘loss for India.’ "Of course free pistol would still be a part of other international meets but once an event stops being an Olympic discipline, slowly you find support, both government and private, drying up," he said to ESPN. "Young shooters who've been training for the event are now bereft of an Olympic goal."
Abhinav Bindra, on the other hand, was empathetic in his statement to the athletes’ cause with respect to the backlash on the decision, "We can understand that many athletes would not be satisfied with this. In fact, none of us are, and we realise that this is a very difficult scenario. The Athletes Committee requests that everybody should look at the bigger picture and consider the many factors important for us to ensure our strong presence within the Olympic movement."
3 events to be scrapped
Terming it an "emotional situation", Bindra went on to add that the Committee understood the sensitivity of athletes like Jitu Rai and Nanjappa who would be most affected by the decision.
The decision has been taken in line with IOC’S Agenda 2020 to have an equal number of events for both men and women. As such, the events to be taken off the Olympic program are 50m rifle prone men, 50m pistol men and double trap men, but have, however, been proposed to be continued at the World Championships.
On a concluding note, Nanjappa took heart from the fact that the recommendations are still subject to the official approval of the ISSF Executive Committee and Administrative Council that will meet in Delhi in February 2017.