Commonwealth Games 2018: 'Juniors bring a lot of energy while we bring intensity', says Gagan Narang
When you think about India's medal prospects at any big-ticket multi-discipline sporting events, the first sport that crosses your mind is shooting. Of course, the sport has given us our first individual Olympic medallist as well as our only individual gold medallist at the Olympics.
When it comes to the Commonwealth Games, shooting has brought a host of medals. Now, with the recent performance of the Indian shooters at the ISSF World Cup in Mexico, the sport and its pioneers are once again at the forefront ahead of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
This time India have sent a 27-member strong shooting contingent to Gold Coast, the most experienced among them being London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang. The 34-year-old is participating in only one event this year, the 50-metre rifle prone and Sportskeeda caught up him with before the start of the Games.
"We have just reached Gold Coast and are getting acclimatised to the weather and also, the range. The preparations for the Games are going well. I am going to be shooting one event this time, which is on the 10th. I have a little time for acclimatisation before my event," Narang told Sportskeeda from Gold Coast.
Indeed, Narang is no stranger to the Commonwealth Games, an event which has been a happy hunting ground for him. In his first appearance at the Games in 2006 in Melbourne, he had bagged as many as four gold medals, setting new CWG records in 10m Air Rifle (698.9 points) and in 50m Rifle 3 Position (1261.4 points). Along with Abhinav Bindra, Narang shot 1189 points (another Games record) in 10m Air Rifle (Pair).
The 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games also brought him rich harvests as he won four gold medals yet again. This time again, he broke his own Games record in 10m Air Rifle (600-50x) and in 50m Rifle 3 Position (1166-57x).
Last time, in Glasgow as well, taking part in only two events as the team events were scrapped, Narang bagged the silver in the 50-metre rifle prone and bronze in the 50-metre rifle three position.
On being asked what he expects of himself in Gold Coast, the seasoned pro replied, "When one enters a competition, one hopes to win a medal. That is what I am expecting this time around as well. If everything falls into place, I will hopefully make a podium finish."
Of late, the performances of the young Indian shooters have created all sorts of headlines. While the likes of Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh, Akhil Sheoran and Anish Bhanwala impressed at the senior shooting World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, the results in the Junior World Cup in Sydney were also very encouraging. Buoyed by the juniors' exploits, India went on to finish on top of the medals tally for the first time at any World Cup stage.
Narang hopes that his teammates will be able to carry on their good form at the Games as well. "The Indian shooters have delivered some prolific performances in the Mexico World Cup and the Junior World Cup as well. Hope their good form continues during the Gold Coast Games," he said.
When asked what the juniors bring to the table, the Chennai-born shooter said, "The juniors bring a lot of energy to the team and we bring intensity," before adding, "There is a scope for mutual learning and exchange. Whoever remains updated and evolved with the technical aspect of the game stays young. Shooting is a very individual sport, what matters is to keep pace."
Despite all the success in shooting, the sport has never been really acknowledged by the masses in the country, it never gets the recognition or coverage it deserves. Even when India topped the medal tally in the Mexico World Cup, hardly anyone was talking about it.
Narang feels that coverage on television will help the sport reach out the common people. At the same time, the sport's lawmakers could take a look at how it can be made more exciting and appealing to the audience.
He said, "Shooting is not a TV-friendly sport. The sports that have a mass following are either broadcasted in the way they are or are tailored for TV, like the IPL. For shooting to expand its fan base, the sport has to be on TV and the game's lawmakers also need to have a look at the format in which the very many events are played."
With shooting not being a part of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, could this possibly be the last time we would see Narang at his favourite event?
"You will get to know about that shortly," he signed off with a chuckle.