The first event in shooting sport, i.e., the 10m Air Rifle Women, will feature two Indian markwomen - Elavenil Valarivan and Apurvi Chandela. By virtue of this, the 15-member Indian shooting team will kick-off their campaign for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - 24th July.
Elavenil Valarivan will be making her Games debut whereas the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is Apurvi Chandela’s second appearance, the first being the 2016 Rio Olympics.
There is a realistic chance that at least one of these two shooters might pocket that prestigious Olympic medal. Elavenil Valarivan is the current World No. 1. Mentored by the 2012 London Olympics bronze medalist Gagan Narang, she has proved her mettle since making her international debut in 2017.
Initially, it was Anjum Moudgil who had secured the quota for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. An Olympic Quota is awarded to the respective nation and not to the shooter who has won it. The final decision lies in the hands of the NRAI (National Rifle Association Of India). Elavenil had better performances than her compatriot Anjum. Hence, the NRAI decided to field Elavenil in place of Anjum for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
India’s second quota winner in the 10m Air Rifle Women event was Apurvi Chandela. She is currently ranked 11th in the world. Her recent performances, especially after the outbreak of COVID-19, weren't up to the desired levels. Still, she managed to hold on to her entry for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Predictions for Elavenil Valarivan and Apurvi Chandela in 2021 Tokyo Olympics:
A score of 628 will be sufficient for a spot in the 8-shooter Final. The 2021 Tokyo Olympics will be the first instance wherein the ‘60-shot’ qualification round in the 10m Air Rifle Women event will take place. In the earlier editions of the Olympics, the ‘40-shot’ qualification was in place to decide the finalists.
In two ISSF World Cups this year, neither of these shooters have advanced to the final round. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Apurvi Chandela had won two gold medals in the 2019 ISSF World Cup cycle. The same goes for Elavenil as well. Elavenil Valarivan won her second gold medal in an even more competitive tournament - The 2019 ISSF World Cup Final!
Apart from the loss of form on the range, Apurvi had off-range issues to deal with as well. She improved her fitness during the lockdown, meaning her rifle gear needed altercations.
Moreover, before departing for a 80-day camp in Croatia, she and her personal coach, Rakesh Manpat, were infected with the COVID-19 virus. They both recovered in the nick of time and continued with the final stretch of preparations before the all-important 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
In terms of capability, there’s no doubt that Elavenil Valarivan and Apurvi Chandela are right up there with the other international elite shooters. If they can deliver performances to their potential, they might be the first athletes in the 119-member Indian contingent to lay hands on that prestigious Olympic medal!