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India at the Asian Shooting Olympic qualifier: A Review

04 Feb 2016, 11:24 IST
From L to R: Heena Sindhu, Kynan Chenai, Ayonika Paul and Sanjeev Rajput

Heading into the final Olympic qualifying event, India had a total of 10 shooters who had booked a quota for Rio 2016. Importantly, there was a good variety of categories where the country had booked the places for Rio.

In Jitu Rai, Prakash Nanjappa and Gurpreet Singh in the pistol events, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Chain Singh and Apurvi Chandela in the Rifle event and Mairaj Ahmed Khan in skeet, India perhaps had every base covered.

However, there was still an air of expectancy over how many more quotas India could get at the final Olympic qualifier and more importantly, whether the likes of 2012 Silver medalist Vijay Kumar and former World No.1 in the Women’s Pistol rankings Heena Sidhu could make the cut for the Games.

It was contrasting fortunes for both as the former stumble in the final, after finishing with a score of 576 in qualification, finishing 5th in a field, consisting of the likes of Oleg Engachev of Qatar  and hence lost out on a chance to feature at Rio 2016.

If it was disappointment for Vijay, it was joy for Sidhu, who seemed in top for, firing her way to the final with a top-place finish in the qualification with a score of 387 and then firing a total of 199.4 to seal the quota as well win the Gold in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol event. 

The following day, however, provided the bigger thrill. 26-year-old Hyderabad shooter Kynan Chenai was considered to be a favourite to bag the quota but he did so with a fourth place finish in the final after finishing the qualification with a score of 120.

The quota, in a sense, gave the already-competent looking team a sense of completeness with India having bagged quotas in the rifle, pistol and skeet category.

Thursday saw another quota come India’s way, this time in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle, courtesy Ayonika Paul, who fired her way to a score of 416.6 in the qualifying that placed her in third place and a final score of 205.5 that not just got her the quota but also win a silver medal.

Following Ayonika’s win, India had to wait for the entire weekend before on Monday, veteran Sanjeev Rajput won India’s 12th and final quota on the last day of the qualifiers in the 50m Rifle 3 Position event to join Chain Singh as the other quota winner in this category.


The Disappointments

As mentioned on top, the non-qualification of Vijay Kumar is perhaps the biggest disappointment. The 30-year-old London Olympics silver medalist failed to raise his level in several qualifying events and in the final qualifier at home, couldn't quite come up with the goods to eventually find himself out of contention.

Another disappointment for India was Manavjit Singh Sandhu, a veteran of 3 Olympics and two-time Gold medal winner at the ISSF World Cup not making the cut in the Trap category. The 39-year-old  had earlier missed out on attaining a quota at the last World Cup final of 2015, with a 5th place finish and so was hoping to get it at Delhi, but couldn't quite do so. 

Sticking to the shotgun category, Ronjan Sodhi a former World No.1 in the Double Trap and a winner of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2013 also didn't quite make it to Rio 2016.

The overall squad

Barring the disappointments, India should be mighty pleased with the number and the calibre of shooters that have qualified for Rio 2016. 2008 Beijing Olympics Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra mentioned recently that Indian shooting had progressed well over the years and there certainly is merit to his statement.

For out of the 12 shooters who have booked the quota, only five are above 30 and that indicates that the likes of Rai, Chandela etc have really punched above their weights and put in some exceptional performances on the global stage.

The omens look good for Rio. Now it's time to deliver on the big stage.

List of Indian shooters who have the Rio 2016 quota

No.NameCategoryWhere they got it
1.Jitu RaiMen’s 10m Air Pistol2014 Granada Shooting World Championships
2.Apurvi ChandelaWomen’s 10m Air Rifle2015 Changwon World Cup
3.Gagan NarangMen’s 10m Air Rifle2015 Fort Benning World Cup
4.Gurpreet SinghMen’s 10m Air Pistol2015 Munich World Cup
5.Chain SinghMen’s 50m Rifle 3 Position Event2015 Gabala World Cup
6.Abhinav BindraMen’s 10m Air Rifle2015 Munich World Cup
7.Heena SindhuWomen’s 10m Air PistolAsian Shooting Olympic qualifiers, New Delhi
8.Prakash NanjappaMen’s 50m  Pistol2015 Gabala World Cup
9.Mairaj Ahmed KhanMen’s Skeet2015 Lonato Shot Gun World Championships
10.Sanjeev RajputMen’s 50m Rifle 3 PositionAsian Shooting Olympic qualifier, New Delhi 
11.Ayonika PaulWomen’s 10m Air RifleAsian Shooting Olympic qualifier, New Delhi
12.Kynan ChenaiMen’s TrapAsian Shooting Olympic qualifier, New Delhi

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