A 45 member strong Indian Shooting squad, among the largest in the competition along with the USA, Russia and China, will look to grab as many Rio 2016 Olympic quota berths of the 34 available, when the year’s first combined (Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun) International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup gets underway in the city of Gabala in the central Asian republic of Azerbaijan. The premier world event, will begin its first day of competition on August 8 and end on India’s Independence Day (August 15), with 1106 athletes from 90 countries vying for top honours across 15 shooting disciplines for men and women.
According to Mr. Raninder Singh, President of the National Rifle Association of India, “We are expecting at least four quota places from the Gabala World Cup if all goes well, and we aim to win the maximum number of medals for India from the Rio Olympics as well. We have a top squad with a healthy mix of experience and youth and the commitment and dedication shown by our shooters have been exemplary. With the tremendous support that the sport has been receiving from all quarters, including the Government authorities, support staff, the media and the fans, we are sure the National team will continue to do the country proud.”
Shooting, along with wrestling has been India’s top Olympic sport till date after hockey, and the top sport in recent times, with Indian shooters having bagged four medals, including one Gold, two Silvers and one Bronze medal in the last three consecutive Olympics- more than any other sport.
India has already bagged five quota places for the Rio Olympics in 2016, out of a maximum possible 30 per nation. Abhinav Bindra, India’s only individual Olympic Gold medalist, is one of the shooters who has already secured a Rio berth along with Olympic Bronze medalist Gagan Narang and Pistol shooters Jitu Rai and Gurpreet Singh. Apurvi Chandela is the lone woman shooter to have secured a quota place for her country thus far.
Sporting powerhouses China the USA lead the race, having won 20 quota places each already, followed by the likes of Russia (15), Italy (14), Germany (13), Korea (12) and France (10). Serbia (9), Ukraine (8) and Cuba (7) complete the top 10 in the race followed by India.
India’s stated goal for Rio is to win 12 quota places at the bare minimum and there is one more quota event after this, in the form of the Asian Shooting Championships in November, to reach that goal.
With most top shooters of the world, having already secured their quotas and therefore deemed ineligible for quotas according to ISSF norms, even a finish in the top six or eight, will help Indian shooters clinch quota places.
A few names to look out for in Gabala, from a perspective of favourites to win quota places for India based on recent form, include the likes of Manavjit Sandhu (Trap), Chain Singh (Rifle), Vijay Kumar (Pistol), Heena Siddhu (Pistol) and Ayonika Paul (Rifle) among others.Published 07 Aug 2015, 19:45 IST