Jitu Rai awarded 'Champion of Champions' title for 2016 by ISSF in World Finals
Days after winning a World Cup silver medal in Italy, India's Jitu Rai has been awarded the 'Champion of Champions' title for pistol shooting in 2016, by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) on Sunday. Despite an underwhelming Olympic campaign, the 29-year old was awarded the honour for his exceptional performances in the international circuit, over the past six months.
The Army man won two World Cup events in Bangkok and Maribor respectively. A total of five podium positions and nine top-eight finishes catapulted Jitu to world number 6 in the rankings, prior to the Rio Olympics. However, an eighth-placed finish thwarted an otherwise perfect calendar year for the Uttar Pradesh shooter. Silver medal finishes in Baku, Granada and Bologna made him the only Indian competing for the World number 1 spot in 2016.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda from Bologna, Jitu said, “It's a great feeling that I have been awarded such a prestigious honour by the International federation. However, the Olympics are still in the back of my head, it was disappointing because the entire country was expecting a medal from me, but I couldn't deliver. I can assure everyone that I have learned from that experience and it's only going to make me a better shooter. There is no excuse for letting my country down, but all I can say is that I will come back stronger. For now, I'm even going to train regularly during the off-season.”
The National Rifle Authority of India (NRAI), along with shooter Abhinav Bindra, recently published a report highlighting the reasons for Indian shooting's disappointing performance in Rio. The report specifically claimed that Jitu Rai did not get access to the right expertise, that could push him onto the podium.
Reacting to this Jitu said, “I honestly don't get into all that, my goal is to improve myself as a shooter. If there are back-end issues, that will be taken care by the Federation. All I care about is being the best that I can be and of course gold in 2020 Tokyo.”
The ISSF pistol shooting season is officially over with Jitu ending the calendar year ranked sixth (10 m pistol) and seventh (50 m pistol). This makes him the only Indian shooter in the world top 10.