"Each Indian shooter can finish on the podium at Tokyo Olympics" - India's foreign pistol coach Pavel Smirnov

Foreign pistol coach believes all 15 shooters are capable of podium finishes at Tokyo Olympics. (Source: NRAI)
Foreign pistol coach believes all 15 shooters are capable of podium finishes at Tokyo Olympics. (Source: NRAI)

India's foreign pistol coach Pavel Smirnov believes all shooters are capable of winning medals, including gold, at the Tokyo Olympics. India's meteoric rise as a potential powerhouse in shooting makes the country's marksmen the strong favorites for podium finishes at the Tokyo Olympics.

Never before in the country's history has it sent a shooting contingent with so many medal contenders to the Olympics. The likes of Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary will look to write a fresh chapter in India’s Olympic history as they enter Tokyo with a realistic chance of winning medals.

"Each and every one of them can finish on the podium, and I have seen a bit of Indian shooting over the years. On their day they can win medals at the highest level. Even gold," Smirnov told PTI from Zagreb.

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Smirnov not worried about Rio disappointment, instead looking ahead to Tokyo Olympics

Following a series of successful Olympic campaigns between 2004 and 2012, India returned home without a shooting medal at the Rio Olympics for the first time in 12 years. The result forced radical changes in Indian shooting upon the recommendation of a review committee led by Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra.

However, Smirnov doesn't want to dwell on the past and said it is best to look forward to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. He said:

"I am very hopeful with this team. They deserve to do well because they have all made sacrifices, some at a very young age, shown maturity and worked very hard over the last four years. There is no reason for us not to have a very good Games.
"There is no benefit in dwelling on the past. That is not in our control. What is in our control is what we can do in the future and we are thinking like that at the moment."

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Smirnov was behind the success of ace shooter Vijay Kumar, who bagged India's first-ever Olympic medal in a pistol event. Consequently, the Russian was appointed as the national pistol team's foreign coach.

He was unable to accompany the Indian squad to Zagreb on May 11 following a delay in visa processing. However, the visa processing has now been completed and he is back with the team in Croatia.

"Well I am here now and enjoying being back with the team. Had a calm quarantine but definitely feels nice to be back in the range, in the thick of things. Things are very good and we are being taken care of very well," he signed off.

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee