Shooting has always been the strongest point of Indian team when it comes to the Olympic Games. From Rajyawardhan Rathore’s silver in Athens to Abhinav Bindra’s historic Gold in Beijing in 2008, our shooters have made the nation proud over the years. The last edition of the Games in London saw India win 2 medals in the sport with Gagan Narang ending his long awaited wait by clinching the bronze in the 10m Air Rifle event while Vijay Kumar won the silver in the 25m Air Pistol event.
In just under a year, another edition of the Olympics will get underway, this time in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janerio and once again, the focus will be on Indian shooters to bring glory to the nation.
In this article we take a look at two of the Indian shooting stars, who can surely make a difference at Rio next year:-
1. Prakash Nanjappa
Born on 29th Feb 1976 in Bangalore, this 39-year old shooter has made the nation proud on a number of occasions. Nanjappa recently became the sixth Indian shooter to earn the quota for 2016 Olympics after finishing eighth in the finals of 50-metre Men's Pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in Gabala, Azerbaijan.
Nanjappa, a reigning Commonwealth games silver medalist in 10m pistol event started his career in 1999 but he turned his back to the sport in 2003 as he moved to Canada to work as a Software Engineer in a private company. On his father's insistence, he left the job and returned back to India in 2009 and took up the sport again. His father P.N Papanna was himself a National level shooter and coach.
His other major achievements also include winning the bronze medal at the ISSF Rifle/Pistol World Cup in Changwon, Korea in the 10 m Air Pistol event. But the joy of winning the medal at the highest level didn’t last long as he was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis, which eventually paralysed the right side of his face. It almost took Nanjappa a month and a half to fully recover from this disease.
Following his recovery, in October 2013, the Indian won the silver in the 50m Pistol event in the Asian Airgun Championships in Tehran, Iran.
The year 2014 turned out to be an eventful one for him as apart from winning silver at Commonwealth Games, he won the bronze in the team event at the Asian games in Incheon, South Korea. He also entered the finals of two World Cups the same year but was unfortunate enough as he failed to convert any of those brilliant performances into medals.
Supported by Olympic Gold quest, a non-profit organization, Nanjappa would like to improve on his performance in the next few tournaments as the year 2015 hasn’t been too productive for him in terms of number of medals and as per the rules, the quota earned by the shooter goes to the nation and not to the player itself so he needs to be a lot more consistent in the upcoming Championships so that he can seal his place in 2016 Rio Games.
2. Gurpreet Singh
Currently a part of the Army marksmanship unit, Gurpreet Singh, a 28-year old shooter from Amritsar, Punjab earned the Rio berth in 10m Air pistol event after finishing fourth with 154.8 points at ISSF World Cup in Munich, Germany. Out of 138 shooters in the fray in the qualification, Gurpreet, who is also a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist edged out compatriot Jitu Rai by just one point to finish eighth.
Under the guidance of national coach Sunny Thomas and personal coach Smirnov Pavel, Gurpreet has had a terrific 2015.
In the same event, he also qualified for the finals of 25m Rapid-fire category but he suffered the heartbreak of missing out on a podium finish and an Olympic quota in that category. He put forth a similar kind of performance at the Gabala World Cup, that succeeded the Munich edition.
With a total score of 586 out of 600, he finished as the top scorer in the qualification round of 25m Pistol event. Once again he faltered in the final stage as he finished 5th out of six shooters.
Thanks to his excellent showing over the course of the year, he managed to get the ticket to the World Cup Final, which took place in Munich in September.which sees only the top 10 shooters who have performed exceptionally well in the calendar year participate.
He was the second best shooter in the qualification stage but once again failed to convert the opportunity in the final as he finished last in the group of six shooters. He has shown a tremendous growth in terms of confidence, skills and patience in the last few months, but he needs to be a bit more consistent when it comes to the final round.
If he can control his nerves in the finals then he can surely earn India the second individual gold in the Olympics. Courtesy his fine showing over the year, the Olympic Gold Quest announced that they would support the shooter in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics.