Rio Olympics 2016: Analysing Heena Sidhu's medal chances in her second Olympic Games
Four years ago when the Indian shooting contingent left for London for the grand event, there was little limelight on the 22-year-old shooter Heena Sidhu, who was making her Olympic debut. She was controversially handed the quota then ahead of Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore. But, as things would turn out, she couldn’t live up to the promise on the big stage that got her the quota.
Things have changed drastically for the feisty Punjabi over the last four years. In 2016 at Rio, the shooter will be leading India’s medal hopes in not one but two events as she will be seen competing in 10m as well as the 25m air pistol events.
From her disappointing showing in 2012, where she could manage to finish 12th in the qualification round (and didn’t advance to the finals), she has risen to become one of the best medal hopes for India in Rio.
2013 saw her catapult to the national prominence as she created history when in the 2013 ISSF World Cup Finals in Munich, Sidhu became the first Indian Pistol shooter to win the Gold medal in 10 metre Air Pistol event. That year would also see her climb up to the number one ranking and her marriage to Rounak Pandit, an ace pistol shooter himself.
However, the Olympic quota this time around was difficult to get for the shooter. Despite shooting good scores consistently, Sidhu struggled to win the Olympic quota for a long period as her form would desert her in the finals despite scoring heavily in the qualification rounds. It was only in January of this year that the shooter qualified for the Olympics by shooting gold at the Asian qualifiers. The 26-year-old shot a 387 in qualification and a stellar 199.4 in the Final which was virtually a do-or-die contest for her.
The World Cups in Munich and Baku, however, saw some underwhelming performances from the shooter. In Munich, she faced disqualification from the 25 metre event when her weapon failed an equipment re-inspection. Meanwhile in Baku, in her 10-metre air pistol event, the Olympian shot an insufficient 379 of 400 in the qualification round to finish 26th.
At the Rio de Janeiro tournament in April, she again shot 379 in the 10 metre and was 24th that time around. In the 25 metre event, she finished 41st after scoring 568 (283 in precision and 285 in rapid fire).
She fared better in the first precision leg of women’s 25m Pistol event where she registered the highest score of 296 out of 300. But disappointment was in store for the shooter as she missed out on qualifying for the final of women's 10-metre air pistol event by just one point on the concluding day of the ISSF World Cup. She finished 12th out of 104 shooters in the eventual standings.
Heena Sidhu’s current form clearly doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence ahead of the all important Rio Olympics. She has in fact slipped to 28th rank in the 10m air pistol rankings before the August event.
Having said all this, the shooter has proved detractors wrong before and has been training hard with her husband cum coach Rounak Pandit ahead of the quadrennial event. But, if current form is anything to go by, there remain several question marks over her medal chances in Rio Olympics despite her past accolades.