Rio Olympics 2016: Analysing Mairaj Ahmad Khan's chances of a medal
Can the 40-year old skeet shooter get India a medal?
Mairaj Ahmad Khan’s career has stretched for more than 15 years but the skeet shooter does not have any plans to leave the sport he loves. The shooter, who hails from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, Mairaj participated in his first ever shooting competition at the age of 10 when he finished third at an Under-12 50m rifle competition.
His first love was always cricket, and the 40-year old shooter has also played with ex-cricketer Virender Sehwag when the duo used to study at Jamia University in New Delhi. He has even played for the Uttar Pradesh’s Under-19 squad in the CK Naidu Trophy in the 1990s.
But Mairaj grew up watching his father who was a state-level trap shooter and was influenced to take up shooting as his main sport.
The shooter turned into an international professional in the year 2003 but had a very bad start to his career at the international stage. Khan participated in his first tournament at the Trap Concaverde, a World Cup in shooting, in Lonato, Italy. But unfortunately for the Indian, he finished last.
However, 13 years and umpteen tournaments later, Mairaj went to the same shooting range in Lonato and qualified for the Rio Olympics by finishing seventh in the competition.
Mairaj Ahmad Khan’s achievements in major tournaments so far:
Gold (Pairs) – 2010 Commonwealth Shooting Championship, New Delhi, India.
Gold (Team) – 2008 Singapore Open Shooting Championship.
Gold (Team) – 2007 Singapore Open Shooting Championship.
Silver (Individual) – 2015 ISSF World Cup, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Silver (Individual) – 2012 Asian Shotgun Shooting Championship, Malaysia.
Silver (Individual) - 2010 Commonwealth Shooting Championship, New Delhi, India.
Silver (Team & Individual) – 2009 South Asian Federation Shooting Championship, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Silver (Individual) – 2008 Singapore Open Shooting Championship.
Bronze (Individual) - 2007 Singapore Open Shooting Championship.
Khan made history this time around as he became the first Indian to qualify for the Olympics in the skeet category. The historic moment for the 40-year old came after years of struggle, courage and determination.
He had to compete in various events since 2003 to finally get a chance at the Games. Going into the Games, his performance peaked in the 2016 ISSF World Cup held in Rio De Janeiro, the venue where the Olympics will take place, where he won the silver.
India have never had any love with the skeet shooting event, but Mairaj’s qualification for the Games could mean that more youngsters could get motivated to take up the sport. The shotgun stream has never been popular with the Indian shooters as not many of them have participated in international events.
Khan is one of the names who has taken the segment seriously. His performances have however been disappointing but the 40-year old has peaked at the right time.
A medal at the Rio Olympics in the shotgun category might be too much to ask for. But given his form in recent World Cups, Indian might be in for a happy surprise when Miraj takes to the shooting range.
His main opponents in the event will be Italy’s duo of Tammaro Cassandro and Gabriele Rossetti, Sweden’s Marcus Svensson and USA’s Vincent Hancock. Cassandro has regularly finished in the top three in the ISSF World Cups in the past two years, but has failed to win the gold medal. He will thus have his sights set on the gold medal, just like his other competitors.
Khan has prepared for the Rio Olympics by competing with the best shooters in the last two years at the international circuit. His age and experience may well benefit him if he can focus his energies on the goal. There is, however, no shortage of calibre in the 40-year old.
|Event||Rank||Score (Out of 125)|
|2015 ISSF World Championships, Lonato, Italy||7||122|
|2015 ISSF World Cup, Larnaca, Cyprus||11||121|
|2015 ISSF World Cup, Al Ain, UAE||16||120|
|2015 ISSF World Cup, Acapulco, Mexico||26||118|
|2015 ISSF World Cup, Gabala, Azerbaijan||61||117|
|2016 ISSF World Cup, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil||2||122 (15)|
|2016 ISSF World Cup, Baku, Azerbaijan||16||121|
|2016 ISSF World Cup, Nicosia, Cyprus||19||117|