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Rio Olympics 2016: Disappointed NRAI chief hints at systemic flaws ailing shooting

Amit Sinha
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 07:45 IST
Jitu Rai
Jitu Rai had a lot of hopes riding on him ahead of the Olympics.

The Olympic contingent that had been fetching India medals in the past three games, including a rare gold, is set to return empty handed if the last 4 shooters of the batch of 12 also fail in their respective events. Naturally, disappointment hangs heavy in the air for the shooting fraternity and the pre Olympics confidence has vanished completely. In the wake of the debacle, Raninder Singh, the President of the National Rifle Association of India, is unrecognisable as he has gone from being a supremely confident man of his team to a man who is finding it difficult to come to terms with the reality. And given the bitter nature of this reality, he can’t be blamed either.

The feisty sardar minced no words after Jitu Rai, a man he had singled out as a ‘sure shot medal winner’ ahead of the Olympics, failed to move to the finals in the 50m Pistol event. A visibly disturbed Singh was quoted by ESPN as saying, "I'm very disappointed. I expected a medal today." Rai had earlier crashed out of the finals in the 10m Pistol and it was hoped that he will redeem himself with a good show on Wednesday. But that was not to be and the shooter couldn’t even advance to the finals even.  

He added, "Jitu may have misread the wind towards the end of the competition. He is a great final shooter so had he made it, he would have done well for sure.”

Also read: Rio Olympics 2016: "Windy conditions messed up that one elusive shot of mine" - Jitu Rai 

On a stage where there is no room to give an inch less, Indian shooters just haven’t been at their best. Barring Abhinav Bindra, none of the shooters didn’t even threaten the podium once. The NRAI President didn’t fail to address the elephant in the room. He admitted that the shooters have succumbed to stage fright when he said, “I am a little concerned that our athletes may be getting overawed at the Olympic stage. The mental aspect is something we have to look at."

He also admitted that systemic flaws exist that need to be addressed. The 49-year-old expressed his concerns over shooters participating in multiple events being overburdened. Jitu Rai, Heena Sidhu and Gagan Narang are the three shooters in the shooting contingent who are participating in more than one event in Rio.

There have been some tensions between the shooters and the NRAI in the past. Several shooters hire their personal coaches instead of letting the shooting body do that job for them. The funds from the Target Olympic Podium scheme go directly to the shooters and the federation has no say about how it’s to be utilised. Among the 12 member contingent, Ayonika Paul and Prakash Naniappa have had their private coaches.

Such issues were pushed under the carpet in the lead up to the games but will now be need to be addressed as the performance of the shooting contingent has left Singh and many others red faced. For now though, all eyes, and hopes, will now be on Gagan Narang who has still two events left that are to be held on Friday and Sunday.

Published 10 Aug 2016, 23:29 IST
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