At the start of the Rio Olympic Games, there were high medal hopes from the shooting contingent of 12 shooters. As the extravanganza began in Brazil, India as a nation, got behind it’s shooters on a daily basis from the first day itself. Honestly, we all expected the shooters to bring the first medals for the nation and create history. This expectation from the sport was because of the performances from the Indian shooters at the last three Olympic Games.
In the 2004 Athens Olympics, India had discovered that the nation possessed great potential in the sport of shooting when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore bagged the silver medal in the men’s double trap event. This achievement, seen as a great one back then, started a new revolution in Indian shooting scenario. More and more youngsters started taking up shooting as an amateur sport and made it their aim to represent the nation at the Games.
India had a total of eight shooters taking part at the 2004 event, this number gradually increased after Rathore’s feat to nine at the following Games in Beijing in 2008. A sharp rise in talent was also witnessed by the Indian fan base as they saw Abhinav Bindra win the gold medal in men’s 10m air rifle event.
The shooter had shown the country that the elusive gold medal could be won with hard work and dedication.
This meant that India’s hope from the sport increased at London 2012 where a total of eleven shooters were sent to represent the nation. This rise in number also indicated that more Indian shooters were getting better and qualifying for the mega event.
This meteoric rise for the nation in the sport meant that India won a mighty two medals from shooting itself in London. Vijay Kumar won the silver medal in 25m rapid fire pistol event whereas Gagan Narang secured bronze in the 10m air rifle event.
These seemed like great signs for the young aspiring shooters and the sport itself. The nation began to notice and praise it’s shooters, which was been visible by the support Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang got in the past few years.
As Rio 2016 neared, India saw a total of twelve shooters qualify for the Olympic Games, its biggest ever shooting contingent at any Games. This meant that with the likes of Bindra, Narang, and the world conquerer in Jitu Rai, India had a very good chance of winning multiple medals from shooting in Rio.
However, all the high hopes were seen getting thrashed as each day went by as only two shooters managed to get through to the final round in Rio. Firstly, it was Jitu Rai who finished at the 8th spot in men’s 10m air pistol event. Secondly, the retiring Abhinav Bindra, the man who gave fellow shooters a new belief and the country reasons to rejoice over the years; narrowly missed a medal after finishing fourth in the men’s 10m air rifle event.
But, only two final round finishes was not what India had been expecting from its 12 shooters. Gagan Narang has been the biggest disappointment as he has failed to get through to the final round in his two events so far. However, the 33-year old still has one more event to go where he will be taking part in men’s 50m rifle three positions.
In other events, Gurpreet Singh, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Heena Sidhu, all came close to getting a shot at the podium but were not consistent enough.
Chain Singh, Prakash Nanjappa, Kynan Chenai, Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul never came close to impressing and seemed to have not adapted the big-stage atmosphere. A big-stage and a billion hopes riding on their shoulders, it cannot get bigger than this for any shooter.
We have to take into account that these shooters are never in the spotlight in the four years after one Olympic Games end and the next one starts. Although it is not an easy job to compete against the world’s best, this is the grandest stage where any shooter or athlete can prove their mettle.
Sadly and unfortunately for India, none of the shooters have managed to do so, and it could be one of the most disappointing Olympic Games ever for the shooting contingent. This inability to win a medal might even have grave consequences on the sport in the nation as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) may decide to cut short the size of the contingent for Tokyo 2020 quite habitually.Published 14 Aug 2016, 00:03 IST