In the first three days of the Rio Olympic Games, the Indian shooting contingent has participated in as many as five events but the Indian fans have been left disappointed each of the five times. The country was first represented by Ayonika Paul and Apurvi Chandela in the women’s 10m air rifle event which was also the opening event in shooting at the Games. The duo could not handle the pressure well and were eliminated in the qualification round as Ayonika finished 47th whereas Apurvi finished 34th.
The women’s event was followed by the men’s 10m air pistol event where the fans had great medal hopes from Jitu Rai, who carried with him a world number 3 ranking along with a billion hopes. The shooter did show great fight as he qualified for the final round but was eliminated as the 8th ranked shooter. The second day saw India’s medal hopes shifting onto the likes of Heena Sidhu and men trap shooters – Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Kynan Chenai.
The word we heard after day two was also ‘disappointment’ as India saw no luck with medals yet again.
But as the 10m air rifle event on day three was about to begin, there was a rise in the levels of excitement, a new positive energy could be spotted in all the Indian fans. It was the day where Abhinav Bindra would take to the shooting range for the very last time for India – which led to high expectations from the 33-year old rifle shooter. Bindra was also accompanied by fellow medallist shooter Gagan Narang, therefore the expectations rocketed sky high.
However, a billion hearts were broken as Bindra finished at 4th spot, just a whisker away from qualifying for the podium in the final round of his event. Indian fans were demoralised after three successive days of pain and disappointment due to the results of Indian shooters. Bindra was arguably the biggest medal hope from shooting, given his experience and ability to win big. Indian fans wanted a repeat of Beijing 2008, but destiny would not have it.
7 Indian shooters can still win medals
With Bindra’s elimination, the nation has been flooded with fans who have already lost all hopes of India winning a medal in the sport of shooting. There is still hope though, as India will be represented in at least six of the remaining eight shooting events at the Rio Olympic Games.
This starts with Heena Sidhu participating in her second event which is the women’s 25m pistol event, where the shooter is currently ranked 26th in the world.
While her ranking might not help you get your hopes high, Sidhu is one of the key female shooters and could spring a surprise on her day. Whereas, Jitu Rai and Prakash Nanjappa will also take part in the men’s 50m pistol event on 10th August. The former’s chances in this event are a lot more as he is the world number 3 in this event.
Events left for Indian shooters at Rio 2016
Women’s 25m pistol – Heena Sidhu
Men’s 50m pistol – Jitu Rai, Prakash Nanjappa
Men’s 50m rifle prone – Chain Singh, Gagan Narang
Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol – Gurpreet Singh
Men’s 50m rifle 3 positions – Chain Singh, Gagan Narang
Men’s Skeet – Mairaj Ahmed Khan
There were also signs of the pressure of an Olympic final getting the better of Jitu. He will have to keep his composure when he goes to the shooting range on Wednesday and finally win India a medal. Also, given the competitiveness at the Games, winning the bronze is also going to be a huge achievement for Jitu and other Indian shooters. The schedule also gives Gagan Narang a second and a third chance at glory as he will be competing in two more rifle events over the course of the Games.
If Narang’s bronze medal at the London Olympics was anything to go by, the shooter will be backing himself to win a medal in the 50m rifle prone event where he has been successful in the past. He will also be accompanied by Chain Singh, the shooter who has fought illness to be present at the grandest event. Singh had been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism just ahead of the Games but has since recovered.
The 27-year old did not qualify for the Olympics to just make up the numbers – he has expressed his desire to win the gold. Another Singh in the shooting competition is Gurpreet Singh, who will be participating in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event. There could be a medal coming from the skeet event as well, India’s lone representative, Mairaj Ahmed Khan has looked in good nick and this could be his time to shine.
Hope is the word
‘Hope’ is the word that will keep the Indian fans going until 21st August. There is no question that India is not a medal-heavy country but all the athletes have put in a lot of effort in the last four years to get to Rio. Their efforts have paid off as they are in Rio, therefore as a nation – as supporters – we need to get behind all the athletes even if they do not manage to bring back a medal.
If India had won 950-odd gold medals in the Olympics like USA have, then it would be justified if the fans started losing hope. But for a country who have not managed to win a single medal in four days, we have every right to keep hoping for a medal.
There will be one more Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Abhinav Bindra at this Olympic Games, but that medal winner will have a story of his/her own. We will have to face disappointment again, but we can make sure that we face it standing united, and this unified nation might get lucky and see another gold medal soon.