CWG 2018: Riding on success at ISSF World Cup, can India's shooters replicate their form in Gold Coast?
The Indian shooting contingent had their biggest success at the recently concluded ISSF World Cup at Guadalajara, Mexico with a total tally of nine medals including four Gold, one Silver and four Bronze medals. But does that mean that Indian shooting is heading towards glorious days or are the results not telling the full story?
One of the biggest reasons behind the success of the Indian team at Delhi Commonwealth Games was the inspiring performances from the shooters. However, since then the number of shooting events have been reduced in ISSF events in order to match them to those played at the Olympics. This has been a real loss for India as the now discontinued events included a lot of the events in which shooters from the country excelled.
However, most of these events still continue to be a part of the Commonwealth Games, which is why this performance at Guadalajara will be intensely satisfying and a morale booster for the shooters.
India has traditionally never been a force in ISSF events but the shooters have indeed shown individual brilliance from time to time by clinching a few medals here and there. The biggest problem has been consistency from the shooters who in spite of having the potential, do not end up winning as many medals as they could.
There could be a host of reasons behind this, including, lack of proper coaching and guidance, poor infrastructure in the country, or big-time sponsors for the sport in the country.
Let us now talk about how likely the Indian shooters are to continue their strong display across the different event categories with many big-ticket events lined up this year including the Commonwealth Games, four more World Cups, World Shooting Championships and the Asian Games.
Rifle events are where India got five of its nine medals in this year's first World Cup including one Gold, one Silver and three Bronze across each of the five events. However, missing from the action at the Commonwealth Games will be the Gold medal winner Akhil Sheoran who has not been included in the squad on the basis of long-term performances which will see the likes of seasoned campaigners like Sanjeev Rajput and Chain Singh competing for India.
Sanjeev Rajput has been a regular in the Indian team and has won medals for the country across all major events except the Olympics. He is a three-time Asian Games medal winner and has recently produced good results at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships. He was unlucky to miss out on his fourth World Cup medal at the recent Guadalajara event after wins in 2010, 2011 and 2016.
The biggest positive might just be the inclusion of junior players on the women's team including Mehuli Ghosh and Anjum Moudgil, who won a Bronze and Silver respectively at the Guadalajara World Cup. Just like most Indian junior shooters under the guidance of national junior pistol coach Jaspal Rana, these two have tremendously impressed at the junior circuits putting up consistent high scores.
Also in the fray will be the seasoned pro Gagan Narang who in the wake of consistent performances by the juniors would be looking to raise his game and deliver a final hurrah at the Commonwealth Games, a tournament where he has achieved a lot of success but may never participate again after shooting was removed from the list of events for the 2022 Games in Birmingham.
Hopes are also high from last time Gold medal winner Apurvi Chandela who would look to repeat her performance in this year's event. The Indian Rifle team for the Commonwealth Games includes the following players.
10m Air Rifle Men: Deepak Kumar, Ravi Kumar
10m Air Rifle Women: Apurvi Chandela, Mehuli Ghosh
50m Rifle 3 Positions Men: Sanjeev Rajput, Chain Singh
50m Rifle 3 Positions Women: Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant
50m Rifle Prone Men: Chain Singh, Gagan Narang
50m Rifle Prone Women: Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant
The World Record Gold medal-winning performance by Shahzar Rizvi followed by another two Gold medals for Manu Bhaker and Om Prakash Mitharval at Guadalajara earlier this month has increased Indian expectations from pistol events. Jitu Rai has been the most consistent Indian shooter over the years winning at least one medal including one Gold, one Silver and three Bronze medals in ISSF World Cups 2014. He was India’s only Gold medalist in the last Asian Games and also struck Gold at the Commonwealth Games last time and will be expected to repeat his performance again this year.
One of the most impressive youngsters, Anish Bhanwala, is a serious contender for a medal and he would like to prove his worth after missing out at the World Cup. Another big favourite for winning a medal would be Heena Sidhu who has been just as consistent for India as Jitu Rai if not more. She is the only Indian girl to have won a Gold medal in the ISSF World finals at Munich in 2013 before going on to pair with Jitu Rai to give India another Gold last year in the finals at New Delhi.
Junior World Champion, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, would, however, consider herself very unlucky to be not in the side for the Commonwealth Games after strong performances in both pistol events at the just concluded ISSF World Cup. Also missing out would be Anisa Sayyed and Rahi Sarnobat who were the Silver and Gold medal winners in 25 Air Pistol event from the last event at Glasgow.
Anisa recently hit the National Record in the same event and Rahi remains India’s only World Cup Gold medal winner at the event. Both of the shooters have been consistent over the years but a reduced quota in shooting for participants from all nations in the Commonwealth Games 2018 has led to their omission from the final squad.6 However, they will be looking to make an impact as a long schedule of events is lined up for the shooters in 2018. Indian contingent for Pistol events at Commonwealth Games is listed below.
10m Air Pistol Men: Jitu Rai, Om Prakash Mitharwal
10m Air Pistol Women: Manu Bhaker, Heena Sidhu
25m Pistol Women: Heena Sidhu, Annuraj Singh
50m Pistol Men: Jitu Rai, Om Prakash Mitharwal
50m Rapid Fire Pistol Men: Anish Bhanwala, Neeraj Kumar
Indian shooters have not had much success in Clay Target events in the past and even their most successful shooter, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, has not been in great form recently having not won any medal since 2015 when he won the Bronze at the ISSF World Cup in Acapulco. In fact, he remains till date India’s only Gold medal winner across the five current Olympic shotgun events among both men's and women's events.
The recent show at the first ISSF World Cup of the year also fails to inspire any confidence from the shooters. Not only did all of the six shooters fail to qualify for the final round, but also they failed to reach anywhere close to the qualification mark. The closest was Smit Singh who scored 116 points in the Men’s Skeet competition.
The biggest hopes of winning medals in these events for India would be at the Commonwealth and Asian Games where they will not have competition from some of the best shooters from USA, Mexico and a large part of Europe. In fact, the only really tough opponents will be from Australia and China in Commonwealth and Asian Games respectively who would still be expected to run away with most Gold medals across the Shotgun events.
India will be hoping for Shreyasi Singh to repeat her Silver medal winning performance in Double Trap from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games while expectations will be high from Manavjit to change the colour of his medal from Bronze to Gold. However, the biggest chance of a medal for India will come from Ankur Mittal in the Double Trap event where he had shown great potential winning two Silver medals in the ISSF World Cup events last year. The following players will be representing India at the Commonwealth Games.
Trap Men: Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Kynan Chenai
Trap Women: Seema Tomar, Shreyasi Singh
Skeet Men: Smit Singh, Sheeraj Sheikh
Skeet Women: Saniya Sheikh, Maheshwari Chauhan
Double Trap Men: Ankur Mittal, Mohammed Asab
Double Trap Women: Shreyasi Singh, Varsha Varman