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Tokyo Olympics 2020: India's biggest medal prospects in shooting events | Part 2

  • India's medal prospects in pistol shooting at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Modified 14 Feb 2020, 12:57 IST

Manu Bhaker
Manu Bhaker

In the previous part of this article, we had a look at Indian rifle shooters who have been performing consistently well on the world stage and are touted as favourites in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics 2020. In this part, we will have a look at Indian Pistol sports shooters who have made a big impact on the world stage in the current Olympic cycle.

Pistol sports shooting historically has not been a consistently fruitful event for India. We have had success in pistol events with shooters like Samaresh Jung and Jaspal Rana at the Asian and Commonwealth Games in the past but they were never able to translate this success at the Olympics.

At the 2012 Olympic games, Vijay Kumar won India its first (and till date only) Olympic medal in pistol shooting when he won a silver medal in 25-meter rapid fire pistol event. After Vijay Kumar’s success, there was an advent of pistol shooters in India.

Also read: India's biggest medal prospects in shooting events | Part 1

Pistol shooters like Jitu Rai and Gurpreet Singh started to perform consistently well at the world stage in the last Olympic cycle (’12-’16). Among women, Heena Sidhu showed flashes of brilliance on a few occasions but she lacked consistency. At the Rio Olympics, however, none of the Indian pistol shooters were able to handle the big match pressure and they returned home without a medal.

But since the 2016 Olympics, the Indian pistol shooters have made giant strides at the world stage. The Indian pistol shooting team have certainly improved over time, especially in 10-meter events. Let us have a close look at India’s medal prospects in various events of pistol shooting.

10-meter Air Pistol (men)

India’s performance in the 10-meter air pistol event for men has been brilliant in the current Olympic cycle. Shooters like Abhishek Verma, Saurabh Chaudhary and Shahzar Rizvi have successfully taken over the baton from Jitu Rai and have consolidated India’s position as the one of the best in this event.

Saurabh Chaudhary, the 17-year-old marksman has won it all in this event till now. He started his career with 2018 Asian Games gold and followed it up with a world record-breaking performance at the 2018 ISSF World Championships in the junior event and signed off his brilliant year with 2018 Youth Olympics Gold medal.

Saurabh Chaudhary will be India
Saurabh Chaudhary will be India's biggest hope in shooting at the 2020 Olympics (Courtesy: Times of India)
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His transition from junior to senior level was very smooth. He started his 2019 campaign with a gold medal at the 2019 ISSF World Cup, New Delhi with a world record score in the finals and in the process won himself an Olympic quota place.

His next outing was the finals of the prestigious ISSF World Cup, Munich where he broke his own record from the New Delhi World Cup to further strengthen his claim as the world’s best pistol shooter over the 10-meter range. Currently ranked 4th in the world, he is certainly India’s best bet at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in this event.

Abhishek Verma booked India’s second Olympic quota in this event when he won a gold medal at the 2019 ISSF World Cup, Beijing. He repeated his gold medal-winning performance at the 2019 ISSF Rio World Cup. He is currently ranked second in this event and can be a medal prospect in this event at the 2020 Olympics if he carries on his scintillating form from 2019.

India’s domination in this event can is determined by the fact that Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Vema won gold medals in all the World Cup series events of 2019 in 10-meter Air Pistol for men (both winning two Gold medals each). We can expect at least one of them to add a medal to India's Tokyo Olympics 2020 medal tally.

10-meter Air Pistol (women)

In the 10-meter Air Pistol event for women, India has had athletes of great calibre since 2016. The career graph of 17-year-old, Manu Bhaker has been somewhat similar to that of Saurabh Chaudhary in this event. She started her international career with a gold medal in this event at the 2018 ISSF World Cup at Guadalajara (Mexico) and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

She, like Saurabh, went on to win a gold medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games of Buenos Aries. Her start to 2019 was a bit shaky in this event but she made a champion comeback, first to seal an Olympic spot in this event at the 2019 ISSF World Cup Munich series and then stamped her authority as one of the favourites in this event at the 2020 Olympics with a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup finals at Putian, China.

Yashaswini Singh Deswal sealed India another quota place in this event with a gold medal-winning performance at the 2019 ISSF World Cup Rio. She is currently ranked 5th in the ISSF world rankings, but due to lack of consistency in domestic trials, she will have to pass the Olympic trials (to be held from 20th Feb 2020) to secure her berth at the 2020 Olympics.

10-meter Air Pistol (mixed)

The 10-meter Air Pistol mixed event, like the 10-meter Air Rifle mixed event, will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Olympics. India’s team of Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker were flawless in this event at the 2019 ISSF World Cup series. They won all the four gold medals that were on offer in this event. Looking at this kind of domination, the shooting team can pin their hopes on this pair to win India an Olympic medal in this event.

Manu Bhaker (L) and Saurabh Chaudhary (R) have been flawless in 10-meter air pistol mixed event at the 2019 ISSF World Cup series (Courtesy: ESPN)
Manu Bhaker (L) and Saurabh Chaudhary (R) have been flawless in 10-meter air pistol mixed event at the 2019 ISSF World Cup series (Courtesy: ESPN)

25-meter Pistol (women)

The 25-meter Pistol event for women too saw a lot of improved performances from Rahi Sarnobat and Manu Bhaker. Rahi Sarnobat has been a constant feature in the Indian shooting team since the 2010 Commonwealth Games of New Delhi. She won a silver medal in this event at the 2010 edition of Commonwealth Games.

She followed it up with a gold medal at the 2014 edition. But her real shot to fame came at the 2018 Asian Games where she held her nerve in a close final to win a gold medal. 2019 only saw her evolve as a shooter as she qualified for her second Olympics (after 2012) by winning a Gold medal at the 2019 ISSF World Cup Munich.

Rahi Sarnobat will be eyeing a big prize at the 2020 Olympics (Courtesy: Hindustan Times)
Rahi Sarnobat will be eyeing a big prize at the 2020 Olympics (Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

Manu Bhaker has also done consistently well in this event, although, it is not her pet event. Before securing her quota place in the 10-meter Air Pistol event at Munich World Cup, she was set to secure her Olympic berth in 25-meter Pistol event at the same World Cup but due to malfunctioning of her pistol, she was disqualified after the sixth round of the finals on that day.

She came back strongly to book her Olympic berth a couple of days later in 10-meter Air Pistol event. But she will be aiming for a good result in this event as well at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

25-meter Rapid Fire Pistol (men)

Although no shooter from India managed to secure a quota place in this event, there is one spot left for the best-ranked shooter. That spot is currently held by India’s Anish Bhanwala, but he’ll have to perform very well in this year’s World Cup series to maintain his ranking and gain that spot.

In conclusion, we can say that like in rifle shooting, India’s hopes will be pinned on 10-meter events in pistol shooting as well. The odds in favour of Indian shooters doing well at the Tokyo Olympics are much better than any previous editions of the Olympic Games.

If shooters like Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker keep this momentum going, we can be rest assure that India will rewrite a new chapter of Olympic glory at the 2020 Olympics.     

Published 13 Feb 2020, 16:54 IST
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