India's meteoric rise as a potential superpower in shooting makes the country's marksmen the firm favorites for podium finishes at the Tokyo Olympics. Never before in the country's history has it sent a 15 member-strong shooting contingent to the Olympics.
The shooters will seek to write a fresh chapter in the country’s Olympic history as they head to Tokyo with a realistic chance of winning medals.
Indian shooters had long struggled to make a breakthrough at the Olympics until Rajyavardhan Rathore's silver at Athens. Abhinav Bindra's gold medal four years later in Beijing established India as a shooting powerhouse.
It will be no different in Tokyo as the contingent aims to contribute a bountiful of medals to India's Olympic campaign.
Who are the strongest medal contenders in shooting at Tokyo Olympics?
Based on current form and past achievements, here's a look at the Indian shooters who could make their presence felt at the Tokyo Olympics.
#8 Divyansh Singh Panwar (Men's 10m Air Rifle)
The feisty rifle shooter is in fine form going into the Tokyo Olympics, having claimed two medals at the ISSF Delhi World Cup in March. His career breakthrough came at the Junior World Cup tournament in 2018, where he pocketed two mixed team titles.
With a total of six World Cup medals in 2019, Panwar ascended to the pinnacle of the world rankings. The 22-year-old is currently second in the world and is one of the strongest bets to bag a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
#7 Elavenil Valarivan (Women's 10m Air Rifle)
The 21-year-old is the lone Indian shooter in the 15-member contingent to have secured a Tokyo Olympics berth without winning a quota. Looking at her potential, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) swapped Anjum Moudgil's 10m Air Rifle quota in her favor. Ranked first in the world in women's 10m Air Rifle, Valarivan looks well-equipped to mount a title challenge in Tokyo.
#6 Anjum Moudgil (Women's 50m Rifle-3 Positions)
Currently ranked third in the world in women's 10m Air Rifle, Anjum Moudgil was the first Indian shooter to seal a quota for the Tokyo Olympics. She did so by bagging silver in the individual 10m Air Rifle event at the ISSF World Championships back in 2018.
Moudgil underlined her potential further by becoming the lone Indian to qualify for the women’s 10m Air Rifle final event at the ISSF Delhi World Cup in March. She also teamed up with Shreya Saksena and Gaayathri Nithyanadam to finish second in the 50m rifle 3 positions team event. The 27-year-old would be a carrying a burden of expectations and it remains to be seen how she responds to the pressure.
#5 Abhishek Verma (Men's 10m Air Pistol)
The 31-year-old has been nothing short of sensational with two World Cup medals (individual and team) in his kitty. He shot to fame by winning bronze on his international debut at the 2018 Asian Games, alongside gold medalist Saurabh Chaudhary.
Verma has molded himself into one of the most successful and formidable male shooters on the professional circuit. With the confidence he has gained, he will definitely be a strong competitor for India at the Tokyo Olympics.
#4 Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary (Mixed 10m Air Pistol)
Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary have been two of the most consistent performers for India in 10m Air Pistol. The duo have joined forces in a total of five ISSF World Cup tournaments since 2019, claiming gold medals in each. Having outclassed the biggest names in the sport, the pair looks set to capture the gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
#3 Divyansh Singh Panwar and Elavenil Valarivan (Mixed 10m Air Rifle)
Divyansh Panwar will team up with World No. 1 Elavenil Valarivan to enter Tokyo as strong favorites for a medal finish. The pair underlined their potential by winning a gold medal at the recently-concluded ISSF Delhi World Cup.
#2 Saurabh Chaudhary (Men's 10m Air Pistol)
India has one of its most promising shooters in 18-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary. He is the solitary Indian shooter to bag titles across five major competitions, including the World Championships, World Cup, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and Asian Air Gun Championships.
Looking at his seamless upward career trajectory, Chaudhary will be the outright favorite to become the youngest Olympic champion.
#1 Manu Bhaker (Women's 10m Air Pistol)
Manu Bhaker will be a strong medal contender at the Tokyo Olympics. Currently ranked second in the world in Women's 10m Air Pistol, she is only the second Indian shooter to compete in three different events at a single edition of the Olympics.
Bhaker will have a shot at winning medals across three events, including women's 10m Air Pistol, women's 25m Pistol, and 10m Air Pistol mixed team events. Her participation across multiple events will raise India's hopes of more than one podium finish in the sport.