India is sending its strongest ever shooting contingent to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. As many as 15 shooters will be representing the country in 11 different shooting events. The Indian shooters traveling to Tokyo, especially the rifle and pistol shooters, are among the very best in the world and are expected to win multiple gold medals in this year's games. Most of these shooters are also young, but have admirably replaced some of their legendary seniors as India's leading shooters.
In this article, we take a look at the two legendary Indian pistol shooters who were unable to find a place in the Tokyo-bound Indian shooting squad. Both shooters missed out on the 2021 Olympics largely because of the meteoric rise of the younger bunch of Indian shooters, combined with their own loss of form.
1) Heena Sidhu (Women's 10m Air Pistol & Women's 25m Pistol)
Heena Sidhu was India's number 1 pistol shooter for almost a decade, before the emergence of Yashwaswini Deswal & Manu Bhaker in 2019. She won 2 World Cup Gold medals in the Women's 10m Air Pistol event and also won 2 Commonwealth Games golds in the 10m and 25m Air Pistol events at the peak of her shooting career.
At the Women's 10m Air Pistol event, she was also crowned World Number 1 for a brief period. But in the last 3-4 years, her performances have dipped and presently, she is not even among the top 3 Indian shooters in pistol events. Sidhu also failed to win a quota spot in her events.
As a result, she will not be part of the Indian shooting contingent travelling to Tokyo and will miss the chance of playing in her 3rd Olympics after contesting the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics.
2) Jitu Rai: (Men's 10m Air Pistol)
Jitu Rai harbored India's biggest hopes of securing a medal in the Men's 10m Air Pistol event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, he faltered in the finals under pressure and finished in eighth position. Since then, Jitu's career has been on a steady downslide. The former Asian and world champion, who was once considered one of the best pistol shooters in the world, struggled in major events such as the ISSF World Cups. He did secure a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but has been largely poor in the following years.
His younger compatriots Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary have now replaced him as India's leading shooters in major pistol events. Jitu has also lost his place in the national team and has not had many chances to shoot in international events in the last two years. This made it almost impossible for Jitu to keep himself in the race for a spot in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Indian team.
As a result, the legendary shooter will not be traveling to Tokyo for the upcoming Olympics.