Members of the Indian shooting team for the 2021 ISSF World Cup in Delhi posing for a photograph with the NRAI...Read More
NEW DELHI: There's a good chance for Indian shooting to bag another quota place for the Olympics. The current count of 15, though, is already a record number for the contingent that will travel to Tokyo this July. Those 15 spots will likely have names against them sometime next month, depending on how the 57-member Indian team performs at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup set to begin here.
The World Cup for rifle, pistol and shotgun runs from March 18 to 29. The pre-event training commences on Thursday, with the competition beginning on Friday.
"Shortly after this World Cup [the Olympic team will be announced]," said National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president, Raninder Singh, on Wednesday at the curtain-raiser press conference for the tournament at Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range (DKSSR) here.
Besides being the first international event for rifle and pistol shooters since the lockdown last year, it's also the first international-level tournament among the Olympic sports to be hosted by India in the Covid era.
"Of course, we have a selection policy [for Olympics] that will be the primary thing, but we also have to see how, after such a long layoff, everybody is [performing]," Singh said addressing the media at the recently-inaugurated athletes' hostel in the DKSSR campus.
"We have to be absolutely sure, although, I don't think there will be any issue. Everybody seems to be doing very well."
In shooting, athletes win Olympic quota for the country; and the national federation later decides the names of best-performing shooter for each quota.
March 18 is reserved for pre-event training for the participating nations - TOI Photo
In all, there are 53 nations participating in the tournament, encompassing 294 athletes and 109 team officials. Shooting powerhouses Japan and China decided to skip the event because of Covid-related restrictions.
The Delhi edition of ISSF's World Cup in May last year was cancelled because of the pandemic.
16th OLYMPIC QUOTA
The 25m rapid fire pistol event could see India possibly seal another quota place for the Tokyo Games, but it will have to be a gold-medal effort to be in the safe zone for a ranking-point quota.
Among the 15 participants in the event will be India's Anish Bhanwala, Vijayveer Sidhu, Gurpeet Singh, Arpit Goel (MQS) and Adarsh Singh (MQS).
World No. 12 Bhanwala currently has 207 points and is ranked highest among the Indian shooters. But a gold-medal for either of the three Indian shooters playing for medals -- Anish, Sidhu and Singh -- will brighten India's chances.
Anish Bhanwala is in the reckoning for a 25m rapid fire pistol Olympic quota - Twitter Photo
A gold medal offers 1,000 points, silver 750 and bronze 500.
However, the official confirmation for the rankings quota will only come in post June 6, when the European Championships end.
UK, BRAZIL QUARANTINED; NRAI TO BEAR COST
The mutation of the Covid-19 virus in the United Kingdom and Brazil warranted their players and officials to serve a mandatory quarantine upon arrival, before being allowed to train and compete.
However, the Indian government agreed to cut down the quarantine period from 14 days to seven days; and as a goodwill gesture, the NRAI decided to bear the cost of quarantine period for the two teams.
"Our organising committee felt that it would be unfair for them to bear the cost of that [quarantine]. We have to make it easy for the athletes. So we are going to bear all the cost for the quarantined teams or athletes and officials from the day they land to the day [quarantine ends]," the NRAI president further confirmed.
As part of Covid safety protocol, body-length sheets have been placed between firing points to maintain social distancing - TOI Photo
Following the ISSF guidelines for events held during the pandemic, NRAI is not "encouraging" spectators for the 12-day World Cup in the capital.
"Actually we haven't passed any ruling that no spectators are allowed," the NRAI president replied to the question. "The ISSF has said, and it is very sensible, that because of the social-distancing norms, primarily in the best interest of the health of the athletes, it is not advisable to have 500 or so people gathering in a small place.
"Therefore, we are not encouraging anyone [spectators] to come...It's a great shame that we can't showcase the tournament, like we had in the past, to the general public."
Former India double-trap shooter and winner of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, Ronjan Sodhi, had expressed his displeasure about it.
"Have represented India for 41 World Cups, 12 World Championships etc etc. I take pride for the World Cup happening in my country but unfortunately cannot go to DKSSR in spite of having a Negative Covid test Report," Sodhi, also a World Cup and Asian Games gold medallist, had tweeted.
To this, Singh replied: "He [Sodhi] can come to our office, take an accreditation, have his [Covid] test done, get into the hotel and join us. No problem. He is a friend of mine and one of our senior-most athletes. We are all for it."
The tournament will be played behind closed doors, with only accredited media allowed inside the ranges - TOI Photo
PLAN 'B' AFTER THE WORLD CUP
This World Cup will, in all probability, be the last top-level competition for India's rifle and pistol shooters before the Olympics. Preempting that situation, the NRAI has a Plan B in place to keep its shooters in the best possible shape.
"What we have in place...is to invite people [international shooters] in the events where our team is going to shoot and where their team [country] is going to shoot [at the Olympics], to come here at our expense and play unofficial matches, friendlies. That will be some competition," said the NRAI president.
INDIA'S 15 OLYMPIC QUOTA WINNERS AT THE DELHI WORLD CUP
Rifle and Pistol: Manu Bhaker, Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil, Abhishek Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma, Sanjeev Rajput, Tejaswini Sawant, Divyansh Singh Panwar, Chinki Yadav, Yashaswini Deswal, Rahi Sarnobat, Deepak Kumar, Aishwary Tomar
Shotgun: Angad Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan