Top India shooters gear up for first meet after wait due to pandemic

Almost a year after their Tokyo Olympics preparation was halted due to the pandemic, India’s top shooters will get a feel of competition during the domestic trials starting at the Karni Singh Shooting range here on Tuesday.

All 15 shooters who have Tokyo Olympics quota places, in eight events, will be in action alongside other top shooters of the country. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has restricted the entries for the trials to a small number, based on rankings, to avoid a big gathering. Still, there will be around 250 shooters in 13 disciplines competing in the two selection trials, which run till Jan 18.

In the 10m air rifle men’s event, 31 shooters, including the quota winners Divyansh Panwar and Deepak Kumar, will compete. The 10m rifle women’s event will have 30 shooters with Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil and Elavenil Valarivan in the fray.

In 10m pistol events, the top 27 in men, including Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma, will participate. The women’s event will have Manu Bhaker and Yashaswini Deswal in a field of 20.

There will another round of trials for pistol and rifle shooters in February, following which India’s squad for 2021, which will include participation in the World Cups in New Delhi (March 18) and Changwon, Korea (April 16), will be selected.

It will be a fresh start for the shooters gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics.

“It will be like starting from the beginning since we will be competing after a long time. We have gone through these phases (trials) and again after a year we are facing the trials, so it will definitely give us goosebumps. But we know how to tackle them,” said Sanjeev Rajput, who has earned an Olympic quota in the rifle 3-positions event.

While the team for the Tokyo Olympics is yet to be announced, the trials will be an opportunity for the coaches to check the preparedness of shooters. They did not have any competition for 11 months and started training after a gap of eight months when the camp for the Olympic probables got underway here on October 22.

“The selection process for the Tokyo Olympics was completed last year and no modification has been announced to it. Nothing has been discussed yet. These trials will be like a checking point for coaches because it has been almost a year since they have had any competition. We need to see that all those shooters we are planning to select are on the right path,” said Deepali Deshpande, high-performance coach for rifle.

The coaches will hope the Olympics-bound shooters who were peaking last year before the Games was postponed would quickly regain their rhythm and competitive edge. High scores during matches in the camp was an indication that it will not take much time for them to pick up from where they left.

“The trials are part of their preparation for the Tokyo Olympics at a time when there are not many international events lined up. The good thing is that domestically we have good competition in all Olympic events. There are several world-class shooters in each event where we have won quotas,” Deepali said.

The shooters have been asked to carry COVID negative certificates not less than 48 hours old. Only one person/coach can accompany a shooter to the range. The competition starting with the shotgun events will be staggered and a gap of one lane will be maintained. Participants will have to follow the Standard Operating Procedures laid down by NRAI.

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