Bindra, Narang to lead shooters' charge in Asiad

Two years later, the Olympic champion in air rifle returns to the country of his famous conquest, with a point to prove.

The 16th Asian Games is a great opportunity for Bindra to return to the top again, after experiencing a slump that is very much understandable, given the highly stressful journey he had taken to reach the pinnacle. Bindra’s quest will be one of the highlights of the opening day’s shooting events on Saturday, as he aims to put India on the podium with team-mates Gagan Narang and Sanjeev Rajput also in fray.

Men’s 10M air rifle is among the six gold medals to be decided on the opening day. Besides individual and team gold in air rifle, men’s 50M pistol and women’s 10M air rifle (both team and individual) will also be decided on the first day and India have medal hopes in the women’s event as well, where Suma Shirur will line up along with Tejaswini Sawant and Kavita Yadav.

At the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi where he won the silver behind Narang, Bindra had said he had regained the hunger for the success and he was looking forward to the Asian Games. If he can strike form and if Narang can retain his form, India can hope for some good news from the Aoti Shooting Range, especially with Rajput slotting in some good scores in training.

For Narang, the challenge will be two-fold. He has to recover from the rigours of the opening ceremony and be ready for the event where he shot a world record-equaling 600/600 at the Commonwealth Games. He is very much capable of doing that at the same range where he won the World Cup gold in 2006.

Chinese had to eat humble pie then and they were again humbled when Bindra climbed the podium in Beijing. Led by 2004 Olympic champion Zhu Qinan -- the man Bindra beat in Beijing -- and featuring Cao Yifei and You Jikang, the Chinese are a formidable force and they will be determined to prove a point at home.

Shot gun shooters Ronjan Sodhi, Asher Noria (double trap), Manavjit Sandhu and Mansher Singh (trap) are the other gold medal hopes in the Indian ranks but with shooters from the middle east as well as China set to offer stiff competition, the Indians have to be at their best. The likes of Mo Junjie and Pan Qiang have done well this season in double trap, with the latter having equaled the world record as well.

Pistol ace Jaspal Rana saved India’s honour in Doha with three gold medals but India don’t have his magic here. Instead, if Vijay Kumar can strike form, the kings of Commonwealth will have reasons to smile in another arena.

China won 27 of the 44 gold medals in Doha but this year, they have been a bit subdued at world events, and the country won only five gold medals at the World Championships, with the coach Wang Yifu blaming personal problems for the lack of success. At Guangzhou, he said he was banking on the youngsters to come good.

“I have confidence in them. Just like you guys, you go to junior high school from primary school. It’s a process, there is nothing to worry,” he said. “The charm of shooting lies in uncertainty and everyone has a chance here,” he said.

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