Shooters target gold, history

Indian marksmen are strong favourites to clinch top honours at the London Games

Shooters target gold, history

From mere participants to genuine medal contenders, Indian shooters have come a long way at the Olympic Games. Fielding a team of 11 this time, they will hope to go one better than their previous effort when the first competition shot is fired at the Royal Artillery Barracks on Saturday.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rat-hore’s silver in Athens 2004 had broken a barrier for India at the Olympics. At Beijing, the bar was raised higher by Abhinav Bindra whose gold in 10M air rifle applied gloss to the Indian performance overall. If the expectations are high this time, it is not without basis.

“We have talented shooters, but we had no belief. Rathore’s silver changed that perception. In Beijing, Abhinav took it to another level. And this time we hope to do better,” said National coach Sunny Thomas. He also sounded a note of caution.
“Expectations are high this time. Just because we have 11 shooters, it doesn’t mean we will win lot of medals. The competition has got really tough now. The shooters have worked hard, it all depends on the day’s performance now,” he said.

Among the Indian eleven, Bindra, of course, will be in special focus when he lines up to defend his title on Monday along with compatriot Gagan Narang against former champion Zhu Qinan and Wang Tao of China, brilliant Italian Niccolo Campriani and Peter Sidi of Hungary among others. Also demanding attention will be American Matthew Emmons, the winner of the 50M prone gold in Athens, if only because of the fact that he has battled thyroid cancer to make it here.

Narang, competing in 50M prone and 50M three-positions, will have his hands full but he has been quietly working at his craft, and having narrowly missed the final in Beijing, should believe that London is his chance for a medal of the highest order.

Double trap ace Ronjan Sodhi will get into action mode on August 2 in an event which will have the likes of Aussie Mark Russell – competing in his sixth Olympics – China’s former world record holder Hu Binyuan, Richmond Joshua and Walton Eller of the United States as well as Britain’s world record holder Peter Wilson, trained by Athens champion Ahmed Al-Makhtoum. It’s top class field and Sodhi certainly will have to be on top of his game to be on the podium.

Vijay Kumar will kick off India’s quest on Saturday in the 10M air pistol but his main event is the rapid fire pistol, where he is considered a dark horse by many. The new format in rapid fire – with the qualifying score not getting considered in the final – can work in Vijay’s favour.

Trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Sanjeev Rajput (50M rifle three-position), Joydeep Karmakar (50M rifle prone), women’s trap shooter Shagun Chaudhary, pistol shooters Rahi Sarnobat, Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj Singh are the other Indian competitors who will be looking to spring a surprise or two here.
China won five of the 15 gold medals on offer in Beijing and the world will have them in their vision, right from the first day to the last.

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