Shooting stars gunning for gold

Indian marksmen eager to set right their modest record against hot shots from Korea, China

 If there is one sport that the country pins its hopes on enormously at every multi-discipline sporting extravaganza, it is shooting.

 Let it be the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games or the Asian Games, they’ve been the ones who are expected to fetch us the medals.
Although some of them are amongst the top marksmen in the world and delivered at the Olympic and CWG stage, they’ve been hardly able to realise their full potential at the Asian Games, managing just one gold, three silver and four bronze last time at Guangzhou. 

One of the reasons why some of them tend to misfire at the Asiad is due to the hectic scheduling, with CWG and World Championships normally preceding the continental bash. Besides, there are the World Cups, and by the time, they arrive at the Asian Games, weariness would have affected their minds and bodies.

At the just-concluded World Championships in Granada, Spain, barring Jitu Rai, Gagan Narang and Manavjit Singh Sandhu, most of them flattered to deceive. With the competition at the Asian Games slated to be as intense as the World Championships, the shooters face a tough task of turning around their form when the events get underway on Saturday.

Having said that, one shooter who can be banked upon for success at Incheon is Jitu, the most consistent performer this season. The 27-year-old Armyman won the 50M pistol silver at the Worlds Championships, securing one Rio Olympic spot for India, after bagging two silver and a gold at the World Cups. He also shot a gold at CWG, making him clearly the star to watch out for at this Games.

Also in spotlight will be Abhinav Bindra. India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, Bindra will be gunning for his maiden individual Asian Games gold, hoping to check a box that has been lying blank in his otherwise glowing resume. Having just nailed his maiden CWG individual gold at Glasgow, Bindra has a chance to strengthen his legacy in 10M air rifle, his pet event. 

Narang, who has won an individual silver and bronze from the last two Asian Games in air rifle, will not be taking part in that but will be attempting glory in 50M rifle prone and 3-positions.

Vijay Kumar, the rapid fire silver medallist at the London Olympics, will also not be seen in that event but in centre fire pistol, while Gurpreet Singh will be the only pistol shooter to compete in centre fire, rapid fire and standard pistol events.

Amongst the women, the immensely talented pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, with a World Cup silver and Asian Championship gold in her kitty, will be looking for a better show after failing to make the final at the CWG and the World Championships.

China and Korea, who top the ranking charts across most categories, will be expected to dominate again.

Pistol king Jin Jong-Oh will lead South Korea’s quest, having won the world title recently. The triple Olympic champion shattered a 34-year-old world record in the men's 50m pistol at the world championships earlier this month, before also winning the 10m air pistol title.

China's men and women bagged 21 shooting golds four years ago against second-placed South Korea's overall tally of 13. The Koreans had more golds -- 10 to China's nine -- in the men's competition, but managed just three in the women's section where China were the runaway leaders with 12 titles.

There are 44 team and individual gold medals on offer in Incheon with 26 to be competed by men and 18 by the women.

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