Focus on young guns

Palembang: Shooter Manu Bhaker reacts after competing in the women's 25m Pistol finals during the 18th Asian Games at Palembang, in Indonesia on Wednesday, Aug 22, 2018. Bhaker who qualified in the top spot with a Games Record score, finished at the sixth

After a stormy prelude to the ISSF World Cup, focus will be back on shooters who will be fighting for 14 Tokyo Olympic quota places on offer at the Dr Karni Singh range here from Saturday.

The World Cup for pistol and rifle shooters was hit by uncertainty over its status as an Olympic qualifier event once India denied visas to two Pakistani shooters scheduled to compete in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol. The controversy ended with the International Olympic Committee scrapping the two quota places in only that event.

The announcement must have come as relief to 500 shooters from 61 countries who had gathered here to book berths for their countries at next year’s Olympic Games. The Indian shooters, who had won 12 quota places for the Rio Games, will be keen to begin their hunt in familiar environment of their home range.

India will be fighting for 12 quota places with Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela bagging two of them in 10m air rifle from the World Championships in Changwon last year. A new feature of Indian shooting since the Rio Games has been the way the youngsters have led the way. For several of them, it will be their debut World Cup or first World Cup at home.

Pistol shooter Manu Bhaker is seen as a rising star following her phenomenal performances in World Cups, where she has won two gold medals besides a gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympic Games. The 17-year-old is competing in three events here -- the 10m air pistol, the 25m pistol and the 10m air pistol mixed team.

“I will go with an open mind, I am not putting pressure on myself,” said Manu, who will be competing in her first World Cup at home.

Saurabh Chaudhary, 16, had created waves last year by winning gold medals in World Championship (Juniors), Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and Asian Air Gun Championship. The reticent teenager, who will be participating in the 10m air pistol men and mixed team event, doesn’t factor in pressure. “I don’t know what pressure is,” he said.

The rifle, too, has a series of young shooters like Elavenil Valarivan and Mehuli Ghosh who are challenging the seniors. In the women’s rifle, the challenge will be to win a quota position in the 50m 3-position, especially with the country’s best, Anjum, bagging the quota in air rifle.

Olympian rifle shooter Sanjeev Raput, who had a fantastic 2018, was confident of putting up a good show. “If I qualify for the final, definitely I will do my best to get the quota place,” he said.

The 23-member Indian squad will be up against a world class field of former and reigning Olympic champions and world champions.

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