Asian Games will be the acid test for shooters

It has been a record-breaking season for Indian shooting, so far.

Indian shooters had the rare distinction of topping the medals table ahead of US and China, with nine medals, including four gold, in the Mexico World Cup.

It is another matter that India could win only one more medal, a silver through air pistol shooter Shahzar Rizvi, in the rest of the World Cups in Korea, US, Malta and Germany.

Ironically, the man who won two World Cup medals this season, Shahzar Rizvi, including the gold in Mexico, does not find a place in the Asian Games squad, thanks to a selection policy that is driven by simple arithmetic.

The Indian juniors have consistently been on top of the world, winning 48 medals in all in the Sydney and Suhl Junior World Cups.

India had finished second to China in Sydney, on the basis of the lesser number of bronze medals, and beat China to top the table in Suhl.

The 19-year-old Elavenil Valarivan, with two junior World Cup gold medals, who can shoot a world record any day in women’s air rifle is perhaps the best hope. Anjum Moudgil has a world record 1180 out of 1200 in women’s rifle 3-position event, and could use the Asian Games to draw some attention to her abilities.

If we focus just on the gold medals in Asian Games, it is a bit discouraging to find only Randhir Singh, Jaspal Rana, Ronjan Sodhi and Jitu Rai have been able to win the individual gold over the years.

Jitu Rai has missed selection and that has particularly shaken India’s ability to sustain the mixed air pistol dominance.

Jaspal Rana who has won four of the country’s seven gold medals from the Asian Games, could pass on the trick to two of his brightest wards, Manu Bhaker and Anish Bhanwala.

Both Manu and Anish had won the gold medals in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, and have been performing very well in the international circuit, among the juniors in particular.

The 16-year-old Manu, of course, has been phenomenal with a clutch of gold medals among the women, juniors, individual and mixed pistol events.

The Asian Games will be the acid test for her.

The presence of Sanjeev Rajput, Akhil Sheoran, Ravi Kumar, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Heena Sidhu and Apurvi Chandela lends a lot of respectability to the 28-member shooting squad, but it will be a challenge for them to deliver the medals, against world class opposition.

The twist, this time, is that there is no team competition in shooting.

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