Hyderabad: Shooting in Indian Olympic history always has a special place. It is the only sport that provided an individual gold for the country at the world’s biggest stage.
Abhinav Bindra won the much-awaited gold in the 10m rifle event in Beijing Olympics in 2008. Prior to him, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver in Athens Olympics in double trap while Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang shot silver and bronze respectively at the 2012 London Olympics. On the whole, shooting provided four medals at the quadrangular event.
With the biggest ever shooting contingent of 15 set for Tokyo Games, the hopes are high for multiple medals. The shooters too have a thing or two to prove after returning empty-handed from Rio Olympics.
There are many youngsters in the team who proved their mettle with the success on the world Stage. Though India never won a medal in 10m air pistol event, this time it is set to change.
Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary are in red hot form and with the introduction of mixed team event at Olympics, the duo are top contenders for the medal. They have been dominating the event for some time now.
Saurabh, Abhishek Verma and Bhaker present a strong case to end the drought in individual category. 2018 Asian Games gold medalilst Saurabh won five medals, including two gold in the World Cup conducted in 2019 and 2021 while while Abhishek won three medals, including two gold. Yashaswini Singh Deswal also won two gold medals. Saurabh proved that he can handle the pressure at the highest level.
In the 25m pistol event, Rahi Sarnobat clinched gold medal recently at the ISSF World Cup in Croatia. She even won a silver in New Delhi and is in prime form going into the competitions.
In rifle event, India has two world class shooters in Divyansh Singh Panwar and Elavenil Valarivan. Divyansh Panwar, the former World No.1 in 10m air rifle and currently ranked 2.
Valarivan is the reigning world no.1 in air rifle and another potential candidate to return with a medal. While the individual event might go down the wire with top contenders in fray, the mixed rifle team of Divyansh and Elavenil duo is overwhelming favourites.
Though medal hopes look bleak in skeet event, two shooters – Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angad Bawa, are competing for the first time. With a special focus on Olympic Games, the Indian shooting contingent headed for Croatia on a two-month tour to practice and compete in events to get into the groove. Going by the recent form, the shooters are sure to bring the glory.