Paris Olympics: Can shooting be India’s gamechanger with biggest ever squad?
The last two Olympic Games, however, have failed to produce medals despite rapid development of the sport
The onus will be on the Indian shooting contingent, which is likely to be the country’s biggest in any discipline in Paris 2024 (team events like hockey allow for 18-member squads), to push the country’s Olympics medals tally to double digits for the first time.
India's sports stars already bettered the previous all-time high of 15 at the Tokyo Olympics, and chances are the tally will reach the 20-mark once the Asia Olympic Qualification Rifle/Pistol in Jakarta and the Asian Shotgun qualifiers in Kuwait City are over.
Indian shooters ensured an unprecedented 16th quota when young Rhythm Sangwan finished with a bronze in the women’s 25m pistol late last week. Vijayveer Sidhu followed it up with a silver in the men’s 25m rapid-fire pistol on Saturday, making it the first time ever that the squad has clinched all four possible Olympic spots in the 25m pistol events.
While shooting has been one of the fastest growing sports in urban India, giving the country its first individual Olympic gold medallist in Abhinav Bindra in Beijing 2008, the harsh reality is there were no medals from the sport in the last two Games, the last two Olympic medallists being Gagan Narang (men’s 10m air rifle) and Vijay Kumar (men’s 25m rapid pistol) who returned with bronze and silver, respectively, from London 2012.
Complimenting the shooters for achieving the qualifying benchmarks, Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, senior vice-president, National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) said: “We believe we are not done yet. The hard work of the entire team at the NRAI and most of all the shooters and their coaches is paying off and we are confident that with all pulling together towards a greater cause, Indian shooting is poised to reach greater heights in the near future.”
After the hugely profitable outing in Indonesia, it’s now the shotgunners’ turn to swell the tally of qualifiers as the Asia Shotgun qualifiers has got underway from Sunday.
There is another qualifying event after these two in Rio de Janeiro, while the NRAI will be selecting the final contingent to Paris after the high-profile trials, to be conducted in April-May in either Delhi or Bhopal. ‘’In shooting, it’s the country and not the individual who wins the quota. Hence, the final squad will be selected on current form in the trials,’’ said an NRAI official.
The road to Paris, incidentally, began in Azerbaijan's capital Baku in 2022, when Rudrankksh Patil and Swapnil Kusale won the first two Paris quotas with a gold and fourth-place performance in the men’s air rifle and men’s 50m rifle 3 positions (3P), respectively, in the world championships. The third also came in 2022 when Bhowneesh Mendiratta finished fourth in the shotgun Worlds to claim a quota in men’s trap.
Thereafter, India won 10 quotas in 2023 across competitions, before beginning 2024 with four more in Jakarta. Varun Tomar and Esha Singh had earlier won quota places with gold-winning performances in the men’s and women’s air pistol.
The other quota winners are as follows:
Vijayveer Sidhu – 25m rapid fire pistol
Rhythm Sangawan – 25m pistol
Arjun Babuta - 10m Air Rifle Men
Akhil Sheoran - 3P Men
Mehuli Ghosh - 10m Air Rifle Women
Tilottama Sen - 10m Air Rifle Women
Sift Kaur Samra - 3P Women
Shriyanka Sadangi - 3P Women
Sarabjot Singh - 10m Air Pistol Men
Anish Bhanwala - 25m Rapid Fire Pistol Men
Manu Bhaker - 25m Pistol Women
Rajeshwari Kumari - Trap Women