Kolkata: Olympian Joydeep Karmakar on Thursday expressed hope of Indian shooters bettering their medals tally at the upcoming Olympics, saying that at least six of them have a good chance of making the final of their respective events.
"I see at least six of them in the finals, and it can be anybody's game there. We have a strong chance of going past two medals (Indian shooters won in 2012 London Olympics)," said Karmakar, who missed the podium by less than two points to finish fourth at London Games, told PTI.
A strong 12-member shooting squad will be representing India at Rio de Janeiro, one member more than London 2012 with pistol shooter Jitu Rai seen as the top medal prospect, besides heavyweights like Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra and bronze medallist Gagan Narang also in the ranks.
Other than big names of Indian shooting, Karmakar picked Ayonika Paul and Gurpreet Singh (25m rapid, a category in which Vijay Kumar won silver at last Olympics) as medal hopes.
"She has a very controlled aggression, like that of Abhinav (Bindra). Being technically strong is not everything, you've to be aggressive to clinch a crucial match in the final," he said, describing Ayonika as a 'darkhorse'.
"Gurpreet is mentally very strong and the best part is his field is half as strong as others. I heard that there would be about 22 participants which is less than the usual field. I see him as a top medal contender," the 50m rifle prone shooter said.
Karmakar felt it would be difficult for Chain Singh to compete at the highest level after recovering from pneumonia.
"Breathing control plays a huge role in shooting. If his illness is pulmonary then it would be a trouble. Let's hope for the best," he said about the rifle shooter, who is diagnosed with pneumonia and is being treated in Lausanne.
Chain Singh is suppose to compete in the 50m prone and 50m three position.
Although Karmakar termed wrestler Narsingh Yadav's failed dope test as a big blow to Rio-bound Indian contingent's morale, he said it should not affect the performance of the athletes at Rio, especially the shooters.
"The athletes at the highest level are very professional. They do not have even a second to spare a thought for such issues. Shooters are all the more focussed," he said.
"It's a way of their life. They're always away from limelight, and maintain a very low profile. It's a quality seen almost among everyone in shooting. They quietly go about their job and win a medal."
At 36, Karmakar has not given up hopes of a comeback. He has been training hard at his range, aiming to make a return to action before 2018 when three important events — Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships — are scheduled to take place.
"The gold medallist (Sergei Martynov) in my event was 44, while Rajmond Debevec, who won the bronze, was 49. I am not over yet," he signed off.