ISSF Shooting World Cup: India retain traditional strongholds in final push for Tokyo Olympics

The recently-concluded ISSF Shooting World Cup saw India topping the medals chart with a combined haul of 30 podium finishes, including 15 golds. The result is a shot in the arm for the shooters who were in fine form in 2019 before COVID-19 threw their preparation off gear.

Shantanu Srivastava March 30, 2021 15:38:18 IST
ISSF Shooting World Cup: India retain traditional strongholds in final push for Tokyo Olympics

New Delhi: The recently-concluded ISSF Shooting World Cup saw India comprehensively top the medals chart with a combined haul of 30 podium finishes, including 15 golds. The result is a shot in the arm for the shooters who were in fine form in 2019 before COVID-19 threw their preparations off gear.

It must, however, be noted that a number of India’s medals were won in the non-Olympic team and mixed-gender events, some of which – like the 50-metre 3P men’s team – had only three teams participating.

That said, the event, which was also the first multi-national Olympic event to be hosted in the country since the lockdown, had a number of positives for the hosts.

Here are some major takeaways from the ISSF Shooting World Cup across the three classifications:

Pistol

India’s pistol shooters have been topping the World Cups for a while now, and the home event was no different. World No 1 Yashaswini Singh Deswal and World No 2 Manu Bhaker completed a neat 1-2 finish in the 10-metre pistol finals, while Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma claimed a silver and a bronze among men.

Deswal and Bhaker dominated the qualifications, returning with table-topping scores of 579 and 577 respectively, while Chaudhary and Verma took the top two spots with qualifying tallies of 587 and 583.

India have already secured their quotas in this category (both men and women), and the result marks a confident foray into the final stretch of Olympics preparation.

In comparison, the 25-metre rapid fire pistol (men’s) event was a disappointment. India had pinned their hopes on teenage sensation Anish Bhanwala to take giant strides towards a rankings-based quota, but the youngster’s ordinary form ensured he could only finish fifth in the six-man final.

Gurpreet Singh, who went to the 2016 Rio Olympics, had a below-par World Cup too, although his preparations were hit by a false COVID positive report.

ISSF Shooting World Cup India retain traditional strongholds in final push for Tokyo Olympics

File image of Indian shooter Gurpreet Singh. AFP

The only silver lining was the emergence of Vijayveer Sidhu in the seniors category. He took a surprise silver with his calm and consistent shooting, faltering only in the shoot-off. Though not completely out of the quota race, India’s fate now hinges on gold medallist Peeter Olesk’s performance at the European Championships.

Among women, Chinki Yadav, Rahi Sarnobat, and Manu Bhaker completed a rare podium sweep for the hosts.

National pistol coach Samresh Jung though puts the results in perspective. “We have identified a few areas and need to work on individual shooters. There was not too much competition here, and our shooters shot some decent scores; not great, but decent scores.”

Last year’s lockdown did impact their training, but the pistol shooters were not way off the mark when the ranges reopened.

“They were not too bad, especially air pistol shooters. They were rusty for a few days, but it was not that they had forgotten shooting. They were training during the lockdown too. We were expecting them to be rusty, that’s normal.

“Look, COVID-like situations happen once in 100 years, so obviously it will affect everyone. You have to accept the situation and not be too hard on yourself.”

The challenge, going into the Olympics for Jung, will be to make the young shooters understand the fickleness of form.

“The experienced shooters know that they won’t hit great scores straight away, but the juniors need to be sat down and explained.

“Form is never a constant in shooting; it is a cycle of highs and lows, and we’ll have to make sure the shooters peak at the right time before the Olympics. There is no exact science to it, but we do have historical data to refer to and gauge what works for each shooter. Obviously, we can’t monitor how much shooters eat at home, but there are some measurable parameters that we refer to.”

Rifle

Having secured the quota in the 10-metre air rifle (men and women) well in advance, the pressure, in many ways, was off the Indian shooters. That considered, the women’s rifle duo of Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela – also the first Indian shooters to earn a quota each in 2018 – had an off day. While Moudgil finished fifth, Chandela and World No 1 Elavenil Valarivan couldn’t even make it to the finals.

Among men, Divyansh Singh Panwar, currently ranked second in the world, took bronze while Arjun Babuta finished fifth.

In the 50-metre 3P event, young Aishwarya Pratap Singh Tomar beat World No 1 Istvan Peni to claim a surprise gold, while seasoned Sanjeev Rajput, after shooting beautifully in windy and overcast qualifications conditions, finished sixth in the final.

“The weather conditions were quite bad. It was very windy and overcast. Had it rained, the wind would have stopped, but strong winds really make it difficult to shoot. So I made some adjustments to my technique,” Rajput said later.

ISSF Shooting World Cup India retain traditional strongholds in final push for Tokyo Olympics

File image of Sanjeev Rajput. Image credit: Twitter/@sanjeevrajput1

“When the wind hits you, it changes your body position. You sway a bit. To counter that, we tend to broaden the stance to lower the centre of gravity which lends more stability. Or, we elongate the rifle by tweaking its configuration. By doing this, we are forced to employ more strength to hold the rifle, which in turns lends stability and reduces the wind impact.

“All of these however changes the tone of back and shoulder muscles, and it is quite difficult to unlearn it and go back to your original style once the action shifts indoors or the weather conditions return to normal.”

Not surprisingly, Rajput's biggest takeaway from the World Cup is to improve his performance in the finals.

“I need to work on the performance in the finals. I need to be able to adapt quickly as per the prevailing conditions. I am able to adjust well in the qualifications, but need to continue that form in the finals,” he said.

Shotgun

The story has been told many times over. India’s trap shooting is in disarray, and this World Cup was another iteration of the fact. Barring Kynan Chenai, no Indian – male or female – could make it to the finals of the individual trap events.

While factors such as cost, lack of infrastructure and equipment have combined to scupper the growth of trap shooting in the country, the other shotgun discipline, skeet, has two Olympic quotas, earned by Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Miraj Ahmad Khan in 2019.

The duo, however, had a quiet Word Cup as they failed to make it to the finals.

Among women, Ganemat Sekhon claimed a bronze before teaming with Parinaaz Dhaliwal and Karttiki Singh Shaktawat for team silver. Indian men had a good team outing too, wading off the Qatari challenge to claim gold. The mixed team event also saw India on top, with the pair of Bajwa and Sekhon besting Kazakhstan.

National coach Mansher Singh is optimistic about shotgun’s future in the country. "I think the road ahead for shotgun is very good, especially with the influx of juniors," he said. NRAI's selection committee will meet later this week to pick the squad for Tokyo Olympics.

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