India’s biggest medal hopes from their 15-member strong shooting contingent at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics rest on their eight shooters, who will compete across two mixed team events.
It was only at Tokyo 2020 that the mixed team category was introduced in shooting and former world no.1 shooter Heena Sidhu believes this has increased India’s medal chances at the Olympics.
“A lot of events have been added to the Olympics in the mixed team (air rifle, air pistol and trap) and, we were fortunate to be very strong at the new events. So, the rule change really worked in our favour,” Heena Sidhu explained in an exclusive chat with SportsAdda.
India will have six-time ISSF World Cup-winning duo of Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary competing in the 10m air pistol mixed team event, with another top pistol duo of Abhishek Verma and Yashaswini Singh also competing in the event.
The 10m air rifle event mixed team event will see two teams as well. While high hopes are from the team of world no.1 women rifle shooter Elavenil Valarivan and world no.2 men’s rifle shooter Divyansh Singh Panwar, their compatriots Anjum Moudgil and Deepak Kumar will also look to make a mark.
Building the talent pool
The recent success of Indian shooting has now been likened to the proven and well-maintained cricket system that has effectively been churning out talents for years now. And, Sidhu points out India’s efficiency at the junior shooting programs for the success that the nation is seeing in shooting.
The state-of-the-art facilities that shooting ranges like Delhi’s Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range and Pune and Bhubaneswar’s Gun for Glory institutes provide have played a significant role in identifying the best shooting talents from the country.
“When you have junior competitions, it also gives an incentive to the federation and the government to pump in money for the junior program,” the former Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medalist explained.
“Previously, not much used to happen on this front. We also see a lot of ranges cropping up in India from the grassroots now. People have ranges to go to and practice at the top level.
“We also have the federation (National Rifle Association of India) and the government supporting it. Also, there is ISSF which is coming up with matches. So it has been a bottom-up and top-down approach. That is why we see such a good pool of talent coming in,” Sidhu added.
Passing on the legacy
Manu Bhaker had announced her arrival on the national scene by defeating multiple-time ISS World Cup medallist Heena Sidhu at the 2017 National games, where the youngster had broken Sidhu’s record of 240.8 points by scoring 242.3 10m air pistol final.
While a 31-year-old Sidhu is happy to be an inspiration for Manu Bhaker and India’s emerging generation of shooters, the Ludhiana athlete also believes that it is the responsibility of the current generation to become role models for the future.
“I would love to believe that I am able to inspire others. I do believe that you do need some role models to make the next generation believe in themselves,” said Sidhu.
“Similarly, people like Manu, Saurabh will inspire the next generation to take up the sport and inspire people to believe in themselves even more than these people believed.
“A sport should always work like that, it should be a self-sustaining cycle. Medal achievements of some should inspire the next generation. It’s the legacy of the winners, which is far greater than a medal,” she added.
Featured Image: Instagram/ Heena Sidhu