Young Indian shooters shone bright at the prestigious International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup, proving that the time has come for the young guns of the country to reach for the sky and more
The recent advancements in the sporting arena has presented India with talented individuals who strive for success and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The recently concluded International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup (held early this year) can be observed as a prime example of young India settling into their own. The Indian contingent, contesting to retain the top spot for the second year running, bagged a total of four medals: three golds and a silver, securing five quotas in shooting for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Indian team comprised majorly of athletes who had only just graduated to the first team (Seniors). But more often than not, fresh blood brings with it a new hunger for achievements, a disregard to previously set records and an astounding perseverance to give it their all. This was proven again at the ISSf Junior World Cup held in July 2019 in Suhi, Germany, where Aishwarya Pratap Singh Tomar gave a stellar performance on his way to winning the gold. The Indian shooting team finished the championship winning 10 golds! Interestingly, India will be hosting next year’s ISSF Combined World Cup in new Delhi from March 15-26. The Combined World Cup involves events in rifle, pistol and shotgun.
Amongst the stars
The World Cup was introduced by the ISSF in 1986 to establish a definitive system for qualification to the Olympic shooting competitions. The event comprises of four competitions annually for all shooting categories. The top performers from these categories then compete in the finals to secure an Olympic berth. A staggering 919 athletes from 98 countries, assembled in Munich to compete for 17 places available for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, besides the coveted ISSF world cup medal. For the 2019 finals, India fielded a 35-member contingent. The selectors had placed their trust in the likes of Saurabh Chaudhary, Mehuli Ghosh, Elavenil Valerivan, Abhishek Verma, Shazar Rizwi, Manu Bhaker and Rahi Sarnobat amongst seasoned campaigners like Heena Sidhu, Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela. One name that came forward during the tournament was Divyansh Singh Panwar, who, just a day after winning his first international senior medal in the mixed team event in the men’s 10m air rifle managed to secure a Tokyo 2020 Olympic quota place. Teen stars Bhaker and Chaudhary also won their second consecutive gold in 10m air pistol mixed team after topping the podium in New Delhi. Each shooter holds possibilities of winning big in Japan – while some have got the quota, others are striving.
Catch them young
One of the factors that has dramatically altered India’s performance at the global stage is the massive investment at the junior level. This development has come from the constant perseverance to make shooting an inclusive in the country. Two decades ago, access to equipment and a scientific approach towards the sport was not easy to come by. Only when one became a really good shooter was there a chance to get world-class equipment. We want to equip kids with tech-nology right at the start, a reason why I started Gun For Glory (GFG), a Pune-based shooting academy that aims to provide a holistic development programme to young and aspiring shooter from India. What is also helping youngsters is how society looks at a career in sports. Earlier, it was only cricket, but now after Indian shooters, sprinters, tennis players and others have been winning gold at international tournaments, including the Olympics, the focus is shiting to others sports as well. Parents are opening up to the idea of their children playing sports as a career proposition. An institutional boost has come from the Union government’s ‘Khelo India’ initiative to encourage sports among the youth. Under the programme, 1,000 athletes are being identified across sports to be given annual scholarships of INR 5 lakh each for eight years.
Sights on the Prize
With the advancements in training technology, dreams of several budding shooters are now turning into reality. Talent across the country now has the means to achieve the maximum at the global stage. While I take my academy across India, others are coming up. Local authorities have been able to get to ground zero, conduct talent hunt and help unearth real talent. Shooting is one of the fastest growing sports in India, it is growing at a faster rate than any other country and the recent success at the global stage is a testament to the efforts of all concerned authorities across the country. Gagan Narang is an Olympic bronze Medallist (Men’s 10-metre Air Rifle) from the 2012 London Olympics. He was also the the first Indian to qualify for the event. He is the founder of Guns for Glory, a world class shooting academy started to help young shooters from across the country.