Shooters spearhead India's bid for glory

MUMBAI Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:35am IST

Abhinav Bindra of India (L) and compatriot Gagan Narang pose with their gold medals after they won the men's 10m pairs air rifle shooting competition at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi October 5, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur

Abhinav Bindra of India (L) and compatriot Gagan Narang pose with their gold medals after they won the men's 10m pairs air rifle shooting competition at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi October 5, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/B Mathur

Related Topics

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The landmark gold medal Abhinav Bindra shot down in Beijing four years ago has only served to make life more difficult for the baby-faced marksman and his fellow Indian Olympic shooters.

This country that has tasted so little Olympic success, will pat swimmers on their backs if they better their personal bests and issue forth encouraging words to track and field athletes if they survive the heats.

But for Bindra and 10 other Indian shooters who have qualified for London, there will be no such leeway.

The stakes have risen for shooting in cricket-obsessed India since Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the double trap silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Four years later Bindra won India's first individual gold, triumphing in the 10m air rifle event in Beijing, a feat that changed the face of Indian shooting.

"It took the 2004 medal to convince all that this sport has a lot of potential," National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) advisor Baljit Singh Sethi told Reuters.

"It started from there on, and from 2008 I have lost count of how many shooters are joining the sport. The number, in fact, is growing every day."

It is a welcome change to the cricket-dominated sports culture in a country of 1.2 billion people who do not care enough about Olympic sports.

Bindra's gold shattered a mental barrier for the likes of Joydeep Karmakar, who has qualified for the men's 50 metre rifle prone event in London.

"It did have a great influence on us. Unless you see someone around who has done it, you don't really feel confident you can do it as well," Karmakar told Reuters.

"When you see someone who is shooting next to you and has won a gold in Olympics, you start believing 'okay, if this guy has done it, so can I! He's just one of us!'"

Since Bindra's feat, Indian shooters have performed consistently well with Ronjan Sodhi briefly occupying the world's top ranking in double trap and Gagan Narang winning four gold medals in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Expectation has risen so much that even though India would be sending an unprecedented 11-member contingent, two more than Beijing, the federation insists a few more should have booked their presence at the Royal Artillery Barracks in south east London.

"Actually we were expecting that we might touch 15," Sethi said. "But we had some bad luck and three/four shooters lost their qualification competitions by one point or so. We could have won at least three more quotas."

Sethi expects at least three of the 11 to return from London with a medal around their neck.

"I think as things are today we have got the best hopes among all the disciplines," said Sethi, a long time NRAI office bearer who was India's deputy chef de mission in Beijing.

"We are expecting at least three medals. We can't say how many gold medals or silver or bronze. It depends on how lucky you are on that particular day."

(Editing by Ossian Shine)

FILED UNDER:

Religion and Politics

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Fund Raising

Fund Raising

Flipkart raises $700 million in fresh funding.   Full Article 

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Reuters Exclusive

Reuters Exclusive

India looks to sway Americans with nuclear power insurance plan  Full Article 

To Boost Growth

To Boost Growth

Crank up public spending to revive growth - chief economic adviser.   Full Article 

Bold Steps

Bold Steps

SpiceJet rescue plan marks bold bet on Indian aviation recovery.   Full Article 

New Airline

New Airline

Tata, Singapore Air venture Vistara to take off on Jan 9.  Full Article 

Online Sales

Online Sales

Knock knock. Who's there? Amazon's best-selling holiday author.  Full Article 

Hacking Attack

Hacking Attack

N.Korea says did not hack Sony, wants joint probe with U.S.  Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

BSE Sensex to hit 32,980 by December 2015  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage