ISSF World Cups: A brief history

Held every year since 1986, the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup is a blue riband event.
By Rahul Venkat

A discipline that embodies patience as a virtue like no other, shooting is one of the most interesting sports to watch.

While it may not be as action-packed or adrenaline-pumping as some other fast-paced sports, the precision, concentration, and body position a shooter employs while in action at a shooting range is a sight to behold.

Shooting, governed by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), has high-profile international competitions like the ISSF World Championships and is also one of the most competitive sports at the Olympic Games.

The ISSF World Cup counts among the most prestigious international events in shooting, and a World Cup medal is a cherished memory for many a shooter.

The journey of the ISSF World Cup began in 1986.

Start of the ISSF World Cup

While shooting had been a part of the Olympics since the inaugural edition in 1896 in some form or the other, ISSF – the international body that governs shooting - was formed only in 1907.

The ISSF decided on holding a World Championship event starting 1947 and shooting was also included as a disciple in the European Championships, Pan American and Asian Games in the years to come.

However, during the 1970s and early 1980s, several countries – Mexico, Germany, Cuba, Romania and a few others - hosted major competitions of their own and invited top shooters to participate.

These competitions would eventually form the basis for holding an ISSF World Cup. Those plans took shape in 1986 when the ISSF devised new initiatives – to create more opportunities for shooters to compete and earn quotas for the Olympics. It was also decided that scores shot at the World Cups would be considered for world records.

The major competitions held by various countries were soon designated as ISSF World Cups. The trend continues to this day, wherein there are multiple Rifle and Pistol and Shotgun World Cups held every year in different cities.

In the initial years, there were six ISSF World Cups held every year and that number reduced to five starting 1992. However, since 1996, there have been four ISSF World Cups each year and three in Olympic years.

The first ISSF World Cup was held in Mexico City in 1986, with the 10m Air Rifle, 10m Air Pistol, 50m Rifle 3 Positions, and 25m Rapid Fire Pistol categories for both men and women.

A mixed team event in the 10m Air Rifle and 10m Air Pistol was introduced from the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Indian shooter Gagan Narang has won two golds and four bronze medals at the ISSF World Cup.
Picture by 2006 Getty Images

The ISSF also organises an ISSF World Cup Final each year, starting 1988, wherein eight shooters with the best scores -- limited to two per country -- in ISSF World Cups are allowed to participate. Additionally, wild cards are handed to the defending champion, and Olympic and World Championship medallists.

Since 2017, the ISSF has been hosting the World Cup Final every alternate year.

An ISSF World Cup is held for rifle and pistol events, with a separate Shotgun World Cup also held every year.

ISSF Shotgun World Cup

Shotgun events consist of two categories – Trap Shooting and Skeet Shooting. The first ISSF Shotgun World Cup was also held in Mexico City in 1986.

For the first 12 years, from 1986 to 1997, the ISSF Shotgun World Cup was held only for men.

A women’s trap and skeet competition were first included starting from the 1998 ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Cairo, Egypt.

A trap mixed team event at the ISSF Shotgun World Cup was introduced from the 2018 edition in Guadalajara, Mexico while a skeet mixed team event made its debut at the 2020 ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Most successful shooters in ISSF World Cup

German pistol shooter Ralf Schumann is the most successful athlete in the ISSF World Cup. He has bagged 39 gold medals — and 56 in all — over the 26 years he has competed.

Rifle shooter Rajmond Debevec tops the medals chart in the ISSF World Cup with 27 golds (67 overall). American Vincent Hancock leads the shotgun medals tally with 12 golds (16 in all).

Rajmond Debevec is the most successful rifle shooter at the ISSF World Cup.
Picture by 2008 Getty Images

Serbian pistol shooter Jasna Sekaric is the most successful woman at the ISSF World Cup with 37 golds (61 overall) while Bulgarian Vesela Lecheva tops the rifle list with 31 gold medals (55 in all).

Kimberly Rhode of the USA tops the shotgun charts with 21 golds (33 in total).

Indian shooters at ISSF World Cup

The Indian shooters’ squad for ISSF World Cups and all other major events are selected by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

The first Indian shooter to win a medal at the ISSF World Cup was Soma Dutta – who bagged silver in the women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions at the 1986 ISSF World Cup in Seoul, South Korea.

It was quite a long wait for an Indian shooter to win an ISSF World Cup gold but it finally arrived in the 2003 ISSF World Cup at Fort Benning, USA when Anjali Bhagwat shot gold in the women’s 10m Air Rifle.

Anjali Bhagwat was the first Indian shooter to win gold at the ISSF World Cup.
Picture by 2008 Getty Images

India’s first Olympic shooting medallist, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has won two golds and a bronze at ISSF World Cups.

Interestingly, Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra never struck gold at the ISSF World Cups. His record stands at two bronze medals in the competition.

London 2012 bronze medallist Gagan Narang tasted more success, winning two golds and four bronze medals at the ISSF World Cups while fellow Olympic medallist Vijay Kumar has won two ISSF World Cup silvers.

India first hosted the Rifle and Pistol World Cup in 2017 in New Delhi. However, the Shotgun World Cup was first held in India in 1997.