Pistol ace Jitu Rai back to army duties for now

A World Cup winner and an Asian Games champion, Jitu Rai, who has been in the Indian army since 2006, wants to qualify for Tokyo Games next year.

By Subhayan Dutta

Ace Indian shooter Jitu Rai, who finished eighth at the 10m Air Pistol event at the 2016 Olympics, has decided to resume national duties with his North-East army regiment - 11 Gorkha Rifles – where he got promoted as Subedar Major.

A two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, the two-time ISSF World Cup winner and an Asian Games gold medallist, Jitu Rai has been with the Indian Army since 2006 and had started training for competitive shooting there.

With the COVID-19 pandemic stalling international and national events and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) organising a national camp only for Olympic probables, Jitu Rai has decided to use this period more productively.

“There is no sport happening. I thought, why waste time,” Jitu Rai told Sportstar.

“It is the best time to serve the army and the country. That is my priority ahead of sports," the Khel Ratna awardee added.

Leaving his family in Indore, Jitu Rai reached his military base in Manipur a few weeks back and was quarantined for 21 days before reporting for duty.

"Whether it is sports or the army, I will do my job with the same devotion and concentration," the 32-year-old said.

Olympic dreams alive

The man, who impressed all with his remarkable display at the 10m Air Pistol event at Rio 2016 has since fallen down the pecking order with Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary emerging as India’s new Olympic hopes.

Jitu Rai’s performances declined at the national championships and selection trials following the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold feat and a few months later, he was dropped from the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) as well.

Jitu Rai aims to shoot again at the Olympics some day

However, Jitu Rai, who has won medals at all international events barring the Olympics, still harbours Olympic dreams and continues to train at the army camp.

"I never ignore shooting. I am carrying my gun and get to practice dry firing for about one or two hours every day," he said.

“I have not done that badly and I am still in the national ranking in air pistol. I am trying my best and I am confident that I will be able to do well again,” Jitu Rai told PTI.

"I will train hard for a comeback into the national team and aim for the Olympics,” the pistol ace added.