Indian shooters back to business a year ahead of Olympics

The 32-member core shooting group will begin training competitively from August 1 after a four-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Rahul Venkat

Indian shooters will formally resume training on August 1 after the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) announced a national camp a year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The decision was taken by the NRAI on Tuesday during its executive council meeting. Attendance of the camp has been made compulsory.

The camp, which will be held at Delhi’s  Dr Karni Singh shooting range, will include the 32 Indian shooters in the core group and the foreign coaches, Pavel Smirnov and Oleg Mikhailov, all of whom will be put up at the nearby Manav Rachna University campus.

“The shooters will be provided with separate cooks, drivers and other staff, so that there is no chance of them getting exposed to anyone from outside,” DVS Rao, the NRAI secretary-general, told The Times of India.

The national camp had been in the pipeline and though the Sports Authority of India (SAI) had granted the NRAI permission a few weeks back, the association took its time to ensure all bases in terms of safety protocols were covered.

The Indian shooters will be subject to COVID-19 testing before and during the camp. They have been told to maintain social distancing and keep a two-lane gap.

Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker. Photo: ISSF.

"The normal duration of a camp is 15 days. But because this is the first camp in a long time, we are keeping it for 20 days. After that we will give the players a break and then conduct further camps,” another NRAI official told ESPN.

The camp will be supervised by the NRAI’s high-performance director Ronak Pandit.

Shooters eager to get back on range

The 32-member core group, which includes medal hopefuls Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary and Elavenil Valarivan, will return to training after more than four months.

Rifle shooter and two-time Olympian Sanjeev Rajput, who has won a quota place for Indian shooters at the Tokyo Olympics, is among those eager to return to formal training.

"This is the longest break I’ve had since 2002 and it is definitely a strange feeling so I'm really looking forward to taking part in the camp," the 39-year-old Rajput told ESPN.

"In the 10m events, you can set up a range at your home if you have to. But the shooters in the other events have had no practice since the lockdown.

“The last time I shot my 50m rifle was March 18 during the selection trials competition in New Delhi,” said Rajput.

Indian shooters have secured 15 quota places so far for the Tokyo Olympics, making it the country’s largest shooting contingent at any edition of the Summer Games.