Coming into 2020, the Indian shooting contingent was considered as one the best in the world. With an array of world-class shooters in the squad, the nation was banking heavily on their shooters to deliver at the Tokyo Olympics.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic disturbing this run of form, the Indian athletes — like most around the world — have been forced to start again.
Though it remains to be seen whether the Indian shooters can get back to where they were during the pre-pandemic period, Suma Shirur, the high-performance coach of the Indian rifle team, has reasons to hope for the best.
“What I see is that the shooters are mentally very strong and they have a lot more clarity and they look more hungry to go out there and shoot. This is a positive change,” she told the Olympic Channel from the national camp in New Delhi.
“Yes, pre-COVID we were all set to go out there and rule the roost at the Olympics. We were all prepared and gung-ho about it. With COVID-19, it’s been an unfortunate situation for most shooters. But some of them have taken full advantage of the lockdown period and worked on their game.”
Suma Shirur emphasised that the hunger to compete could help in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“Oh yes. That’s one of the key ingredients for success. The hungrier you are, and the sharper you are, the better you can perform. You can perform to the upper limit of your potential,” she remarked.
“The guys are in a really good mental space. They are there… They are committed to every shot, the time they have here. They are committed to the task at hand.”
With less than a year to go for the Tokyo Olympics, Suma Shirur realises the time crunch that they find themselves in.
And with little to no clarity on the upcoming season, competitive shooting could be an issue as the team builds up to the Tokyo Games. But the Indian coach confident of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) coming up with a plan to tackle the problem.
“Yes, there are still doubts about how the coming season will pan out and what the COVID-19 situation will be. But irrespective of that, we know that the Olympics are on,” she said.
“We want to prepare for that. We will have to smart and device new ways to create a competitive environment here. And as the (NRAI) president mentioned, probably invite other countries (for an event) if we don’t have other competitions,” she signed off.