The fact that most quota places for the Olympics have come from World Cups augurs well for the 15-member Indian contingent, feels India’s junior rifle team coach Suma Shirur.
“On a given day, each one can bring home a medal. Most satisfying is, this time around most of the quotas have come about in the World Cups and not just the continental championships,” Shirur told IANS.
“In a World Cup, we have the best in the world coming. They have won quota shooting among the best. So that makes me feel more hopeful that they can deliver [medals],” Shirur told IANS on the sidelines of a seven-day conditioning camp of the 10 shooters at Inspire Institute of Sport, Home of India’s Olympic Champions.
India will have at least 15 participants at the Tokyo Olympics, a record. It is more than the Rio Olympics in 2016, when 12 participated. A few others can potentially join the fray based on ranking as the Games get closer.
India bagged five quota places from the 14th Asian Shooting Championship in Qatar; the rest came from World Cups and the World Championship in Changwon, South Korea. In the World Championship, Anjum Moudgil took a silver medal to become the first Indian athlete to make the cut for the Olympics, and Apurvi Chandela also qualified.
Shirur stressed that the young crop of shooters — like promising teenagers Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker among others — have a competitive streak in them which can help them beat the pressure of expectation at the Olympic stage.
“With this young team, they are very competitive. More than pressure of competition, they want to do better than the others. That is the one big change I see in the junior team. Shooting a series of 105 is no longer satisfying. If the other person has a 106, they want to do 107. It’s that competitive streak that the juniors bring to the table. That is what pushes the seniors as well. It’s a nice mixed bag of seniors who are going to keep them grounded and the youngsters who are going to keep them on toes as well,” said Shirur, who had won the gold medal in 2002 at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
No let up
The 45-year old coach also pointed out that with the new Olympic policy in place where the shooters have to work on their rankings every six months, there is no let up in intensity as they are always on their toes. This will also help tackle pressure in the Olympics.
“Now with the new Olympic policy in place, until now they are not sure if they are the ones who are going. So they have to be on their toes. And they have been living on a thin blade. They have everything that one needs to perform.”
On their preparedness, she added: “The shooters are more or less ready. You can’t change anything in the next six months. As I see the team now, they really look ready for me. They look physically fit and mentally they are looking forward to it. Overall, they are really functioning well as a team. They have been in the grind for the last one year.”
About their conditioning camp at the IIS, India’s first privately-funded High Performance Training Centre, Shirur said: “At every point of time in your career, you have to go back to your drawing board. This is like everyone is going back to school. This is the first time we had a talk from professionals about various aspects of the game. So this has been an eye opener to many. The biggest takeaway from here was this realisation that there are things [the shooters] will have to do for long term goals, for long-term injury management and long-term performance.”