The 37-year-old opened up about his contribution to Indian shooting in an exclusive interview with Khel Now.
The Rio Olympics were a complete disaster for Indian shooters. They didn’t manage to win a single medal, despite performing brilliantly in the build-up to the games. However, Gagan Narang, an Olympic bronze medallist, is confident that the current crop of Indian players will not fall short of medals at the Tokyo Olympics, as their recent performances have been up to the mark.
India will see record representation of their shooters at an Olympics, as a total of 15 players have secured quota places for the Tokyo Games.
“Shooting won a record number of quota places and we have been ranked No. 1 in the world last year. Three of our athletes won the Golden Target Award. We have athletes who are globally ranked No. 1 in their respective disciplines. I am sure Tokyo will see some memorable performances by Indian athletes in the shooting range,” said Gagan Narang to Khel Now.
He remarked, “Looking at the past I think in shooting we have converted good World Cup performances to Olympic medals, barring 2016. However, the kind of dominance we have showcased in 2019 and partially 2018 has been unprecedented.”
“I have no doubt that this will continue into the Olympics too. Shooting is a very technical sport. The slightest difference in the environment makes a lot of impact on your game. Over the years we have experienced and learnt from the challenges faced and are better equipped to guide about the same to the current squad.”
The Tokyo Olympics were scheduled to take place in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic halted sporting events around the globe and forced the postponement of the games as well.
“As things stand, Tokyo will be one of the most difficult games till date. The unprecedented scenario has broken the momentum for a lot of people. The smartest ones will be able to get around this quickly. I am excited and looking forward to the games next year,” stated Gagan Narang.
Narang, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, has been working very hard to find and nurture the upcoming talents of the country. He also joined hands with the Odisha government to train young shooters in the High Performance Centre (HPC) at the Kalinga Stadium.
He said, “The idea and scope of HPC is to provide the best of facilities with the latest technologies made available to the athletes. I think these facilities in Odisha will play a considerable role in nurturing and producing top athletes who are sure to go on to represent the nation and win laurels for the country. I am delighted and happy with the facilities provided at Shooting HPC and I am looking forward to the athletes who will be identified and developed.”
“HPC infrastructure is developed, keeping in consideration long-term athlete development and the support required in the same. Every bit of detail is taken care of keeping an athlete’s perspective. We aim to provide a conducive environment to the athlete for his/her training by providing excellence at grassroots.”
Odisha has developed many sporting facilities in recent times to provide opportunities to young sporting talents which have cemented its reputation as the sports capital of India. Gagan Narang lauded the Odisha Talent Adoption Program (OATP) and believes that other states in the country should also have a similar initiative.
The Olympian remarked, “I firmly believe Odisha is now on its way to developing the best sporting facilities in India. Development of multiple HPCs will make the state a hub of the sporting ecosystem in India. Odisha is sure to attract talent and also provide a platform to scout talented children. I am very satisfied with the OTAP as well.”
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“It has an excellent and proven scouting structure and the fact that OTAP is providing a 100% scholarship to the scouted athletes, shows our immense belief in the system and structures we have in place to develop an athlete. It is a wonderful opportunity for children from Odisha to showcase their potential. Without a doubt, other states need to implement models which are sustainable at the grassroots level. We believe we provide a successful replicable model.”
Gagan Narang also seemed suitably impressed with prodigy Kashika Pradhan, who trains under him and has won many tournaments including the State Shooting Championships.
“We identified Kashika at a very young age. She started with Gun for Glory Shooting Academy in Bhubaneswar and has been part of the core group of athletes who are supported by us. She will continue her training at HPC and this facility comes at the right time for her, as this will allow her to focus on the sport while pursuing her higher studies. I believe she has good potential. Her hard work along with her talent is sure to go a long way,” he concluded.