The quadrennial athletic festival has been postponed to 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The lockdown across many countries of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic will affect the preparation of Indian shooters for the Tokyo Olympics as they may run out of ammunition in the next two months.
Shooters get their ammunition from European countries such as Italy, Germany and the UK. These countries are worst hit by the pandemic and the supply of the ammunition has come to a standstill which will affect the Indian shooters as most of them have stock that will last around two months.
“There’ll be a shortfall in India for at least six months before fresh stocks arrive. That is if these European countries start manufacturing ammunition by June-end. Till December 2020-January 2021, we will be struggling to get ammunition for our shooters to train the way they would like to,” says the national shotgun coach Mansher Singh to the Hindustan Times.
He remarked, “Italy shut shop about a month back. We spoke to the manufactures and they said they can’t do anything. A lot of shooters also suffered because the flight cancellations (from Europe) happened all of a sudden. The stocks that should have been with Indian shooters by now are lying with the manufacturers.”
Shooter Sanjeev Rajput, who has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, is worried regarding his training meanwhile 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in women’s trap Shreyasi Singh feels that the crunch could go into early 2021.
“I am very tense about this situation. My ammo stock will last another two months. For us, the biggest thing is the Olympics, and we have to start preparations for next year now. Shooters need their specific batch of ammunition. Shooters go to factories (abroad), test their barrels, and then they place (ammo) orders there, come back and like to import that particular batch. Now all that has stopped,” says Rajput.
“Most rifle shooters import from the UK. We give an application to the NRAI stating our requirement along with an affidavit. But before that, we have to ensure our arms license has the permission to import. The NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) gives us the import permit. The company (in the UK) then applies for an export permit with the local police which comes in three weeks,” he explained.
“The ammunition is then shipped and we collect it here. It’s a tedious process. With the lockdown, every process has come to a standstill. This will certainly affect the training of a majority of shooters. Since I come under TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme), I can ask NRAI for some ammo.”
Shreyasi Singh imports ammo from Italy, but her plan is currently on hold due to the pandemic. She said, “Under the current scenario, I might have to depend on the federation (NRAI).”
2018 World Championships silver medallist Mehuli Ghosh (10m air rifle) uses a Walther gun, which comes from Germany. Her coach and an Indian legend Joydeep Karmakar remarked, “Not just her gun, she uses a lot of European equipment. At the best of times, it takes between 20 days to two months. Things being what they are in Europe now, it could easily take double the time.”
Indian does not have a single competitive-grade arms and ammunition manufacturer. It also includes lead pellets for air rifles.
Top Indian shotgun shooter Prithviraj Tondaiman said, “Nearly 95% of the top (shotgun) shooters are dependent on Italian companies. Italians are also skilful stock-makers. I would say 98% of them are based in the country and take care of the best of shotgun shooters in the world.”