The sport has grown by leaps and bounds in the country over the last two decades.
India is gradually becoming a force to be reckoned with in the sport of Shooting. Over the years, several shooters have made the country proud on the international stage. Starting from the likes of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to Abhinav Bindra, India has seen immense growth in this sport.
Currently, there has been a focus on young shooters who have shown great potential. The likes of Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary have proven their mettle and despite their tender age, the young guns are ready to carry the baton.
Therefore, we at Khel Now take a trip down memory lane and look at the top five Indian shooters of all-time.
5. Jitu Rai
A late entrant into Shooting, Jitu was a Subedar Major in the 11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army. Despite joining the sport late, he made up for it with his consistent performances on the global stage.
He had a stupendous 2014, where he won a gold medal in the 10m air rifle category and clinched silver medals in the 10m air pistol and 50m pistol category at the ISSF World Cup. After achieving this incredible feat he became the first shooter from India to win two medals in a single World Cup. In total, he won three medals in nine days and his feat resulted in him getting the No. 1 rank in 10m air pistol in 2014.
Rai’s purple patch continued, as he followed it up with another silver at the 2014 Granada World Championships. But, his moment of magic came at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he clinched gold in the 50m pistol event. He won a gold and bronze in the 50m pistol and 10m air pistol team category respectively at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Despite the great preparation, Rai faltered at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He wasn’t at his best in both events as the summer games ended in disappointment for the shooter. However, two years later Rai came back roaring, with a gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, as he created a men’s record in the 10m air pistol with a total score of 235.1 points. He also bagged a bronze at the 2018 World Cup in Mexico. He was commemorated with the Khel Ratna in 2016, alongside Sakshi Malik.
However, his form dropped massively since then and gradually a man tipped for greatness became a forgotten star.
4. Vijay Kumar
Hailing from a small village in Himachal Pradesh, Vijay was the son of a retired Indian Army subedar. Right from a young age, he was always interested in his father’s guns. Taking inspiration from his father, Vijay also joined the Indian Army and from there, his shooting career ignited.
At the 2016 Commonwealth Games, he bagged two gold medals, one in the 25m rapid fire pistol discipline and another in doubles, where he was partnering Pemba Tamang. He followed it up with a bronze at the Asian Games in the same year, thereby, announcing his arrival. In 2006, he was honoured with the Arjuna Award.
There was no looking back for Vijay as he went on collecting medals at different events. He was incredible in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where he bagged three gold medals and one silver spread across different events in the 25m rapid fire pistol discipline. However, he reached his career-high when he clinched silver at the 2012 London Olympics in the 25m rapid fire pistol event. He was one of the two silver medalists for India at the London Olympics.
Vijay was commemorated with the Khel Ratna and Padma Shri in 2013 to honour his performance at the London Olympics.
3. Gagan Narang
One of the best Indian shooters of all-time, Gagan Narang burst onto the scene when he bagged a gold medal at the Afro-Asian Games in 2003 held in Hyderabad. He gradually rose up the ranks, when he clinched four gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games- two in the 10m air rifle event and two in the 50m 3-position event.
After bagging gold in China in the 2008 World Cup, he then qualified for the ISSF World Cup Final. Here in the qualification round he scored a perfect 600 and shot 103.5 in the final round making a total score of 703.5 to gain the world record.
He kept his lively form intact and again won four gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In the 2010 Asian Games, he won a silver medal in an individual event and bagged another silver this time partnering the likes of Abhinav Bindra and Sanjeev Rajput in a team event. He was conferred with the Khel Ratna in 2011 and his career highlight came at the London Olympics, where Narang bagged the bronze medal in the 10m air rifle event.
2. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
Another shooter who comes from Army background, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is one of those early Indian flagbearers in Shooting on the international stage. He started with two gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester where he ended in pole at both single and double trap events.
Rathore continued the same form and secured a bronze medal at the 2003 Shotgun Championships in Cyprus. But, the best moment of his career came a year later, when he clinched silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics and incidentally it was India’s only medal at the event. He was honoured with the Khel Ratna for his amazing feat.
He was just unstoppable at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, where he won gold in the individual double trap event and silver in the doubles. Rathore followed it up with a decent performance at the Asian Games, where he clinched silver in the double trap team category and bronze in the individual event.
Rathore was an inspiration to young shooters who wanted to take up the sport professionally and make it big on the global stage, following inhis footsteps. After his retirement, he joined the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and in 2014 took charge of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry and later, the Sports Ministry. He was also honoured with the Padma Shri in 2005, a year after his historic silver medal.
1. Abhinav Bindra
As expected Abhinav Bindra tops the list mainly due to his overall impact on Indian shooting. His career started from the age of 15, when he was the youngest participant at the 1998 Commonwealth Games followed by the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where again he repeated the same feat.
He won the Arjuna Award in 2000 and the Khel Ratna in 2001, after his consistent performances in International meets that year. The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester was the stage where Bindra raised the stakes by winning gold in the doubles event and silver in the individual. However, he faltered at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Bindra was down with a severe back injury which hampered his preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, after recovering from his physical problems, he stood tall winning the gold medal at the ISSF World Cup held in Zagreb in 2006. His biggest watershed moment came at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when he won the much-awaited gold medal for India. Bindra remains the only Olympic individual gold medalist the country.
The Uttarakhand-born shooter guided India to more glory when he was the flagbearer at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and won gold, partnering Gagan Narang in the 10m air rifle event. He also brought home a silver medal in the individual event. Despite the high expectations, Bindra failed to make it through the qualification for the 2012 London Olympics. But, came back roaring in his swansong Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, winning another gold in the 10m air rifle event. Bindra’s last shot at another Olympic medal came to an end when he finished fourth at the 2016 Rio games.
He was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2009 for his exceptional achievements in the field of sports.