The nation has won at least one medal in the sport in three of the last four editions of the quadrennial event.

Since the turn of the century, shooting has become India’s brightest spark at the Olympics. Boasting a plethora of talented shooters, the current Indian shooting contingent is stronger than ever.

Gone are those days, when India’s hopes of winning an Olympic medal would rest on the shoulders of the men’s hockey team. Shooting is a sport where India has excelled and is widely expected to reach new heights in Tokyo.

We take a look at five reasons why Shooting will be India’s biggest medal hope in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics:

5. Large number of shooters

With an unprecedented 15 quota places secured, India is all set to send their largest-ever shooting contingent in Olympics history.

Despite air pistol holding more chances of an Olympic medal than the air rifle event, the country is well stacked in both departments. In addition, two more skeet places were also secured. The list of qualified shooters includes Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, Abhishek Verma, Rahi Sarnobat, Elavenil Valarivan, Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil, Divyansh Singh Panwar, Deepak Kumar, Sanjeev Rajput, Tejaswini Sawant, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Mairaj Ahmed Khan and Angad Veer Singh Bajwa.

With talent oozing all over, that is a list that any nation would be envious of. The amount of participants in the sport certainly bodes well for India’s medal hopes in the upcoming Games.

4. Inspiration from the recent past

There will be no lack of inspiration for the Indian shooters. Having won at least a medal in the sport in three of the last four Olympic Games, there are a number of homegrown heroes in the sport.

Even when an entire Olympic campaign has ended on a disappointing note, the Indian shooters have still managed to bring laurels to the nation. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore put India on the map of world shooting by winning a silver medal in the men’s double trap event.

Four years later, Abhinav Bindra went one better when he claimed the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. Bindra’s gold in the men’s 10m air rifle event, remains India’s only individual gold medal to date. In London 2012, India doubled its medals tally in the sport. Gagan Narang won bronze in the men’s 10m air rifle event, whereas Vijay Kumar secured a silver medal in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol. In addition, Joydeep Karmakar produced a notable performance, finishing fourth in the 50m rifle prone event.

As such, there is no dearth of inspiration in Indian shooting. The current crop will be aiming to emulate the achievements of these legendary Indian shooters in Tokyo.

3. Promising young contingent

ISSF World Cup
Hopes will be pinned on young shooters.

Of the 15 Indian shooters that will be in action, seven of them are aged 25 or below. There is a perfect blend of youth and experience in the squad. However, much of the excitement regarding the Indian shooting is because of the youngsters that will fly to Tokyo. The likes of Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Elavenil Valarivan and Divyansh Singh Panwar are India’s hottest prospects right now.

Abhinav Bindra had remarked that he believes the Indian shooters can record the best medal haul in the upcoming Games. The words of encouragement from arguably the country’s greatest ever shooter will be a morale-booster for the current crop. The hope is that youthful exuberance can triumph and only then Bindra and every Indian citizen will be exulted.

2. Equal proficiency in individual and team events

It is not just individual events where the Indians are expected to shine, the mixed team events also hold a good chance of winning a medal. There will be a total of four teams competing, two each in 10m air pistol and 10m air rifle events. Manu Bhaker-Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma-Yashaswini Singh Deswal will pair up for air pistol. On the other hand, Elavenil Valarivan-Divyansh Singh Panwar and Anjum Moudgil-Deepak Kumar will be seen in action in the air rifle mixed team category.

Valarivan and Panwar have managed to win the gold medal in their only pair up together, in the New Delhi World Cup this year. Verma and Deswal are ranked world no.1 in their respective events, so they are also expected to pose a strong challenge. However, most of the eyeballs will be on the teenage duo of Bhaker and Chaudhary. Both of them are incredible individual shooters and have dominated the event in the last three years.

1. Terrific recent performances

Going into the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian shooters will be full of verve. The ISSF World Cup 2021 in New Delhi turned out to be the most successful event in Indian shooting history.

The host nation finished top of the podium, miles ahead of the USA and Italy in second and third respectively. India claimed a whopping 30 medals in total. 15 of them were gold, nine silver and six bronze medals. In fact, India has been ruling the World Cup ever since the New Delhi edition in 2019. The pair of Bhaker and Chaudhary have finished on top of the podium in each of the four times that they have paired together in the ISSF World Cup. In New Delhi, several seasoned performers won comfortably, while many new names also caught the eye.

Indians have never dominated the ISSF World Rankings like they are doing currently. The 10m men’s air pistol rankings see Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary holding the World No. 1 and No. 2 spots respectively. It is the same story in the women’s equivalent category, where Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Manu Bhaker occupy the top spots. The 10m men’s and women’s air rifle rankings also have at least one Indian holding the top two positions.

However, it must be said that performing in Olympics is a different challenge. There will be immense pressure on the Indian shooters in Tokyo 2020.

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