Tokyo Games: India’s Shooting Stars Ready To Fire | Olympics News

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“We are in the zone of competitiveness. Will put my best foot forward,” says World No.1 in Women’s Air Rifle, Elavenil Valarivan. She will be participating in the Air Rifle Women’s event at the Tokyo Games, along with Apurvi Chandela, another former World No.1 in the field. Elavenil has shot 630.4 in the Europen Championship, the penultimate competition before the Games. The scores are an indication of the form she is in. But Valarivan says that she will use the final World Cup, starting 22nd June to iron out chinks in her armour. Gracenote picks her as a prospective Gold Medallist for India. 

Being away from India while the pandemic is raging has not been easy, the youngster, a protege of Olympic Medallist Gagan Narang says. “We all are a little bit worried about what was going on at home and not being able to do anything about it from here in a moment of emergency,” says Valarivan. 

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“I did have a moment of worry for my parents in Ahmedabad and the rest of my family in the Southern part of India. But we realized we were on a bigger mission and we have been working for it.”

Raninder Singh, the President of National Rifle Association of India, says of Valarivan: “This young lady, she found out about her grandmother passing away half an hour before the match. She went there, put together a professional performance, and came out second.

“That’s the kind of dedication they have to their country and the sport and to their flag, and it is something to be lauded.”

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Most of the shooters in the team are Olympic first-timers like Abhishek Verma, an engineer and a lawyer, who turned a shooter. He is currently the World No.1 in pistol shooting, but a late entrant into competitive shooting. 

Abhishek became a professional shooter in 2017. He said: “In 2017 I became a professional shooter and shifted to Gurgaon. I was in PG and was practising. My father gave me an ultimatum that in the national championship in 2017 or by  2018, I had to prove (myself).

“At that time I had just completed my B.Tech in Computer Science and I was in the final year of law. My family, all my relatives, were expecting me to do that kind of job, but I told my parents that I wanted to shoot. In 2018, I finished in top three in the trials, the same year I became Indian number one, and won an Asian Games medal. 

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Shooting sports in India have rapidly grown over the last few years. Raninder Singh says, “If one has to pinpoint something, it’s the liberalisation of the entire environment, and ex-athletes like Gagan Narang bringing up their academies.

“Similarly, there’s an academy at Manav Rachna in Delhi, there’s an academy in Bhopal. There are many academies around, and many of the former world champions and Olympians have taken the cause up across India. What is most important, though, is that we have been able to link it to the education system.”

But the ones who had made the cut for Tokyo had to wait for five years and several months under lockdown, often frustrated. Apurvi Chandela even contracted Covid. She says, “It was very unfortunate that I got the virus at the wrong time, but even when I had it, all my focus was on catching that flight to Croatia, so I did everything that was possible on planet Earth to recover: taking medication on time, my parents took care of me and made sure I ate healthily so I didn’t feel any kind of weakness.

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“Luckily I made it in time just two days before, so I have been lucky that way to be in Croatia with the team right now.”

The Indian team’s flight to Croatia was possible because of the generosity of Peter Gorsa who has a friend in Raninder Singh. 

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Away from the fear of Covid, the Indian shooters are now able to train and prepare for the Games. 

When Raninder was asked how many medals the contingent expects to bring home, he says 15 medals are possible to bring home from Tokyo. “As Indians we love jewellery, will return with some,” he says.

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