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Shooters draw blank, fail miserably to live up to expectations

Shooting at Rio Olympics

Rio de Janeiro : Indian shooters proved to be an epic failure in a disastrous Rio Olympic Games campaign as the 12-member team, with the exception of Abhinav Bindra, failed miserably to live up to the sky-high expections.

Beijing Games gold medallist Bindra’s quest for a second podium finish at sport’s grandest stage ended in heartbreak as he missed a medal by a whisker in a tense shoot-off in the men’s 10m air rifle event.

Bindra, the country’s lone individual Olympic gold medallist, lost the shoot-off against Ukrainian Serhiy Kulish after both were tied for third place at 163.8 points after 16 shots.

Competing in his fifth and final Olympics, the 33-year-old Indian’s effort was the only bright spot for India in the shooting range here.

The likes of Heena Sidhu, Manavjeet Singh Sandhu, Gagan Narang, Jitu Rai and Apurvi Chandela, among others, left the country thoroughly disappointed after they were unable to put on an impressive show.

Going ahead the national shooting body, NRAI, would now be expected to introspect and dissect the reasons for this huge let-down from the shooting contingent.

After fetching medals at each of the last three Games the shooters ended here without a single medal as the country’s largest-ever shooting contingent returned empty-handed.

India has been winning at least one medal at the shooting events for the past three Olympics.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore opened the way by clinching a silver medal at Athens in 2004, Bindra won India’s first individual gold at Beijing in 2008 and Vijay Kumar and Narang won the silver and bronze respectively at the London Games four summers ago.

However, in Rio, nine of the twelve representatives didn’t even make it to the finals of their respective events.

It is also an irony that the shooters let India down despite being provided all help while preparing for the sporting extravaganza.

In the last of the shooting event, Chain Singh and Gagan Narang failed to qualify for the final of the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions qualification yesterday to sum up a disastrous outing.

A bronze medallist at the 2012 Olympics, Narang came to Rio hoping to build on his success of four years ago and by his high standards, failing to qualify for the final in each of his three events will surely have left him disappointed.

Pistol shooter Heena Sidhu was one of the team’s biggest disasters as she could not qualify for any of her events in a repeat of her London showing four years ago.

Competing in their first Olympics the likes of Chandela, Ayonika Paul and Chain Singh were also done in by lack of experience at the biggest stage of them all.

And so was medal prospect Jitu Rai, who failed to qualify for the final of his pet event – men’s 50-metre pistol final – a few days after finishing eighth in the 10-metre air pistol event.

National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) President Raninder Singh had taken upon himself the blame for the shooters’ dismal outing, saying it was a mistake on his part to allow the athletes to train with personal coaches.

Raninder admitted in making a “tactical blunder”, which proved to be detrimental to the final outcome in a sport that fetched India four medals from the last three editions of Olympics.

“We have made a tactical blunder in allowing personal coaches on their own. We will introspect this in future. Overall three athletes, their competition has been below par. Others have shot brilliantly,” Raninder said without naming anyone.

He added,”I want to take up the responsibility. It’s been a spate of bad luck. Though we have not been able to win any medal, our performance and scores if you compare are better than that of London. We have gone up in overall performance though we have gone down in terms of medals.”

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