T. Saravanan does not lose sight of the achievements of Madurai Rifle Club, which has etched its name in the higher echelons of national shooting with the selection of four of its shooters to Indian squad.

“Meet the extremely talented shooter with scores equal to the best in the business,” S. Velshankar, secretary of the Madurai Rifle Club, introduces B. Mithilesh.

The VIII Standard student of Kendriya Vidyalaya has qualified for the Youth Indian squad based on the string of impressive performances at national level 10m Air Rifle events. Along with him Sarvesh Swaroopshankar, Ajaey Nitheesh (Junior squad) and Varsha (Youth girls squad) have also done Madurai proud with creditable scores at national events and qualified for the squad. In all 11 shooters from the State got selected of which four are from Madurai.

Shooters are selected based on their performances at two national shooting championships, four selection trials, Kumar Surendra Singh Memorial Shooting competition and Masters’ tournament. “All of them have consistently performed to come up to this level,” says Velshankar, who is also their coach. “It is not easy as it seems. They have to face strong contenders from the infantry kids and National Cadet Corps,” he says.

Confronting limited infrastructure facilities, they have put in hours of hard work before they tasted success. “Those from army, navy and air force and NCC have the luxury of sophisticated weapons, foreign coaches and better infrastructure facilities. Besides, they also have the liberty to spend the whole day practising whereas we have several restrictions like school attendance,” he points out.

“Last year I could not make it to the squad but based on the strength of my performances I was selected for the Indian team and travelled to Germany and Czech Republic,” says Sarvesh, who specialises in three position and prone events.

Mithilesh is a hard nut to crack. With a best score of 621.9 out of possible 654 in the 10m air rifle event, he is one of the medal prospects for the country. “I just concentrate on my game and don’t bother about my rivals,” he says.

Despite all problems, the Madurai Rifle Club has done its level best to train its members with weapons imported from Germany. “Earlier we had only open sight rifles. Many of our members found it difficult to adjust and could not perform well at championships. But now it is a total turnaround, we have peep sight air rifles, the same used by international shooters,” says Velshankar, who is a shooter himself.

“I participate in national events even today to equip myself better so that I can pass on the knowledge to my young members,” he says.

Ammunition, weapon and training are important components of shooting sport. A beginner has to learn about the weapon that suits him the best, the matching ammunition for his barrel and train hard.

“Every beginner in our club is trained in that way. Exposure is the key to our recent success. Having been to several championships I studied where we lag behind and eliminated the errors. My wards are already showing good results,” beams Velshankar and credits the success to the Commissioner of Police Sanjay Mathur, who is also the president of the club.

“But for him, we could not have performed so well in unfamiliar ranges. In fact, he wholeheartedly supports all our endeavours and that protection took us to great heights.”

“Schools and colleges should also extend support to shooters. Lack of government and corporate support deprive them of excellent opportunities,” says V. Christopher Ramesh, a parent.

Though it is an expensive sport, shooting is no longer the game of elites. There are many shooters from the middle class families in India who excel in the sport.

Once state governments and corporates recognise talents and patronise young shooters, the day is not far off when there will be many more Abhinav Bindras and Gagan Narangs for the country.