Olympic gold medallist marksman Abhinav Bindra took a sabbatical, while Gagan Narang’s twin accolades in ISSF World Cup and remarkable performance by the Indians in Asian Clay Shooting Championship were highlights of an eventful year gone by.
Narang, who had failed to enter Beijing Olympic final last year, gave Indian shooting plenty to rejoice when the Hyderabadi created history by becoming the first Indian to bag World Cup gold in 50 metre rifle in April at Changwon, Korea.
The 26-year-old shooter also became the first Indian to claim two medals in a single ISSF World Cup — the other being a bronze in his pet 10m air rifle event — and also to enter the finals of all the three events, including the free rifle prone.
Although Narang could not carry on the rhythm and failed to manage a medal in subsequent World Cup in Beijing, Indians returned with two silvers through Vijay Kumar (25m rapid fire pistol) and Heena Sidhu (10m pistol women).
However, Narang finished the year on a smiling note by signing off with a double gold — individual as well as team — at the Asian Air Gun Shooting Championships in Doha.
The Indian Airlines employee shot an impressive 597, including a series of 99, 99, 100, 100, 100 and 99 in qualifying stage and then followed it with a final score of 104.0 to register a total of 701.0 to beat Beijing Olympic silver medallist Zhu Qinan of China (700.7) en route to gold.
Then, Narang helped the team, including P T Raghunath and Sanjeev Rajput, to win a team gold in the event.
With three gold, three silver and two bronze to their credit, the Indians earned three out of four quota places for inaugural edition of the Youth Olympics 2010 in Singapore.
In September-October, Indians made hay at the Asian Clay Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan when the reigning world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu shot gold and Mansher Singh won bronze in the trap events.
Manavjit shot 121 out of 125 in the qualification round and in the finals 19 out of 25, while Mansher won the bronze medal with a score of 113 in qualification and 21 in final.
The duo then teamed up with Anwer Sultan (109) to help India win the silver in team section with a total score of 343 out of 375. Indians ended the tournament with a rich haul of four golds, two silvers and one bronze.
Out of competition for the major part, Bindra became the first baton-bearer of the Queen’s Baton Relay for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi, during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.
The year will also be remembered for the National Rifle Association of India getting into loggerheads with the Chandigarh lad.
First, the shooter was shown the rule book by the parent body and was asked to come for trials for national event. But Bindra, who was training in Germany, returned home only to know that the national camp had been put off till January next year.
NRAI president Digvijay Singh also described Bindra and Asian gold medallist Jaspal Rana as “ungrateful” and accused them of not acknowledging the system’s contribution to their success.
Their relation hit a nadir when the sport’s governing body omitted Bindra’s name in a list of top 15 shooters for a three-slab graded payment structure, ostensibly because the champion shooter had several personal endorsements some of, which could be in conflict with the NRAI sponsors.
Earlier in July, India dominated the South Asian Shooting Championship in Bangladesh and finished on top with 21 gold, 10 silver and six bronze medals.
At junior level, Sangram Dahiya did the country proud by winning two gold medals in the double trap event of the International Junior Cup in Ormitilla, Finland in May.
The 19-year-old from Delhi was declared the best shooter on the basis of his performance in a series of Junior World Cup Championships.
Sangram was presented the inaugural Junior Shotgun World Cup Trophy for the year 2009 in double trap shooting after conclusion of the junior world cup series in Porpetto, Italy.