The president of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), Olegario Vazquez Rana, expressed delight at being in India and spoke warmly about the impressive growth of Indian shooting in recent years.

He shared his thoughts with The Hindu here on Friday evening.

At a dinner hosted by the executive president of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Avtar Singh Sethi, Rana said he was particularly pleased to see Abhinav Bindra winning the air rifle gold at the Beijing Olympics.

“Of course, Abhinav was the World champion then. It was still a surprise for us when he won in Beijing because nobody had seen an Indian winning an Olympic gold till then.

“People were used to seeing some countries regularly win in shooting. It was a surprise for everyone to see India in first place,” said the 74-year-old Rana, a two-time air rifle World record holder himself. “I felt very happy when Abhinav won.”

“If you continue to train hard with the coaches, I don't see why India can't be a force in world shooting like China. You can definitely be up there with China.”

Impressive progress

Rana said it was great to see the Chinese progress in shooting in the last 15 years or so.

“China and the rest of Asia have surprised the world. In some events, Asia is definitely much stronger than Europe and America,” he said.

He also suggested that plans were on to make the finals of shooting livelier and spectacular, hinting that some changes could be seen in the London Olympics in 2012.

Though he was hesitant to divulge details before getting the clearance from the board, he did say the rapid fire finals could be an area that was being explored.

When asked about the situation when the double World record holder Ronjan Sodhi could not compete in the Beijing Games for lack of a quota place, Rana said the onus was on the Indian federation to field shooters of its choice and the ISSF could not do much in the case.

Though he was yet to visit the Tughlakabad range, Rana said he was happy with the progress made by India both in terms of the shooters' performance and its organisational abilities, and said he would love to see a world class city like New Delhi host the world championship soon.

Though he said he was happy with the directors of the NRAI, he expressed displeasure at India's withdrawal from the skeet event at the recent Asian Clay Shooting Championship at the insistence of the government.

“We are completely against government interference in any form, not only at the national federation level but also with the national Olympic committees.

“If the matter is taken up with the National Olympic Committee and then brought to us, we will definitely take appropriate action,” he said.

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