Gagan Narang, Khel Ratna awardee and one-time world record holder in men's 10m air rifle, stresses the importance of India hosting major shooting competitions like World Cups and World Championships to boost the sport's popularity. He holds the successful conduct of Cricket World Cup 2011 and the nationwide euphoria in the wake of India's victory as an example of how other sports can gain from visibility associated with a big international event.
The first Gun for Glory Shooting Championships at Balewadi range from August 3-9, is a small step in that direction. Narang's Gun for Glory Shooting Academy is associated with the venture, wherein competitions featuring India's international shooters and contests for fans are planned. The first Indian shooter to clinch an Olympic quota place for London 2012 in men's 10m air rifle event, he is balancing time between Olympics preparations and giving back to the sport by getting involved with organisation of Gun for Glory Shooting. Excerpts from an interview:
Preparation for London Olympics is full-time work. What motivates you to take time off from it and focus energy on getting involved with organising a competition like Gun for Glory Shooting?
I am always pushing boundaries. Agreed this was the time to focus on the Olympic Games but time is always right to pursue happiness. It gives me happiness to be able to push myself to set up something that Indian shooting was crying for. That state of mind, that feeling of happiness also translates into my shooting. I shoot well when I am happy. The learning process also never ends. Here at Gun for Glory we learn from each other. The event is just a process of helping the sport grow.
The first Gun for Glory Championships is supposed to make shooting sport more accessible to the people, via Fan Shooting Contests. What sort of an experience can participants expect and how will it benefit them?
They can discover whether they have it in them to shoot at a higher level. Everyone who wants to have a feel of the gun can participate in this competition. We have the Walther rifles here, easy to shoot with and fun targets. We shall provide the pellets and it will be a very interesting format.
Recognition for shooting sport is happening with the Khel Ratna awards for international shooters. When do you think world-class performances by our shooters and nomination for the highest civilian award will lead to more following for the sport?
It is just not the awards like Khel Ratna and Padma Shri that are helping the sport become popular. Indian shooters have been delivering tremendous performances over last five years or so. Ronjan Sondhi has become the World No. 1 Double Trap shooter. All these get noticed. What we also need is bigger competitions in India like the World Cups, the World Championships and shooters performing and winning medals. Indian shooters getting popular after CWG success and India winning the Cricket World Cup in India are classic examples. Then more people will relate to us.
Personalities attract attention for themselves and create a following for the sport. Is there anything missing in Indian shooting in this context, since two Olympic medallists Rajyavardhan Rathore and Abhinav Bindra are supposed to be household names?
Individuals have grown but the sport is still a baby in India. See the sport has not been marketed so far. With competitions like this one at Balewadi and mention of performances in various media, the sport will get a shot in the arm. A lot of people are still joining the sport despite the lack of publicity. A dash of publicity will only help it graduate to another platform
From your experience as a competitor and running the Gun for Glory project, do you feel youngsters are ready to accept that shooting can be taught at academies, like tennis or football?
Shooting has always fascinated youngsters. Whether at a fair or elsewhere kids have always been attracted to the gun. That is how I began. Now parents see that this fascination can actually be translated into a hobby and at a later stage a profession. Shooting sport is growing in the country and parents are beginning to realise the potential and get them to the range. At the academy we just help them to hone their skills, get better to shoot medals.