Anwar gets the green signal for Olympics

NEW DELHI, JULY 12. The Damocles sword that hung over trap shooter Anwar Sultan has been removed, and the 37-year-old was given the green signal to compete in the Sydney Olympics by the the Italian coach of the Indian team, Marcello Dradi, here on Wednesday.

The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) had announced that the coach would have the final say on the matter. The general secretary of NRAI, Mr. Baljit Singh Sethi, who had a meeting with the coach, said that the association would stick to its decision.

The only quota place in shooting for the country had been won by Anwar, as he clinched a silver in the Asian shooting championship in Langkawi, Malaysia, in January.

However, the provision which stated that the quota place for the Olympics belonged to the country and not to the athlete who won it, understandably put considerable pressure on Anwar, as he shot miserably since winning the quota.

The alarming loss of form, as Anwar shot 112, 106 and 100 in the Sydney, Cairo and Lonato World Cups recently, as compared to his 119 out of 125 in the Asian championship, led to a debate that Manavjit Singh and Mansher Singh stood a good chance to be fielded for the Sydney Games. But the Italian coach put things in perspective and argued Anwar's case convincingly.

``Anwar performed a miracle in Langkawi. Anwar is one of the 36 trap shooters in the world to have won a quota. Nobody could have asked for more. After his performance there has not been any other individual medal for the country in trap. Of course, Manavjit made the World Cup final in Delhi, but the score of 115 does not impress me,'' said Dradi.

The Italian coach, who arrived here on Tuesday for a short spell of training and also discussions with the authorities the plans for the future, opined that Anwar could not believe what he had accomplished, and thus slipped down.

``The fall in form is normal. He shot better and better from 1999. When I asked him to shoot at his best in Langkawi, he shot better than his best. Later, when I asked him not to shoot in competitions, he didn't listen to me,'' said Dradi.

Dradi will be supervising Anwar's preparation back home in Italy for about a month from July 25. The other three prominent shooters, Mansher, Manavjit and Zorawar Singh will also join Anwar in Italy by the second week of August and shoot in a competition there.

``We are too close to the Olympics, and it is unfair to keep the shooters guessing. Nobody has shot a 122 or 123 to make a change. Manav shot 121 in Cyprus last year, and Zorawar also had a 119 in Barcelona. But they are not ready now. They have a very good future.

They are young and very strong. When Manav goes to the Olympics, he must go to win. He is capable of shooting 149 out of 150. There is no point in him going now to shoot one or two points better than Anwar. That doesn't interest me,'' said Dradi.

Praising Mansher in the same breath, Dradi felt that it was good to have somebody of his experience around, and said that the ace shooter was unlucky in Lonato and Langkawi.

Dradi stressed that Anwar would be fine for the Olympics and will be able to shoot at his best in Sydney.

``Nobody should ask him to win a medal. You must look at your record in the last so many years in the Olympics, and see how many individual medals you have won. Anwar is crazy, so I can't just rule him out,'' said Dradi.

The seasoned Mansher, who had shot in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, agreed with the views of the coach, and emphasised that Anwar deserved to go, but the others needed to be ready.