SPORT

Time for Indians to deliver

BISLEY JULY 26. The action has begun, and the Indian contingent looks up to the shooters and the weightlifters, more than anybody else, to deliver the medals. That is, in the numbers to their liking.

The shooters are ready to strike, after having faced the difficult task of proving their class in the intensely competitive World Championship recently in Lahti.

The badge matches have proved a good preparation for the Indian squad, as Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat and company made capital of the chance to get into golden form.

Jaspal Rana, the man with the golden pistol, has also touched good form, as he won the golden badge in centrefire pistol with a 587. However, the poor form of Mahavir Singh who shot a 571 should be a cause of concern for the Indian squad, as the team medal may be tough to win with such a combination of scores.

Jaspal showed that he was in decent nick in air pistol as well, as he took the silver badge with a 572. Samaresh Jung, who holds the national record at 584, has been woefully out of sync in this event in recent times, and managed only a 570. As he moves from one competition to another, Samaresh is bound to present improved figures.

Shweta Chaudhary took the joint third position in sport pistol with a 572, while Linda Ryan of Australia won the golden badge with a 579. Sushma Rana, the sister of Jaspal, has not been competing much internationally, and could only return a score of 562.

A. B. Subbiah and Charan Singh took the fourth and fifth positions in the free rifle 3-position event on the last day of the badge competition, with scores of 1140 and 1138 respectively, but may strike it hot in real competition, as the margin from the gold medal was only two points in the case of Subbiah.

Kuheli Gangulee and Meena Kumari could muster only a score of 583 in sport rifle prone event, and that should be some cause for worry.

Abhinav Bindra has been quite stung by his below par fare in the World Championship when he shot a 589, a few rungs below his world junior record score of 597 in air rifle. More than that he must have felt offended that he messed up a chance when the Olympic quota went for a score of 594, a score he could shoot with one eye closed.

The 19-year-old Chandigarh lad stayed away from the opening ceremony to retain his focus on the opening competition scheduled for Saturday. Abhinav shot a 595 in the badge competition, and should have a good chance for the pairs gold with Sameer Ambekar who has also been striking his wonted form.

The trap shooters will have a lot to live up to, as Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh Sandhu had clinched the pairs gold last time in Kuala Lumpur from the grips of the likes of Michael Diamond of Australia and Ian Peel of England. Mansher has not been selected this time, and Anwer Sultan will have the unenviable task of proving that his choice was fair indeed, on form. National champion Manavjit Sandhu will also need to shoot his best to keep the Indian hopes of a maximum haul, alive.

The air pistol team will also be keen to strike an early blow, and it will be up to Samaresh Jung to pull his weight along with Jaspal to set the tempo on Saturday.

There are very few shooters in the women's skeet event. It would not have been a bad idea to give Arti Singh a chance to stake her claim, rather get back her form. For someone, who made the elite eight of World Cup finals last year, Arti deserved a nod, but the skeet shooters seem to have been kept for special treatment.

It beats logic that a lot of money is spent on the skeet shooters, who have a foreign coach as well in Juan Giha, but when it comes to giving them a chance to strike, there is no approval from the authorities.

A good performance from the shooters, who carry the weight of expectations, may dispel the gloom in Indian sports to some extent.

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