Bristling with talent and supremely confident about their skills, a gifted bunch of youngsters could make the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia a celebration of Indian shooting’s rich talent pool.
Having stamped their class on the big stage, the youngest shooters in the national team will again jostle for space with the big players, vying for top honours at the Belmont Shooting Complex in Brisbane from April 8 to 14.
The abundance of talent is complemented by a confident approach which the likes of Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh, Anish Bhanwala and Anjum Moudgil will display at the Games.
The mix of confidence and talent helped India produce its best-ever ISSF World Cup performance in the recently-concluded tournament in Mexico, where the shooters won an unprecedented nine medals, including four gold.
No wonder the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president is optimistic of a bright future.
“I am thrilled that our faith in youngsters are giving results. This was a stupendous performance,” Raninder said.
“We have key international events lined up throughout the year and a performance like this by youngsters of the squad bodes well,” he added.
The NRAI boss deserves credit for doing his bit in streamlining the sport after the debacle at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra, specifically, lauded Raninder recently for the shooters’ stellar show, attributing it to the “vision” showed by the president and pointed to the investment in junior programme.
The teenage shooters not only impressed but did so in their maiden World Cup appearance, and will take the confidence into the Commonwealth Games, which will be followed by the World Championships and Asian Games.
Jhajjar girl Manu, 16, stole the show at her international debut with gold in 10m air pistol and a day later bagged another yellow metal in the mixed team event alongside Om Prakash Mitharwal.
Shooting happened to her by chance after a brush with contact sports and the multi-faceted pistol sensation is now looking ahead to more global success.
“I am extremely happy at winning two gold medals (in Mexico), especially as this was my first World Cup. I look forward to perform even better in upcoming competitions,” Manu said.
That she had also won a staggering 15 medals, including nine gold, at the 61st National Shooting Championship in Thiruvananthapuram will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Training under Joydeep Karmakar , who missed an Olympic medal by a whisker, Mehuli has come a long way since being ‘blacklisted’ for misfiring a shot that hit an employee during her early days at the Serampore Rifle Club I Bengal.
Threats of a police complaint literally shook the small town girl before her mother, following a few sessions with a psychologist, got her enrolled at Karmakar’s academy in Kolkata, which meant a travel time of more than four hours daily in local trains with her heavy equipment.
After winning two bronze medals in Guadalajara, Mehuli, who admires ace badminton champion P V Sindhu, has now set her eyes on the upcoming tournaments, including the Commonwealth Games.
Prior to that, two medals came in the 2016 Nationals, eight in 2017 Nationals, followed by a gold medal in the youth category of the Asian Airgun Championships in Japan.
For the likes of Bhanwala and Anjum too, CWG remains the immediate target.