India’s only individual Olympic gold-medallist, rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra, is facing severe criticism by some of the best known names in the international shooting community after the International Shooting Sport Federation’s (ISSF) Athletes Committee, which he heads, recommended to drop Men’s 50m Rifle Prone, 50m Pistol and Double Trap from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic curriculum.
The ISSF is taking the drastic step to maintain “gender equality” in Olympic programme, which means equal number of events for both men and women at the mega event.
However, the move has angered and anguished the top marksmen in the world, many of whom are castigating Bindra and publicly venting their anger against the Athletes Committee recommendations on social networking sites.
Miroslav Varga, gold-medallist in 50m rifle prone at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and who represented the Czech Republic at the 2008 Beijing Games where Bindra won gold, went to the extent of saying that Bindra is on the bad side. He wrote, “Dear Abhinav, I think you are on the bad side.”
Norway’s Harald Stenvaag, winner of two Olympic medals and a three-time world champion in 10m Air Rifle, Rifle Prone and Rifle Three Position events, has termed the recommendations “the worst decision”. “Bindra, this is the worst decision ever made in ISSF. I have been a shooter my whole life, winning World Championship in almost every rifle discipline. I would say that I have the experience also to see the bigger picture. This is absolutely not a collective recommendation…It’s easy to see which two from the athletes community voted to remove prone. Now, the Olympic dream of thousands of prone shooters worldwide is crossed. By disappointing the largest group of shooters worldwide it might make birth of the “World Prone-Shooting Federation,” says Stenvaag.
Former World Champion and winner of 32 World Cup medals, Sidi Peter of Hungary wrote, “Nobody takes responsibility…Nobody says “I made that decision”…Just lie behind and pushing away the responsibility. Those people just represent themselves…They don’t care about us.”
Junior world record holder in prone, Iordache Dragomir of Romania wrote, “In my opinion, “that” Athletes Committee doesn’t represent our voice. If we were represented by them, our opinions should be important for ISSF. I am the only one who thinks that Mr. Bindra doesn’t have the courage to send our message to the President and votes for vanishing prone and free pistol from the Olympic Program? It sounds very strange, but all the arguments used by Abhinav are so groundless and without any sense.”
Bindra in his defence has said that he is “not the driving force behind any decision”. “Just for everybody’s information I’m not the driving force behind any decision. It’s a collective recommendation which is due to be taken up by the executive committee and admin council. You can all be rest assured I will voice all your concerns and thoughts as I have always done,” Bindra clarified.
But one of the legends of shooting, Rajmond Debevec, is not convinced. The Slovenian shooter, winner of three Olympic and five World Championship medals and record holder in 50m rifle three-positions, says, “I am aware of Agenda 2020 (Tokyo Olympics) recommendation and I support gender equality, but haven’t had a chance to see any official IOC (International Olympic Committee) document preferring neither air rifle towards prone nor air pistol towards free pistol.
“It would be really sad if IOC puts pressure to the ISSF and insists in any kind of demands without any written documents. If there exist such a document, then the ISSF should post it in public,” says Debevec.
“I really feel the AC (Athletes Committee) didn’t do its work properly in this case. In my opinion the decision was made without consideration of thousands and thousands of prone and free pistol shooters with their dreams to come true once to participate in OG (Olympic Games).
“As the ISSF decision is known and the recommendation was supported by AC already, I am afraid the irreparable damage has been done to our beloved sport,” adds Debevec.