Scheduling of domestic competitions might be taking a toll on the Indian shooters’ health and performance if the events of the last few days are an indication. Take for example Manu Bhaker, who won a gold at the ISSF World Cup Final on Thursday. In less than a fortnight, she has competed in three competitions – the Asian Shooting Championship in Doha, the All India Inter University Shooting Championship at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhi and the World Cup Final in Putian (China).
In fact, there were several shooters who alighted from the Doha flight and left straight for the Karni Singh Range to compete in the All India Inter University, the qualification tournament for next year’s World University Championship.
This prompted the father of a budding shooter in the national squad to post on facebook, “What a challenging and funny day. Reaching 5:30 am in hotel room and four hours of sleep. Two matches in 50m back to back 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM Prone & 3X40 three positions and next Day 7:30 AM 10m Air (rifle). What a day…never before experience. Yes… This is “Ayushi Podder” of “West Bengal” after all INDIA.”
At least a dozen junior shooters had to undergo this ordeal in order to compete in the All Inter University Shooting Championship as the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) decided at the last minute not to consider their scores in the Asian Championship for team selection for the World University Championship.
All this after the organisers had issued a competition circular saying that those competing in the Asian Championship in Doha will be exempted from the All India Inter University and their Doha scores will be considered for selection for the World University Championship. “In view of the Asian Championship that is being held at the same time, the scores of shooters in the competition (in Doha), will be taken into consideration for the selection procedure for the World University Championship. In case of multiple events, the shooter will be allowed to shoot his/her events separately once they are back,” says the circular.
Which means the organisers were fully aware that it would be asking for a bit too much from the junior shooters competing in Doha to come and shoot hours later in the All India Inter University. What would have happened had the flight got cancelled or delayed by a few hours? It’s anybody’s guess that they wouldn’t have been able to make it on time for the All India Inter University.
The technical in-charge of the competition, Ronak Pandit, who is also an accomplished shooter said, “We only conducted the competition. Why Doha scores were not to be considered is something the AIU decided.”
How and when did the circular got amended is not known but it does raise a crucial issue about the athletes’ well-being. Shooting is not just a sport where you just pack your bags and board the flight to the next destination. With guns and live ammunition involved, they have to take extra precautions to ensure their baggage reaches its destination safely. Many top shooters have landed at the venue of competition with broken guns and missing baggage.
And here we are talking about shooters who are still in their teens!
While the organisers gave priority to shooters returning from Doha, it did create a situation where a shooter slept for barely a couple of hours and competed in back-to-back matches the same day on their return from Doha.
May be, the National Rifle Association of India and the AIU could have discussed the issue before the shooters left for Doha, in order to avoid this inconvenience.
Some of the shooters who went through the ordeal include Olympic quota winner Manu Bhaker and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Ayushi Podder, Sunidhi Chauhan, Gayatri N, Bhakti Bhaskar Khamkar, Harshraj Gohil, Nitish Kumar and Vanshika Shahi among others.