The mood ranges from muted opposition to open belligerence but across the board, shooters — rifle, pistol and shotgun, are struggling to come to terms with a scenario that has shaken the way they approached a shot before the onset of the virus.
Already burdened by the weight of clothing, the rifle shooters are understandably the most outspoken as they want no more baggage that will bog them down, at least not a mask, which is compulsory under the new protocol.
Sanjeev Rajput, gold medallist in 50m rifle three positions at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, was even more severe on the new requirement. “I have to remove the mask while training and if there is a rule that we have to shoot with one on, we cannot, period. Those making the rule don’t know a thing about the sport,” he said.
Shreyasi Singh, gold medallist at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, echoed the sentiment. “Our entire cheek positioning and fitting of the cheek piece will get uncomfortable. Moreover having the mouth covered will be of problem with the mic also, because through the mask the voice gets all muffed and hence the mic might not be able to catch it, which may cause a lot of number of targets or delayed targets”
A former world No 1 in trap, Manavjit Sandhu is clear that he will wear one only if it is a choice between not shooting at all and doing so in a mask. “Training in a mask is as good or bad as dry training. I will not be able to fire a single shot, we will have to wait for clarity on this issue,” said Sandhu. In shotgun, feeling the cheek rest against the lip is important, and that is not possible with a mask, he added.
Among the world’s best in 25m rapid fire pistol, Anish Bhanwala could win an exclusive quota for India at the Tokyo Olympics if he were to keep his current ranking, but with a mask on, he isn’t sure. To beat the lockdown, he has built a 10m range in his Karnal home but hasn’t been practicing with the face covered even in safe confines. If concerns over personal safety weren’t enough — shooters now have to maintain a two-metre distance and every alternate station will be occupied in the midst of regular temperature checks, there is fear that shooting with the face covered will hinder peak performance.
The 17-year-old is not happy about his shooting glasses getting foggy as a result of wearing a mask. “When I step out of the house wearing shades and a mask, the lenses get foggy in no time. The scenario will be the same at the range and to counter it I will have to wear the mask a little lower (exposing the nose) and to breathe easy,” said Bhanwala. To explain the phenomenon, when warm breath escapes through the top of the mask, it hits the lenses which are cooler and causes them to fog up.
World No 1 in 10m air rifle, Divyansh Singh Panwar, may have beaten the blues by building a range in his apartment in collaboration with coach Deepak Dubey, but wearing a mask remains a challenge for the 17-year-old. “Keeping a mask on for the entire duration of competition will be tough,” said Dubey. In anticipation, the duo has started to prepare for the new normal. “Earlier, anulom vilom was a part of our yoga schedule, now the focus is on breathing exercises as the virus attacks the respiratory system,” said Dubey.
Like Bhanwala, Panwar too has not tried out a mask at training, but while honing his sharp-shooting skills, work is on to beat the virus by strengthening the immune system. Primary among the yoga poses that now form an integral part of his daily schedule is the setubandh asana for opening the lungs while toning the neck, spine and chest. The ujjayi pranayama helps slow the pace of breath, bolsters the immune system and cleanses the nadis (channels) of the body. For stimulating the respiratory and nervous system, Panwar relies on tadasana and surya namaskar.
By Robin Bose