Indian shooters have broken the medal winning chain started by Rajyavardhan Rathore in 2004 and one of the main reason for this seems to be the selection policy of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) which did not work well for some shooters who were in top form but still could not make it to the Olympic squad. One such shooter is Pooja Ghatkar.
At the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Delhi, all eyes were on Pooja and Ayonika Paul who were in gold and silver positions till the 18th shot when Pooja shot 8.8 to be relegated to bronze medal position. Ayonika went on to win the silver and the Olympic quota while Pooja ended up with the bronze.
In the women’s air rifle there were two quota places available. However, India were eligible for only one (each country can win a maximum of two quotas per event) as Apurvi Chandela had already secured one quota in the event in earlier competitions.
Leaving the disappointment of missing the quota behind, Pooja gave an impressive performance at all four ISSF World Cups this year, giving enough signals to the selection committee that she was a better choice to be in the Olympic team.
Pooja finished 4th in two World Cups held in Bangkok and Baku and her scores at all the four World Cups were more than both Apurvi and Ayonika who were part of the Indian squad for Rio Olympics.
Infact all the four scores shot by Pooja were even more than the 8th place finish in women’s air rifle at Rio Olympics. Top eight shooters qualify for the finals in this event.
The finals in the women’s air rifle had closed at 415.9 which was registered by China’s Yi Siling who went on to win the bronze medal.
World Cup in Bangkok: 4th Pooja Ghatkar (416.7), 17th Ayonika Paul (413.8), 18th Apurvi Chandela (413.6)
World Cup in Rio: 11th Pooja Ghatkar (417.2), 13th Ayonika Paul (416.4), 20th Apurvi Chandela (415.7)
World Cup in Munich: 13th Pooja Ghatkar (417.4), 16th Ayonika Paul shot (417.2), 67th Apurvi Chandela (412.1)
World Cup in Baku: 4th Pooja Ghatkar (417.0), 42nd Apurvi Chandela (411.7), Ayonika Paul (Not Participated)
At Rio Olympics, Apurvi Chandela shot 411.6 to finish 34th while Ayonika Paul shot 403.0 to finish 47th.
The Olympic quota belongs to a country and the selection committee of NRAI should have not ignored Pooja’s performance in an Olympic year.