Indian shooters will look to come out all guns blazing as the likes of Heena Sidhu, Vijay Kumar and Manavjit Singh Sandhu make one last attempt to secure quota places for Rio Games in the Asia Olympic Qualifying Competition starting on Wednesday.
London Olympics silver medallist Vijay Kumar, former world number one shooters Heena and Manavjit are yet to earn quotas for the quadrennial extravaganza scheduled to take place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in August.
The prestigious Asian event, to be held from January 27 to February 3 at the Karni Singh Range, will see participation of 575 shooters from 32 nations for 35 quota places.
Eleven Indian shooters had taken part in the London Games finals four years ago, and the Indian contingent is hoping to better that mark this time around. So far, eight Indian shooters have secured quotas for Rio Olympics.
Pooja Ghatkar, Ayonika Paul, Sanjeev Rajput, Rahi Sarnobat and Lajja Gauswami will also look forward to secure quota places in the tournament.
There will be four quotas each for men in trap and skeet, but only one apiece for women. The men’s and women’s 3-position rifle and women’s sports pistol will offer three quotas each while the other events will have two quota places each.
A silver medallist in men’s 25-m rapid fire pistol, Vijay has not won anything of note on the world stage since finishing on the podium in London. A perennial shoulder injury played a role in Vijay’s slump in form.
The 30-year-old armyman will be competing in his pet event, and is hoping to reap the rewards of months of training and rehabilitation.
Heena, the first Indian pistol shooter to be ranked number one, a feat she achieved after winning gold medal in the ISSF World Cup finals in 2013, will aim to scale similar heights.
At the same venue last September, the 26-year-old had won the top prize in the Asian Airgun Championship. Sidhu is also the finals world record holder in 10m air pistol event with a score of 203.8.
Veteran trap shooter Manavjit, a three-time Olympian, will also look to hit the bull’s eye and book a ticket to the Rio Games. The 39-year-old’s last major medal was winning the gold at the 2014 ISSF World Cup in Tucson, USA.
Manavjit will be vying for honours alongside Kynan Chenai and Prithviraj Tondaiman in the trap event, while the Indian challenge in men’s double trap will be spearheaded by Ankur Mittal, Mohammad Asab and the returning Ronjan Sodhi.
It is a chance for Sodhi to get back into form after a prolonged lean spell that led to him being dropped from the Indian squad. With the sole exception of Olympics, the modest trap shooter has won almost everything.
Long harbouring dreams of winning a quota, Omkar Singh’s momentum met with a setback when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped the Asian Shooting Championship in Kuwait last November of its status as a qualifying tournament for Rio 2016.