Home Rudrankksh and Sandeep put NRAI in a fix before Paris Olympics

    Rudrankksh and Sandeep put NRAI in a fix before Paris Olympics

    By indianshooting.com
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    Rudrankksh Patil - indianshooting.com

    Current form or pedigree is the dilemma the National Rifle Association of India finds itself in as it gets ready to announce the squad for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

    It is the high-profile men’s 10m air rifle that has the national federation searching for an answer.

    The Olympic quota spots in the event were secured by Arjun Babuta and Rudrankksh Patil, but if one is to go by the recent Olympic Selection Trials, the unheralded Sandeep Singh has emerged the top name to board the flight to Paris.

    Despite a negligible international resume, Sandeep, an Armyman, seemed to be in a different zone in the Olympic trials. He shot a personal best of 634.4, and followed it with 632.6 and 631.6 in the first three trials.

    It was a 628.3 in the fourth trial, but his three-best scores gave him the top spot among the five shooters in the fray.

    It is an achievement as in the race for the two spots in men’s 10m air rifle were Arjun and Rudrankksh, both of whom started the trials with an additional point for winning the quota places.

    Rudrankksh started with 630.5, and followed it with 628.7, 632.0 and 630.6. He finished third, 0.3 points behind Arjun and 1.4 behind Sandeep as per the final average scores.

    The NRAI selection policy states that the top-two finishers in the trials will be picked for Paris, even if one or both the shooters haven’t won the quota place for the country.

    This is where the debate on current form or past performance kicks in, and when the choice is between Sandeep and Rudrankksh, the dilemma deepens.

    At 28, Sandeep is a late bloomer with his international career commencing last year. Of the three World Cups he has competed in from 2023 till now at Rio de Janeiro, Cairo and Granada, his best finish was 9th in Cairo with a score of 630.4.

    His personal best of 634.4 came early this year at the Asian Championship in Jakarta.

    In contrast, Rudrankksh boasts an impressive resume, which includes gold in men’s 10m air rifle at the 2022 Cairo World Championship, which made him only the second Indian to achieve the feat after 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra.

    As a former World No 1, Rudrankksh won gold at the 2022 Cairo World Cup Final, and has bagged four medals at various World Cups over the last two years.

    But as per the NRAI rulebook, it will be Sandeep and not Rudrankksh to represent India at the Paris Olympics.

    The Delhi High Court also recently upheld the NRAI’s Paris 2024 Olympic Selection Policy while dismissing a petition filed by a shooter challenging her non-inclusion in the trials.

    Sultan Singh, Secretary General, NRAI, had then said, “Our selection policy for the Olympic Games 2024 stands upheld being fair, reasonable and transparent. All the athletes have been given a fair chance. The policy is more inclusive for the shooters to qualify.”

    As the NRAI finds itself on a tricky wicket, it is learnt that Rudrankksh has written to the federation with the request to consider him ahead of Sandeep.

    Time holds the key to this issue, but Sandeep can take heart from Sheng Lihao’s case. The 16-year-old Chinese arrived at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics on the back of only one international competition, the Asian Championship, but stunned everyone by bagging silver in men’s 10m air rifle.

    Olympian and former national coach Joydeep Karmakar has a balanced take on this. “If you go strictly by the policy and numbers, Sandeep should make it. But when it comes to Rudrankksh, he is one of the stalwarts of world shooting with several medals at worlds and huge experience. It will be a very hard decision for anyone/federation to take a final call on this. It’s not an easy task. But whosoever goes should value his responsibility and give his personal best at the Olympics.”