Abdullah Al-Rashidi of Kuwait.

The Asaka Shooting Range was a cauldron of emotions on Monday after the skeet final of the Tokyo Olympics. Among those on a high was the much-decorated Abdullah Al Rashidi. He had just become the oldest medallist of this edition of the Games at 57, but more than the bronze there was a lot more racing through the Kuwaiti’s mind and pertained to national pride.

Al Rashidi has competed under the Kuwaiti flag earlier, but that was nine years ago at the 2012 London Olympics. The finish was nothing really to write home about as the strapping skeet shooter finished 21st.

It was his fifth Olympics, and the supremely fit athlete assured himself that there would be another time. Sure enough, the chance came along four years down at Rio 2016, but with major alterations. Due to government interference, Kuwait’s national Olympic committee stood banned by the International Olympic Committee and Al Rashidi and his teammates at Rio had to compete as part of an independent team.

It was ironical that Al Rashidi’s first Olympic medal in skeet came here too, but Al Rashidi had no jersey or flag to flaunt as he mounted the podium to receive the bronze. He had turned up for competition in an Arsenal shirt, which probably belonged to his son, and despite the high and a vociferous crowd cheering on that briefly “made him feel like a Brazilian”, Al Rashidi was downbeat.

The clock kept ticking and the years kept adding on, but that only strengthened Al Rashidi’s resolve to mount the podium at the Olympics one more time, but under the Kuwaiti flag. Five years down at Tokyo, the wish came true as Al Rashidi made the climb to receive another bronze in skeet. The mood was completely different this time and such was the euphoria that the father of four even ignored protocol before the medal ceremony and wrapped himself in national colours. All that mattered was that he had brought honour to his country on the world’s biggest sporting platform, and the black, red, green and white flag draped around the broad shoulders was proof of the pride of a man who has scaled the highest echelons in the sport many times.

A three-time world champion, Al Rashidi did not have a noisy crowd egging him on in Tokyo but the successive bronze at the Olympics reaffirmed what he had said at Rio. “I needed this medal. I have won medals in all competitions, from national to continental, from World Cup to World Championship… But I have been chasing this medal for 27 years.”

The hue of the medal may not have changed from Rio to Tokyo, but to see a bronze against Kuwait’s name on the medals tally and getting recognition as an athlete from that nation meant more than personal glory for Al Rashidi.

  
William Shaner of USA during the Men's 10m Air Rifle Final at Tokyo Olympics.

The verdict is out that the online shooting competitions organised by indianshooting.com, especially ‘TOPGUN’ and the last two editions of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) in May, June and July helped shooters prepare better for the Tokyo Olympics. Affirming this, is India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra.

In response to indianshooting.com’s tweet on 20-year-old William Shaner of USA winning gold in Men’s 10m Air Rifle with an Olympic record of 251.6 on Sunday, Bindra, the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallist, wrote, “Am sure your online competition had a positive role in his preparation”.

Bindra’s tweet is huge validation of the efforts to ensure shooters from across the globe stayed sharp the past 15 months after the pandemic dried up events on the ISSF calendar for a long time.

When conventional tournaments did start, the exposure and handling the pressure of online competitions came handy. A case in point is the participation of USA Shooting in ‘TOPGUN’ and IOSCs for the first time closer to the Olympics. Obviously, the objective was clear, to gather as much as experience of competition before the Osijek World Cup in Croatia and Tokyo Games.

Lucas Koziensky, World No 3, and Shaner, World No 24, had stressed how the format of online competitions like ‘TOPGUN’ and IOSC would help immensely in a high-pressure event like the Olympics. Joining them in stressing the point was 2016 Rio Olympics champion Ginny Thrasher.

The biggest thumbs up came from USA Shooting coach Dan Durben who was effusive in his praise of ‘TOPGUN’. “The format did a fantastic job of giving the athletes the actual competition feeling that could be so important for their performance in Tokyo. What happened here will come through in their performance at the Olympics and we are very appreciative to take part,” he said.

Durben agreed that the challenge of staying focussed during the breaks in an online competition would come handy at Tokyo Olympics.

Sure enough, Lucas and William proved him right by making the final in the 10m air rifle event. While Lucas finished 6th, a marked improvement from the 21st at Rio 2016, William surprised all by mounting the podium with gold as the second youngest winner of the event in Olympic history on Sunday.

After finishing 4th in the IOSC, William, who won gold at the last ISSF World Cup before the Olympics in Osijek, shared his thoughts on how the IOSC was a great experience and the challenge of shooting at a consistent level throughout the competition.

The effort of waking up early for the online competitions in India has paid off with USA breaking a medal jinx in this event at the Olympics. “We’ve been trying to get a medal in this event for a long time…so it was nice to bring it back home now,” said William.

  
Saurabh Chaudhary of India.

Saurabh Chaudhary qualified on top with 586 but finished 7th in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol Final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday.

The second Indian in the event Abhishek Verma, had to endure heartbreak in the qualification. He was placed fifth with four shots to go after making a brilliant comeback, but he finished with two 8s for a score of 575 to place 17thin the final standings. The final qualifying spot went at 578.

The 41-year-old Javad Foroughi of Iran, who came in with red-hot form into the Games having won both the ISSF World Cups in the lead up, shot 244.8 (580) to win the gold with a margin of 6.9 points.

Javad Foroughi of Iran celebrates after winning the Gold in Men’s 10m Air Pistol.

Serbian Damir Mikec, eventually realized his dream of an Olympic medal in his fourth Games, winning silver with 237.9 (578).

Former world and Olympic champion Pang Wei of China climbed to the bronze medal with 217.6 after qualifying in seventh place. It was his third Olympic medal following gold in Beijing and bronze in Rio.

Earlier in the first medal event of the day where the Games’ first Gold is given out, India’s Elavenil Valarivan and Apurvi Chandela could not make the final of the Women’s 10m Air Rifle. Elavenil shot 626.5 to finish 16th while Apurvi shot 621.9 to finish 36th in a field of 50 shooters.

Yang Qian of China during the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Final.

Chinese Yang Qian won the gold with an Olympic Record of 251.8 (628.7). Anastasiia Galashina won the silver with 251.1 (628.5) while Nina Christen of Switzerland shot 230.6 (628.5) to take the bronze.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Javad Foroughi (Iran) 244.8 (Olympic Record) 580; 2. Damir Mikec (Serbia) 237.9 (578); 3. Pang Wei (China) 217.6 (578); 7. Saurabh Chaudhary (India) 137.4 (586); 17. Abhishek Verma (India) (575).

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Yang Qian (China) 251.8 (Olympic Record) 628.7; 2. Anastasia Galashkina (Russian Olympic Committee) 251.1 (628.5); 3. Nina Christen (Switzerland) 230.6 (628.5); 16. Elavenil Valarivan (India) 626.5; 36. Apurvi Chandela (India) 621.9.

  
Amber Hill of Greta Britain.

British shooter Amber Hill has withdrawn from the Olympic Games after testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK prior to her departure.

Hill is ranked No.1 in women’s skeet shooting and was deemed a serious contender for a medal in Tokyo, having been a finalist at Rio 2016.

The British Olympic Association confirmed Hill’s positive test and added there would be no replacement for the 23-year-old.

“There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” said Hill.

“After five years of training and preparation, I’m absolutely devastated to say that last night I received a positive Covid-19 test, meaning I’ve had to withdraw from Team GB’s shooting team.

“Although I don’t have any symptoms, I will now isolate as per the Government guidance.

“I would like to wish the best of luck to all of Team GB who are out in Tokyo, especially the shooting team who have supported me massively throughout my career.

“I will be back from this, but right now I need some time to reflect and take in what has happened.”

Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England said: “My heart goes out to Amber, and we’re just sad for her that she is unable to join us in Tokyo.

“She is an incredibly gifted athlete and we dearly hope to see her again at a future Olympic Games.”

Shooting team leader Steven Seligmann added: “This is an incredibly sad situation for Amber after she’s worked so hard to earn her Olympic place for Team GB.

“Our focus is to now make sure Amber is kept safe and well, both physically and mentally, and we have the support in place to help her through this difficult period.”

Hill becomes the third Team GB member to be ruled out of the Games after testing positive for coronavirus, following the withdrawals of tennis pair Johanna Konta and Dan Evans earlier this month.

  
Indian shooting contingent at Tokyo Olympics.

Indian shooting team on Saturday arrived in Tokyo for the upcoming Olympic Games which gets underway from July 23.

Samples of the shooting contingent for the COVID-19 test have been collected and they all are waiting for the results.

On Friday, the Indian shooting contingent for Tokyo 2020 reached Amsterdam from their Zagreb base in Croatia. Saurabh Choudhary, Abhishek Verma, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, and Anjum Moudgil headline India’s shooting squad.

The Indian team had an incredible medal-winning performance at ISSF World Cup in New Delhi and Croatia. The medal count was less in Croatia than in New Delhi because of less representation. In New Delhi, 52 shooters competed, while only 14 Indian shooters were in the fray in Croatia.

The Indian shooting squad for Tokyo 2020 consists of Deepak Kumar, Divyansh Singh Panwar, Sanjeev Rajput, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Apurvi Chandela, Elavenil Valarivan, Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant, Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, and Rahi Sarnobat.

  

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Olympic-bound Sylvia Steiner of Austria with her Steyr EVO 10E - Photo: indianshooting.com

Whatever the competition or format, experience is bound to emerge on top. This was amply proved by Austria’s Olympic-bound shooter Sylvia Steiner in the final of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) on Tuesday.

Trailing in third spot till well into the business end of the final, Sylvia saved her best for the last with her Steyr air pistol. She shot a perfect 10.9 on the 20th shot to jump to the top spot with a 1.4-point lead. There was no looking back as that perfect shot was followed by another on the 22nd and she finally prevailed with a score of 240.7. The three-point margin of victory over Indonesia’s Iqbal Prabowo was as convincing as it could get.

Armenia’s Norayr Arakelyan, who topped the qualification on Monday with a career-best 581, settled for bronze with a score of 218.7

While it was a high for Sylvia and consolation for the missed podium at the recent ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia, it was heartbreak for Iqbal. The youngest competitor in the final at 16, the Indonesian looked set to upset the form book by taking the lead in the third series and holding on till the 19th shot.

Iqbal would have come out wiser and expressed happiness at being able to “play my game”. It was disappointment as well for Ukraine’s Yulia Korostylova. The bronze medallist from the very recently concluded ISSF World Cup in Osijek could never settle down into a rhythm and finished 6th.

The story of the day though was Sylvia’s brilliant recovery and the perfect shots towards the end. “I had my technique in control and was able to pull the (perfect) shots off,” she said. Competing in her last competition before heading to Tokyo, Sylvia was effusive in her praise of the IOSC organised by indianshooting.com. “Every competition helps in the road to Tokyo,” she said. The solid show on the day was proof that the seasoned Austrian is ready to mount a serious challenge in the Olympics, and this was seconded by Sylvia’s father and coach.

Alexis Lagan of USA, another Olympic-bound shooter, had an off day as she finished 5th, a rung lower than Indonesia’s Rico Dinatha. Alexis, the World No 18, termed it a “difficult final but a great learning experience. There are certain things to work on but for sure the commentary in the background sure pumps up the pressure”.

USA Shooting pistol coach Jason Turner was happy things went to plan and the learnings from the final were invaluable.

Norayr may have missed out on the top spot after Monday’s superlative show but he again proved that show was not by chance. The 32-year-old took the lead in the initial phase of the final before slipping and came away saying, “The final was very difficult but I am happy.”

The Results:

10m Air Pistol: 1. Sylvia Steiner (Austria) 240.7 (579); 2. Iqbal Prabowo (Indonesia) 237.7 (567); 3. Norayr Arakelyan (Armenia) 218.7 (581).

  
From Left: Alexis Lagan (USA), Sylvia Steiner (Austria) & Yulia Korostylova (Ukraine).

The pressure of shooting in an online competition came to the fore as unfancied Norayr Arakelyan of Armenia handled it better and marched to the final of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) as the top name in the qualification on Monday.

With a world ranking of 113, Norayr’s best show in an ISSF event is a 16th spot at the 2016 European Championship in Gyor with a score of 575. The 32-year-old from Yerevan shot a career-best 581 on Monday that was better than the efforts of Olympic-bound shooters Austria’s Sylvia Steiner (579) and Alexis Lagan of USA (569), who finished second and seventh respectively in qualification.

There were other accomplished names too in the fray who trailed Norayr like Ukraine’s Yulia Korostylova, the recent bronze medallist at the ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia, and Indonesia’s 19-year-old rising star Rico Dinatha at 571 each. The exit of Armenia’s Tokyo bound Elmira Karapetyan in the qualifications was another unexpected result.

Of course, the final will be a different affair and it remains to be seen if Norayr can keep up the momentum. For Sylvia and Alexis, it was about getting as much exposure before the Olympics at the end of the month. After the disappointment of missing out on the podium in Osijek despite leading in the initial phase of the final, Sylvia was happy with her show in the qualification and making the final as the second-placed name.

The seasoned Austrian is eager to make amends and will keep reminding herself in the IOSC final on Tuesday that she can in no way lower the guard. Attributing her poor show in the final at Osijek to the series of low 9s that led her to slip, Sylvia will be wary of another stutter.

It was a battle against pain for Alexis and that perhaps reflected in the score. “It was a little low for me as I’m in the recovery process (from an injury).” However, the exposure was priceless for the 28-year-old from Colorado Springs. Not just being put under pressure by the discussion on scores, Alexis and coach Jason Turner were thankful for the chance to compete before the Olympics.

“With COVID, matches have become far and few, so the competition is welcome,” said Turner. On his student’s show, he said, “I’m happy she pushed through after the start and there are some things to work on.”

Yulia may not be going to the Olympics, but the unrelenting pressure would have surely made her sharper. The fourth finish on Monday was below expectations and was attributed to fatigue after the World Cup. Another factor was nervousness caused by the talk about scores and that led the 37-year-old to term the IOSC qualification tougher than a World Cup qualifier.

The final will be shown live on Tuesday on the Facebook page and YouTube channel of indianshooting.com from 7:00 PM onwards.

  
From Left: Yulia Korostylova (UKR), Alexis Lagan (USA), Sylvia Steiner (AUT) & Elmira Karapetyan (ARM).

International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC), the last competition before the Tokyo Olympics later this month, will serve as a battleground for three Olympic-bound shooters as they tone up preparations for the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza.

Austria’s hugely experienced Sylvia Steiner, Alexis Lagan of USA and Armenia’s Elmira Karapetyan will be in a tussle to gain the psychological edge before the Games as they face off in the two-day event organised by indianshooting.com on 5th & 6th July.

Giving the trio tough competition will be Ukraine’s Yulia Korostylova, fresh from her exploits at the recently concluded ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia where she bagged bronze in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol.

Barring Alexis who will be making her debut at the IOSC, the other three shooters have competed in earlier editions and are aware of the pressure of online shooting competitions.

Alexis, 28, qualified for her first Olympics after dominating at the 2020 USA Shooting Trials in Women’s 25m Pistol. Through the two-part competition, she never relinquished the lead she built from day one. Alexis has made a deep impact on the sport over the last decade. She has won multiple NRA and USA Shooting national titles, along with setting a national record. Her breakout year was 2018 after she won silver in 10m Air Pistol at the Continental American Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico. In the same event, she also struck gold in 25m Pistol. Ranked World No.18, Alexis will surely be one of the names to watch out for.

A familiar face at IOSC, Sylvia stands out for her solid work ethics. The 39-year-old will be keen to make up for the disappointment of missing out on a medal in the recent ISSF World Cup after shooting the second-highest qualification score of 580 and leading in the initial part of the final. Familiar with the format in IOSC, Sylvia will be gunning for another medal after the silver in the December edition of IOSC.

Like Sylvia, Elmira, 27, was a part of the IOSC in December and the World No.107, who secured a career best 5th in the European Championship at Osijek early this year, will be looking to head to the Olympics on the back of a solid show over the next few days.

If form is a pointer, Yulia is perhaps the favourite among the four top women shooters to be among medals on Tuesday. An Olympian from the 2004 Athens Games, Osijek is a happy hunting ground for the experienced 37-year-old World No.107. At the European Championship in the Croatian city earlier this year, Yulia had bagged gold in Women’s Air Pistol Team and 25m Rapid Fire Pistol Mixed Team. The memories got stronger as she added bronze in 10m Air Pistol at the ISSF World Cup which concluded on Saturday.

  
Olympic-bound Sylvia Steiner of Austria with her Steyr EVO 10E - Photo: indianshooting.com

After stamping its authority at the ISSF World Cup in Osijek which concluded on Saturday, Steyr Sport will be looking to extend the domination at the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC), scheduled on 5th & 6th July.

Effectively the last competition before the Tokyo Olympics later this month, the IOSC, organised by indianshooting.com, will give Olympic-bound shooters like Sylvia Steiner of Austria the final opportunity to test themselves under competition pressure.

It isn’t just Sylvia who will be flying Steyr’s banner in the IOSC. Another Olympic-bound shooter from the Steyr family making her presence felt will be Armenia’s Elmira Karapetyan.

Steyr, the world-renowned gun manufacturer based out of Austria, has dominated pistol events at the Olympics since 1992. The company’s record at the sport’s biggest event is mindboggling. Starting from Barcelona 1992 to Rio de Janeiro 2016, shooters using Steyr pistols have bagged 25 medals, 9 of them gold.

Leading Steyr’s charge at this IOSC will be the hugely experienced Sylvia who finished 6th just a few days back at the ISSF World Cup in Osijek. Sylvia had shot the second-best qualification score of 580 in Women’s 10m Air Pistol and even led after the first set of five shots in the final.

Though 39, Sylvia’s intensity had not waned. From the Steyr CO2, which was the earliest model Sylvia used, to the LP 10 and now the latest EVO 10E, the duo has become the unmistakable face of Austrian pistol shooting. Combine the potent weapon with Sylvia’s solid temperament, and Austria can look at a possible medal in Tokyo. Her longevity in the sport is because of dedicated training but the able guidance of father Franz as coach is also a factor. “I have grown with the Steyr air pistols, the service is good, and I will shoot with one forever,” said the World No.42.

Sylvia is no stranger to the IOSC as she had competed in the 5th edition in October. It was her online shooting debut, but Sylvia made her mark straightaway and shot the second-best qualification score behind India’s Olympic-bound shooter Yashaswini Singh Deswal. The final though was not in accordance with Sylvia’s high standards and she finished a disappointing 4th.

Steyr shooters were clearly on a roll at the World Cup in Osijek which ended on Saturday. The list makes for impressive reading with gold in Women’s 10m Air Pistol going to Antoaneta Kostadinova with her Steyr Evo 10E. The Bulgarian was followed by Germany’s Carina Wimmer, who claimed silver with a Steyr LP10.

In Women’s 10m Air Pistol Team, the Steyr trio of Antoaneta, Miroslava Mincheva, Maria Grodeva of Bulgaria won the gold while Carina and India’s Rahi Sarnobat with their Steyr pistols were part of the silver and bronze medal winning teams.

The turnout was equally strong among men with Iran’s gold medallist in 10m Air Pistol Javad Foroughi in action with his Steyr Evo 10. It was double joy for Javad as he had claimed the top spot at the World Cup in New Delhi in March too.

In 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team, Steyr shooters were again at the forefront with Russia’s Artem Chernousov being a part of the gold winning team while bronze was won by Iran’s Golnoush Sebghatollahi and Javad Foroughi.

Over the years, Steyr has been associated with excellence in pistol shooting. But of late, the company has emerged as a major force in rifle shooting as well and this got reflected in the results at the World Cup in Osijek.

In Men’s 10m Air Rifle, Vladimir Maslennikov of Russia bagged silver with his Steyr Challenge E.

In the 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team, Russia’s Sergey Kamenskiy was part of the silver medal winning team while the bronze was won by Anastasia Galashina and Vladimir Maslennikov with their Steyr Challenge.

  
From Left: Mathilde Lamolle (France), Rahi Sarnobat (India) & Vitalina Batsarashkina of Russia.

Asian Games gold medallist Rahi Sarnobat stamped her class by winning gold in the Women’s 25m Pistol at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.

The 30-year-old Rahi, who had won the ISSF World Cup gold earlier in Changwon in 2013 and Munich in 2019, shot a score of 39 in the final, to win the yellow metal by a big margin of 8 points.

Rahi registered five rounds of perfect-5 in the first six series to seal the gold even before the last series as she had an unbeatable six-point lead. ‘’This assures me that I am on the right track. I have to keep working on this’’, said Rahi.

Rahi had earlier shot a personal best of 591 while Manu Bhaker also made it to the final with 588 but ended up 7th in a field of 47 shooters.

It was the second World Cup medal for Rahi this season. She had lost the shoot-off for the gold to Chinki Yadav in the World Cup in Delhi in March.

World No.35 Mathilde Lamolle of France won the silver with 31 (584) while 2016 Rio Olympic silver medallist Vitalina Batsarashkina took the bronze with 28 (584).

Antoaneta Kostadinova of Bulgaria, who shot the best qualification score of 593, finished 4th while the reigning Olympic champion Anna Korakaki of Greece finished 5th.

The Results:

Women’s 25m Pistol: 1. Rahi Sarnobat (India) 39 (591); 2 Mathilde Lamolle (France) 31 (584); 3. Vitalina Batsarashkina (Russia) 28 (584); 7. Manu Bhaker (India) 11 (588).

  
Saurabh Chaudhary & Manu Bhaker with their Silver medal at the ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.

The Indian duo of Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary was beaten to the gold in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team by the Russian pair of Rio Olympic silver medallist Vitalina Batsarashkina and World Championship gold medallist Artem Chernousov 16-12 in the ongoing ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.

Manu and Saurabh, who have won a string of gold medals in the World Cups, fought hard, levelling at 6-6 and then fighting back from 6-12 to level it back at 12-12, but that was not enough on the day to ward off the Russian pair.

The second Indian team of Yashaswini Deswal and Abhishek Verma lost the bronze to the Iranian team of Javad Foroughi and Golnoush Sebghatollahi 17-7.

In 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team, Elavenil Valarivan and Divyansh Singh Panwar, who had won the gold in the Delhi ISSF World Cup in March, were eliminated in the second stage in 6th place. The pair shot 416.1 and missed the chance to fight for a medal by 1.6 points. Even in the first stage of qualification, the Indian team came 5th.

The other Indian team of Anjum Moudgil and Deepak Kumar was placed 15th with 624.6 in the first stage of qualification.

The Results:

10m Air Pistol Mixed Team: 1. Russia (Vitalina Batsarashkina, Artem Chernousov) 16 (390) 586; 2. India (Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary) 12 (387) 587; 3. Iran 17 (385) 583; 4. India-A (Yashaswini Deswal, Abhishek Verma) 7 (386) 577.

10m Air Rifle Mixed Team: 1. Hungary (Eszter Meszaros, Istvan Peni) 17 (420.1) 626.1; 2. Russia 13 (419.1) 628.7; 3. Russia-1 17 (418.8) 630.4; 4. US 11 (417.7) 626.8; 6. India-2 (Elavenil Valarivan, Divynsh Singh Panar 416.1 (626.6); 15. India-1 (Anjum Moudgil, Deepak Kumar) 624.6.

  
From Left: India's Yashaswini Singh Deswal, Manu Bhaker & Rahi Sarnobat.

The Indian troika of Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Rahi Sarnobat claimed the bronze medal in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol Team at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.

They defeated the Hungarian team of Veronika Major, Miriam Jako and Sara Rahel Fabian 16-12 in the bronze medal match. The three Indians had qualified third with a score of 573.

Earlier, in the 10m Air Rifle Team, the men’s trio of Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Deepak Kumar and Divyansh Singh Panwar lost the bronze medal to Serbia, while the women shooters failed to get past the qualifying round.

Aishwary, Deepak and Divyansh lost 14-16 to the Serbian team of Milenko Sebic, Milutin Stefanovic and Lazar Kovacevic in the third-place match.

The Women’s 10m Air Rifle Team of Anjum Moudgil, Apurvi Chandela and Elavenil Valarivan continued to disappoint, finishing 11th in the qualification round with a total of 1867.7. The three shooters had also failed to reach the final of the Women’s 10m Air Rifle on Thursday.

  
William Shaner of USA during the Men's 10m Air Rifle Final at ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.

Richer from his experience at the 7th International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) 10 days ago, Olympic-bound William Shaner of USA won the gold in Men’s 10m Air Rifle at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.

It was a remarkable show of grit and skill as 20-year-old William had finished 6th in the qualification earlier on Thursday with a score of 628.3. He raised his game by several notches in the final to win gold with a comfortable margin of 1.3 point by shooting 250.5. Russia’s Vladimir Maslennikov settled for silver with 249.2 (630.5) and Croatia’s Petar Gorsa got bronze with 227.7 (631.9).

Barring two instances when he shot below 10, William stayed steady with lot of high 10s and even had a perfect 10.9. Interestingly, William’s teammate and World No.3 Lucas Kozeniesky shot 625.2 and could not make it to the final but doubled up as coach and sat behind William during the final. Both shooters will be next seen at the Tokyo Olympics in July as the Osijek World Cup is the last ISSF competition before the Olympics.

William Shaner of USA poses with his Gold medal.

Junior World Champion in 50m Rifle Prone, William had challenged the world’s best in Martin Strempfl of Austria and Lucas in the final of the 7th IOSC. Towards the closing stages William even took the lead but the pressure of online shooting, a new format for American shooters, got the better of him and he settled for the 4th spot.

Throughout the “TOPGUN” and the 7th IOSC, Lucas, 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist Ginny Thrasher, William and USA shooting coach Dan Durben kept stressing how online competitions were an excellent way to stay in competition mode and prepare for this World Cup and the Olympics.

After finishing 4th in the 7th IOSC, Wiliam, who won the gold in Men’s 10m Air Rifle Team at the New Delhi ISSF World Cup in March, shared his thoughts on how the IOSC was a great experience and the challenge of keep shooting at a consistent level throughout the competition.

World No.3 Lucas Kozeniesky of USA.

William’s gold on Thursday is a good omen, as coupled with Lucas’ experience, the two Americans will be the ones to watch out for at the Tokyo Olympics.

The utility of the IOSC organized by indianshooting.com came to the fore as Hungary’s Eszter Meszaros too won gold in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle with a score of 250.6 (628.3). The 18-year-old had used the earlier editions of IOSC to stay in competition mode. Silver went to Slovakia’s Ziva Dvorsak with 249.8 (628.4) and bronze to Sofia Ceccarello of Italy with 226.6 (629.2).

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. William Shaner (USA) 250.5 (628.3); 2. Vladimir Maslennikov (Russia) 249.2 (630.5); 3. Petar Gorsa (Croatia) 227.7 (631.9); 7. Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (India) 143.9 (628.0); 14. Deepak Kumar (India) 626.0; 25. Divyansh Singh Panwar (India) 624.7.

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Eszter Meszaros (Hungary) 250.6 (628.3); 2. Ziva Dvorsak (Slovenia) 249.8 (628.4); 3. Sofia Ceccarello (Italy) 226.6 (629.2); 24. Apurvi Chandela (India) 624.2; 42. Anjum Moudgil (India) 622.3; 55. Elavenil Valarivan (India) 621.2.

  
Saurabh Chaudhary of India.

Olympic-bound Saurabh Chaudhary opened India’s account at the ISSF World Cup with a bronze in the Men’s 10M Air Pistol after the country’s shooters endured a modest opening day on which podium finishes eluded the likes of Abhsihek Verma, Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Manu Bhaker.

The 19-year-old Saurabh shot a score of 220.0 (581) to take the third place while compatriot Abhishek Verma finished 5th with a score of 179.3 (581) in a field of 71 shooters.

Saurabh lead the field after the first 10 shots in the final, before shooting a poor 8.7 on his 11th shot, after which he was left playing catch up.

From Left: Damir Mikec (Serbia), Javad Foroughi (Iran) & Saurabh Chaudhary (India).

Iran’s Javad Foroughi claimed the gold with 243.0 (584), his second successive win at an ISSF World Cup, while the World No.8 Damir Mikec of Serbia won the silver with 241.7 (584) respectively.

In the women’s event, India’s Manu Bhaker 137.3 (577) Yashaswini Singh Deswal 117.1 (578) finished 7th and 8th respectively. The third Indian in the event, Rahi Sarnobat shot 572 to finish 13th in a field of 61 shooters.

Antoaneta Kostadinova of Bulgaria won the gold with 240.0 (579), Carina Wimmer of Germany 237.5 (574) won the silver while Yulia Korostylova of Ukraine took the bronze 216.8 (575).

From Left: Carina Wimmer (Germany), Antoaneta Kostadinova (Bulgaria) & Yulia Korostylova (Ukraine).

Vitalina Batsarashkina of Russia, who shot the best qualification score of 585, finished 4th with 198.0 in the final.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Javad Foroughi (Iran) 243.0 (584); 2. Damir Mikec (Serbia) 241.7 (584); 3. Saurabh Chaudhary (India) 220.0 (581); 5. Abhishek Verma (India) 179.3 (581).

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Antoaneta Kostadinova (Bulgaria) 240.0 (579); 2. Carina Wimmer (Germany) 237.5 (574); 3. Yulia Korostylova (Ukraine) 216.8 (575); 7. Manu Bhaker (India) 137.3 (577); 8. Yashaswini Singh Deswal (India) 117.1 (578); 13. Rahi Sarnobat (India) 572.

  
Olympic-bound Manu Bhaker of India.

India’s Olympic-bound rifle and pistol shooters will take part in the International Shooting Sport Federation’s (ISSF) final World Cup of this year beginning here from Thursday, their last competitive outing before the Tokyo Games.

The first day of competitions has four finals, basically all the individual 10m air events in rifle and pistol lined up, and will see as many as 11 from the ountry vying for the coveted ISSF World Cup medal.

India have fielded three participants in each of the four medal events on Thursday, barring the men’s 10m air pistol, where they have two shooters in world numbers one and two, Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary.

World No.2 Divyansh Singh Panwar and Deepak Kumar will begin the day for in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle qualification round.

They will be joined by 50m Rifle Three Positions exponent Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, allowing them to also compete for the men’s team event.

That will be followed by the Women’s 10m Air Rifle where Elavenil Valarivan, also currently world number one, will start alongside teammates Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil.

Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Rahi Sarnobat will then feature in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol.

Finally, Abhishek and Saurabh will compete in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol.

India will send 15 shooters to Tokyo Olympics which opens on July 23 and 13 of them have been training in Croatia for close to two months now.

The two skeet shooters for Tokyo Games, Mairaj Ahmed Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, are training in Italy and have opted out of the World Cup on the advice of their coach. That leaves India without an entry in the shotgun category in the World Cup.

A total of 520 shooters from 47 countries have assembled here. This will be their final international assignment before the Olympics. The world’s top shooters, including strong contingents from heavyweights like Russia, Germany, France, Italy, besides hosts Croatia, will be looking to fine-tune their skills before heading for the Tokyo Games.

Some top names to watch out for besides the Indian stars would be the likes of Olympic and world champion Anna Korakakki of Greece, reigning Olympic champion Christian Reitz of Germany and World No.1 Istvan Peni of Hungary.

India have of-late dominated the ISSF World Cups, particularly in rifle and pistol events and have finished on top of the medals tally in the previous New Delhi combined World Cup as well.

The Indian shooters are expected to come up with a rich haul of medals in the next nine days of competition. There are a total of 30 finals in the World Cup.

  

  
Rubina Francis of India.

Rubina Francis of India bagged the gold medal in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol SH1 at the ongoing World Shooting Para Sport World Cup in Lima in Peru.

The 20-year-old Rubina was not very impressive in the qualification with a score of 555 but she was bang on target in the final, finishing far ahead of the rest of the field with a world record of 238.1, 0.4 point better than the earlier world mark.

In March, although Rubina had shot a much better qualification score of 562 at the Al Ain World Shooting Para Sport World Cup but she could only manage an eighth place in the finals then.

Rubina has so far represented India in eight international para-shooting championships. In 2019, Rubina won a bronze in the World Shooting Para Sport World Cup in Croatia.

Bigaisha Makhayeva of Kazakhstan won the silver with 230.4 (554) while qualification topper Krisztina David of Hungary took the bronze with 211.0 (574).

Another Indian Pooja Agarwal, who had won the team silver on Monday along with Rahul Jhakar and Aurodh Panwar in 25m Pistol Mixed Team, shot 540 to finish 19th in a field of 25 shooters.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Pistol SH1: 1. Rubina Francis (India) 238.1 (WR) 555; 3. Bigaisha Makhayeva (Kazakhstan) 230.4 (554); 3. Krisztina David (Hungary) 211.0 (574); 19. Pooja Agarwal (India) 540.

  
Rahul Jhakar of India.

Para shooters brought good news for India on Sunday as Rahul Jakhar and Deepak Saini won quota spots for the Tokyo Paralympics at the World Shooting Para Sport World Cup at Lima in Peru.

With this, the number of quota places won by Indian para shooters for the upcoming Games went up to eight. Manish Narwal, Singhraj, Deepender Singh, Avani Lekhara, Swaroop Mahavir Unhalkar and Sidhartha Babu had earlier secured quota berths.

It was a memorable day for Rahul as he won gold in Mixed 25m Pistol SH1. The silver went to South Korea’s Kim Younmi and Xiao Gong of USA settled for bronze.

From Left: Rahul Jhakar, Pooja Agarwal & Aurodh Panwar of India.

Rahul later combined with Pooja Agarwal and Aurodh Panwar for silver in 25m Pistol Mixed Team. A resident of Gurgaon, Rahul owes his career to elder brother Rajesh and has a history of strong results at international competitions.

At the 2019 Para World Cup in Osijek, Croatia, Rahul won gold in Men’s 10 Air Pistol with a world record of 240.1. Manish Narwal came second with 236.7, which bettered his junior final world record of 236.6. At the 2018 Cheongju World Shooting Para Sport Championship, Rahul had finished 7th in Team P4, Mixed 50m Pistol SH1.

The hugely experienced Sriharsha Devaraddi, who was a part of the Indian Tigers at the Online Shooting League (OSL) last year, won a bronze in 10m Air Rifle Standing R4. The gold went to Italy’s Andrea Liverani and was followed by Kevin Loit of France.

Sriharsha Devaraddi of India.

Deepak could not find the podium in 50m Rifle Three Positions SH1, but the fourth place was good enough to get him a quota spot. Ukraine made it 1-2 in the event with Andrii Doroshenko claiming gold followed by Yurii Stoiev. The bronze was won by Doron Shaziri of Israel.

Deepak’s show is an extension of his show at the 2018 Cheongju World Shooting Para Sport Championship where he finished sixth in the Team R6, Mixed 50m Prone SH1.

A resident of Ambala, Deepak was also a part of the 2016 Rio Paralympics and has won gold at various editions of the National Para Shooting Championships and has been honoured by the Haryana Government.

The results left JP Nautiyal, Chairperson, Sports Technical Committee (STC) – Shooting, Paralymic Committee of India, in a happy frame of mind. “I am happy with the scores they achieved and performed despite lack of practice due to COVID-19. I am expecting two more quotas, will make it 10,” he said.

  
Martin Strempfl of Austria after winning Gold with his Steyr Air Rifle.

Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl could not have asked for a better build-up to next week’s ISSF World Cup at Osijek in Croatia, the final event before the Tokyo Olympics in July. And for that he stays thankful to the online competitions organised by indianshooting.com.

Since last month’s ‘TOPGUN’, the 36-year-old has been stamping his mark of supremacy, and the final of the 7th International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) was another feather in his cap as he bagged his second gold in the space of a month with his Steyr air rifle. Martin had bettered the world mark by 0.2 points in the qualification on Saturday; in the final he raised his performance by several notches to win gold with a score of 255.8, which was three points more than the world mark.

The road to success in both events is proof of the form Martin is in before a critical phase. At ‘TOPGUN’, he beat Serbia’s Milenko Sebic, another Olympic bound shooter for gold, on Sunday he got the better of World No.3 and Tokyo-bound Lucas Kozeniesky (251.5).

Olympic-bound Lucas Kozeniesky of USA after winning the Silver.

The bronze went to India’s Rudrankksh Patil, who staged a fine recovery towards the end to surge ahead of William Shaner (208.8) of USA with a score of 230.1. Had William surged ahead, the tournament’s three Olympic bound shooters would have made it 1-2-3.

The hallmark of a great athlete is that there is always the strive towards improvement, but not today. With five perfect 10.9s, there was little Martin could do wrong. “I showed my best ever shooting, everything was perfect, and I have no words to describe the performance,” he said, adding taking the lead at the beginning calmed him down.

For Rudrankksh, the 10.6 on the 20th shot showed how critical mental strength can be in crunch situations. The young Indian, a winner of a previous edition of IOSC, was in danger of being eliminated, but that was not to be. “I thought of focussing on each shot and give my optimum performance. That made the difference between finishing fifth and bronze.” The experience of competing with Olympic-bound athletes and the pressure of an online competition left him richer in experience.

Save for one bad shot, it was good day at work for Lucas, and he will be happy to carry this form into Croatia. Taking lessons from Saturday’s qualification, he termed Sunday’s performance as a “B-plus” given the challenge of focusing during the final of an online event.

While happy with the “deep 10s” by Lucas and William, USA Shooting coach Dan Durben agreed that the challenge of staying focussed during the breaks in an online competition would come handy in Croatia and Tokyo.

  
Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria with his Steyr Air Rifle.

Making the most of the opportunity at the 7th International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) provided ahead of the ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia, and the Tokyo Olympics next month, Olympic-bound shooter Martin Strempfl of Austria blazed the charts in the qualification held on Saturday.

Clad in Capapie kit, Martin shot 633.7 with his Steyr air rifle and bettered the world record by 0.2 as he topped the qualification.

Highlighting India’s stature as a powerhouse, four young shooters made the final to be held on Sunday. Rudrankksh Patil (631.0) and Junior World Champion Hriday Hazarika (628.6) followed Martin, with the second and third best scores respectively. The other Indians in the final are Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Shahu Mane (625.3) and Junior Asian Champion Yash Vardhan (624.9).

The other slots were taken up by America’s Olympic bound shooters William Shaner (628.2) and Lucas Kozeniesky (628.1). Their progress ensured all three Olympic-bound shooters will figure in the final.

The remaining slot in the eight-shooter final was taken by Ukraine’s Tetyana Halkina (625.9) who will be the only woman in the final.

Given the high standards he has set for himself, Martin’s performance did not come as a surprise. During last month’s ‘TOPGUN’, which he had won, the 36-year-old World No.51 had bettered the world mark by 3.6 points on the qualification day of the event. The going was not so smooth for Lucas and Will, shooting from Colorado Springs under the watchful eyes of coach Dan Durben.

Despite starting the day early with his favourite beetroot juice, Lucas, a medal contender at the Olympics, admitted he made “positional errors and suffered from fatigue towards the end”. It was a “B-minus” performance from the World No.3 and ‘TOPGUN’ semi-finalist but claimed it was good preparation for the upcoming ISSF World Cup in Croatia this month.

Like Lucas, William too had a rough ending but loved competing in his first online competition. Asked if this format created a pressure situation, the 20-year-old replied in the affirmative.

For coach Dan, the performance of his boys will help plan strategy. “Some challenges showed up but that will help bring focus to the training,” he said.

Recounting his nail-biting shoot-off to win the junior gold at the 2018 ISSF World Championship in Changwon, Hriday said Saturday’s score was lower than his expectations but termed the IOSC a good experience. Youth Olympic silver medallist Shahu used the opportunity to “try out a lot of different things” and termed the outing as good learning. Apart from Hriday and Shahu, Rudrankksh and Yash will be contenders on Sunday as the duo has a fair experience of competing in online events and doing well.

  
From left: Olympic-bound shooters Lucas Kozeniesky (USA), Martin Strempfl (AUT), William Shaner (USA).

The stage is set for the latest edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) on June 12th & 13th, and three Olympic-bound shooters will spearhead the foreign challenge against a strong Indian contingent of six shooters.

The focus will be on World No.3 Lucas Kozeniesky and Martin Strempfl of Austria who won last month’s ‘TOPGUN’ making them the favourites in the two-day competition.

Ranked World No. 51, Martin and his Steyr air rifle are a potent combination, and the 36-year-old will be eyeing another strong show. Martin has been in fine form in ISSF events as well with a 4th place finish at the 2019 ISSF World Cup in New Delhi and 7th spot at Munich in 2017.

A shooting powerhouse, the USA is fielding six shooters with Olympic-bound Lucas and William Shaner at the forefront. Lucas was a semi-finalist at ‘TOPGUN’ and in terrific form at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi held in March, bagging gold in Men’s 10m Air Rifle and the Mixed Team. Ranked World No. 3, Lucas is also a gold medallist at the 2019 Pan America Games in Lima.

At 20, William is among the youngest of the lot but has already built a reputation for himself and a world ranking of 24. A gold and bronze medallist in 50m Rifle Prone at the 2018 ISSF Junior World Cups at Suhl and Changwon, William’s big break came at the New Delhi ISSF World Cup in March when he was a part of the 10m Air Rifle Team that struck gold.

Israel has fielded the largest contingent with nine shooters which includes Shiri Sternberg, who was a part of ‘TOPGUN’, and Ella Goldfaden. Both Shiri and Ella were part of the Israel Maabarot team in the Online Shooting League last year and are coached by legendary shooter Guy Starik. Both girls have competed at earlier editions of IOSC and will surely mount a challenge.

Miriea Rosello, another ‘TOPGUN’ participant and IOSC regular, is a leading Spanish shooter and can spring a surprise given her familiarity with online competitions.

Ukraine’s all-women trio of Tetyana Halkina, Viktoriya Tsarenko and Snizhana-Sofiia Paklikovska have some solid performances behind them. Sofiia, 21, finished 7th at the 2019 European Championships in Osijek as a junior.

Malika Lagutenko of Tajikistan will be seen in action again after making the final of the last IOSC in December. She had also competed in the New Delhi ISSF World Cup in March.

Up against the strong foreign contingent will a bunch of Indian shooters whose fortunes are on the rise on the world stage. Among the notable names are Junior World Champion Hriday Hazarika, Youth Olympic silver medallist Shahu Mane, Junior Asian Champion Yash Vardhan, reigning National Champion Zeena Khitta and experienced international shooters Ayushi Podder and Rudrankksh Patil.

As per the competition format, there will be a 60-shot qualification on Saturday and a 24-shot final for the top 8 shooters on Sunday. Both the stages will be streamed live on indianshooting.com Facebook page and YouTube channel from 7:00 PM – India Time onwards.

  
From Left: India's Zeena Khitta, Yash Vardhan, Shahu Mane & Hriday Hazarika.

The latest edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC), scheduled on June 12th & 13th, promises to be a showpiece event with India’s stature as a shooting world power on display. This time taking on the world’s best will be the cream of the country’s rising stars.

Junior World Champion Hriday Hazarika will spearhead the Indian challenge and will be joined by Youth Olympic silver medallist Shahu Mane, Junior Asian Champion Yash Vardhan and National Champion Zeena Khitta in their bid to challenge the best shooters from across the world, which includes World No.3 and Olympic-bound Lucas Kozeniesky of USA and Austria’s Martin Strempfl.

Hriday took the shooting world by storm in 2018. A few months after claiming gold in 10m Air Rifle at the 2018 ISSF Junior World Cup at Suhl, the 19-year-old claimed gold at the World Shooting Championships in Changwon. In a shoot-off to decide the junior title, Hriday beat Iran’s Amir Mohammad Nekounam after both shooters tied at a score of 250.1. Hriday claimed gold with a 10.3 compared to Nekounam’s 10.2. The following year, Hriday was again among medals, this time a bronze at the Junior ISSF World Cup at Suhl in the 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team.

Shahu is another prolific youngster and will be among the shooters to watch out for. The 19-year-old finished second best with a silver at the 2018 Youth Olympics at Buenos Aires in 10m Air Rifle with a score of 247.5 (623.7). He is also a two-time bronze medallist at the 2017 and 2019 Asian Shooting Championships in Wako City and Doha respectively.

Just 17, Yash Vardhan is a serious talent and has a gold and silver against his name in ISSF events as a junior. A gold it was at the 2019 Asian Shooting Championships in 10m Air Rifle, and the same year saw him finish second at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl in the 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team. Going into this edition of IOSC, Yash will have an advantage as he had won gold in the sixth edition held in December last year.

A national champion at 20 years in Women’s 10m Air Rifle, Zeena has made rapid strides on the international circuit as well. At the 2018 ISSF Junior World Cup in Sydney, she finished 7th with a score of 144.1 (623.1), a marked improvement from her show at Suhl where she finished 74th. Zeena had also claimed gold in 10m Air Rifle at the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati last year.

  

Taking a cue from the overwhelming success of last month’s ‘TOPGUN’, the latest edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC), scheduled on June 12 & 13, will be taking fan engagement to the next level by offering cash prizes.

Since last year, the various editions of IOSC have evolved as a highly interactive competition. With an aim to further engage live viewers, IOSC will offer cash prizes. With cash incentives on offer for correct answers, the engagement level is expected to increase manifold.

All through last month’s ‘TOPGUN’ competition, one aspect that stood out other than the world-class field was the engagement of fans by encouraging them to post their comments during the live telecast of matches on the Facebook and YouTube pages of indianshooting.com. Several questions were put up for viewers which got a great response and led to many more viewers wanting to engage with the event.

Each match through the 10-day event evoked overwhelming response with top shooters like Etienne Germond of France logging in and cheering for their favourite athletes by posting comments and observations regularly.

Even reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher, World No.3 and Olympic-bound Lucas Kozeniesky, Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl and European Champion Bernhard Pickl who were all part of the competition, took an active part on the days they were not competing. This interactive initiative worked well in terms of engaging fans and drawing greater numbers to watch the high-quality live action. The eight shooters who were part of ‘TOPGUN’ went on record to say that the comments from friends and supporters went a long way in inspiring them to give their best.

This time the viewers while watching live streaming on the Facebook page and YouTube channel of indianshooting.com can answer easy questions related to shooting and win cash prizes. There will be a live draw from among the viewers who answer correctly and a winner will be picked randomly by a digital spin wheel live in front of everyone.

  

  

  
Anjum Moudgil of India.

Olympic-bound Anjum Moudgil of India put aside the disappointment of a subdued outing in her home ISSF World Cup by breaching the final qualification mark in the Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions at the ongoing European Shooting Championship in Osijek, Croatia.

Participating in the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) section as a guest invitee as part of India’s 13-member Olympic-bound squad, Moudgil shot a score of 1173, a huge improvement from the 1162 she shot in the New Delhi World Cup in March.

The eighth and final qualification spot in the regular event was grabbed by Switzerland’s Franziska Stark, who shot the same score, but had one less inner-10 than Anjum.

The seasoned Tejaswini Sawant, the second Indian in the fray, also had a decent outing, finishing with 1172.

While Anjum finished third in the 16-strong MQS section, Tejaswini was a spot below at fourth.

Ukraine’s Lessia Leskiv topped the MQS with a round of 1177, while Iran’s Najmeh Khedmati was second with 1174.

Germany’s Jolyn Beer topped the regulars field with an European Championship record equalling 1185. Like it was for the men on Saturday, the regulars shot in the morning while the MQS field took aim in the second half of the day.

After the conclusion of its training-cum-competition tour of Croatia, the Indian contingent will directly fly to Tokyo from Zagreb.

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to be held in the Japanese capital from 23 July to 8 August.

  
Carina Wimmer of Germany.

Pitted against a field that boasted of two Olympic medallists in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol Final on Monday, Germany’s Carina Wimmer believed in herself and her Steyr pistol also did not let her down. It was a leap of faith for the 25-year-old as she won her first international medal, gold at that along with an Olympic quota, at the ongoing European Shooting Championship in Osijek, Croatia.

Before Monday’s final, Carina’s best finish in the European Championship was 24th at the 2018 edition in Gyor, and the current result is proof of the improvement she has made after making the transition to the senior ranks.

Shooting 575 in qualification, Carina was in no way the favourite as the final had Russia’s Vitalina Batsarashkina, World No. 10 and silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Another formidable opponent was France’s Celine Goberville, World No. 16 and silver medallist at the 2012 London Olympics. Despite the odds, Carina matched her fancied opponents in what was a three-pronged contest after the other five shooters were knocked out.

With the top three spots left to be decided, Celine bowed out with a score of 218.6, leaving the Russian and German to fight it out. At this stage, the scales were tilted in Vitalina’s favour as Carina was trailing by 1.3 before the final two shots. Giving a glimpse of what German precision is all about, she shot a perfect 10.9 and followed it with another strong 10.7 to be crowned champion with a score of 242.3. Vitalina settled for silver with 242.0 after a disappointing 10.0 in the final two shots.

Carina hails from a family of shooters. Her initiation into the sport began when her mother took Carina and her twin to a shooting range when the girls were 10. The sisters were quick to show their liking for the sport and within no time made the performance squad. By the time they were 16, both were part of the German national squad. Unfortunately, her twin had to quit shooting due to health reasons, but Carina marched on, getting better with each competition, and Monday’s gold is vindication of what talent and perseverance can achieve.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Carina Wimmer (Germany) 242.3 (575); 2. Vitalina Batsarashkina (Russia) 242.0 (581); 3. Celine Goberville (France) 218.6 (576).

  
World No.1 Istvan Peni of Hungary.

World No.1 Istvan Peni of Hungary, who has found himself in a doping scandal after failing dope test at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, won the gold in Men’s 10m Air Rifle at the ongoing European Shooting Championship in Osikjek, Croatia.

The 24-year old Istvan has accused his teammate and former World No.1 Sidi Peter of mixing banned substances in his food during the recent ISSF World Cup in New Delhi. However, Sidi has denied the charges and said Istvan is putting the blame on him to hide his doping offence.

On Monday, Istvan put all of that behind and covered a reasonably big lead of 1.3 point in the last two shots to be tied with World No.7 Sergey Richter of Israel on 251.3. In the shoot-off Istvan registered a 10.7 against a 10.3 by Sergey to claim the gold.

“It’s hard to put into words what I feel after such a difficult time. Thank you all for the encouragement and lots of messages!” Istvan wrote on Facebook after winning the gold.

Vladimir Maslennikov of Russia, who shot the best qualification score of 631.8, took the bronze with 228.8.

The two Olympic quotas on offer were won by Milenko Sebic of Serbia and David Hrckulak of Czech Republic.

In the women’s event, Oceanne Marianne Muller of France won the quota and the gold with 251.5 (629.7), the second quota and the silver was won by Kaps Jessie of Belgium with 250.2 (628.5) while Sofia Ceccarello of Italy took the bronze with 228.5 (630.2).

Ziva Dvorsak of Slovenia who shot the best qualification score of 630.8 was the first to be eliminated on the 8th place.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Istvan Peni (Hungary) 251.3 (S-Off 10.7) 629.9; 2. Sergey Richter (Israel) 251.3 (S-Off 10.3) 630.4; Vladimir Maslennikov (Russia) 228.8 (631.8).

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Oceanne Marianne Muller (France) 251.5 (629.7); 2. Kaps Jessie (Belgium) 250.2 (628.5); 3. Sofia Ceccarello (Italy) 228.5 (630.2).

  
India's Yashaswini Singh Deswal & Abhishek Verma.

As many as eight Olympic-bound Indian shooters, including some of the country’s biggest medals hopes in Tokyo, will be seen in action in the European Championship here on Monday.

Participating in the continental tournament as guest invitee, the Indians will, however, be shooting only in the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) section, and hence, their scores will not be considered for qualifying for the finals.

So podium finishes in the tournament are out of question for the Indian shooters but they will not mind that as it will at least give them another competitive platform to test themselves ahead of this summer’s all-important Tokyo Olympics.

Three Indians — Divyansh Singh Panwar, Deepak Kumar and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar — will shoot in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle MQS along with 12 other participants. While Divyansh and Deepak are going to shoot in the main event in Tokyo, the young Aishwary has been picked as one of the squad’s many reserves.

Apurvi Chandela and Elavanil Valarivan will shoot in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle MQS along with 12 other shooters.

While Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary will test themselves in the Men’s 10 Air Pistol along with nine others shooters from various countries, Manu Bhaker and Yashaswini Singh Deswal will shoot in the Women’s 10 Air Pistol along with six more competitors.

India’s 13-member Olympic-bound squad arrived here from Croatian capital Zagreb on Saturday, which is the team’s training base in the run-up to the Olympics.

The Indian shooters will take part in the men’s and women’s individual Olympic events only.

Anjum Moudgil may compete in two individual events (Women’s 10m Air Rifle and 50m Rifle Three Positions).

Located on the eastern fringes of Croatia, Osijek will also play host to the ISSF World Cup, scheduled from June 22, a couple of weeks after the conclusion of the European Championships.

When shooting in the MQS section, athletes do not compete for a medal and therefore are not eligible to qualify for the finals. Their scores, however, can be used for official and ranking purposes.

A total of 15 Indian shooters have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Skeet shooters Mairaj Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, who have also qualified for the Games, are training in Italy.

  
Julia Ewa Piotrowska of Poland.

Julia Ewa Piotrowska of Poland ended with a perfect 10.9 to win the gold medal in the Junior Women’s 10m Air Rifle on the opening day of the European Shooting Championship at Osijek, Croatia.

The 19-year-old Julia, who wears the Capapie kit, shot 625.5 in the qualification and 249.8 in the finals to claim the title with a margin of two points.

Eszter Meszaros of Hungary, who shot the best qualification score of 628.1, won the silver with a score of 247.8 while Alina Khizbullina of Russia took the bronze with 226.4 (625.7).

In the men’s event, 18-year-old Danilo Dennis Sollazzo of Italy, who shot the best qualification score of 629.9, won the gold with 249.3 in the finals.

Marko Ivanovic of Serbia shot 248.6 (621.9) to win the silver while Jesus Oviedo Jesus of Spain took the bronze with 225.6 (625.2).

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Julia Ewa Piotrowska (Poland) 249.8 (625.5); 2. Eszter Meszaros (Hungary) 247.8 (628.1); 3. Alina Khizbullina (Russia) 226.4 (625.7).

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Danilo Dennis Sollazzo (Italy) 249.3 (629.9); 2. Marko Ivanovic (Serbia) 248.6 (621.9); 3. Jesus Oviedo (Spain) 225.6 (625.2).

  
Shreyasi Singh

The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), in collaboration with the Mobile Premier League (MPL), will release the mobile version of a non-violent shooting game, with ISSF-style trap and skeet formats, on 15 August.

This will be the first e-shooting game where the virtual game will adhere to the rules and principles set by International Olympic committee and the ISSF, especially that of being a non-violent game.

The move comes following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) collaboration with five international sports federations – baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing and motorsport – to launch the inaugural Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“We welcome the IOC’s move to introduce virtual Esport versions of real world physical sport in the inaugural Olympic Virtual Series. We are sure this will encourage people to take up these sports virtually and potentially chart a way for them to emerge as champions in the physical sport”, said Raninder Singh, President, NRAI.

NRAI along with esports and skill gaming platform MPL is also working towards bridging the gap between physical shooting and the virtual, especially given how physical infrastructure for shooting still needs a lot of development and is inaccessible to most Indians. NRAI believes that virtual versions of Olympic-style shooting sports will help evoke an interest among the masses and could serve as a gateway to people looking to enter the real sport.

The NRAI will also organize, pandemic permitting, hybrid tournaments around Independence Day where the best virtual shooters will be selected for training by prominent shooting champions in India.

“We are pleased to be developing a non-violent Olympic-style shooting game with MPL. We will use this shooting simulator game to create interest, educate and train an audience of millions of internet users about the physical sport of shooting. We will also be hosting tournaments where the best virtual shooters get a chance to compete and participate in physical shooting. Online engagement will feed into offline interest, which in turn will open the doors of our sport to many more Indians”,said Raninder Singh, President, NRAI.

Sai Srinivas, Co-Founder and CEO of MPL, which aims to take esports to the masses via mobile, said, “This is a monumental step taken by IOC to introduce the first ever Olympic-licensed virtual series. NRAI was already a first mover in recognizing the potential for e-shooting. Esports has witnessed a meteoric rise in India over the past few years and is recognized as a proper sporting career path in many regions of the world. An IOC-approved tournament announced before the Olympics will certainly help Esports get its due and encourage people to consider it as a professional option.”

Industry data shows that there is a lot of appetite for target shooting games in India, especially for a mobile-first audience. On MPL alone, since November 2020, over 17 million gameplays were recorded for MPL’s target shooting titles, with 13million alone coming from its archery game.

MPLs vision remains to create similar enabling engagements across sports disciplines that fall in line with their vision to support policymakers and create an enabling esports ecosystem.

  
Vincent Hancock of USA.

At the ISSF World Cup Shotgun in Lonato, Italy, athletes competed for medals in the Mixed Skeet which is included in the 2024 Olympic Games program.

The fate of the gold medal was decided by VAR (Video Assistant Referee) which was twice requested by the American team consisting of Vincent Hancock and Amber English during the gold medal match. The VAR system showed that targets were in fact hit and the Americans were victorious. The second place went to Chiara Cainero and Tammaro Cassandro from Italy. Another American team, Phillip Russell Jungman and Austen Jewell Smith, won bronze.

-It’s an awesome final, specially that I can compete with my teammate. I used to compete with guys all the time but with a woman it’s fun, it’s different. I’ve never done it before. So it’s my first experience, – told the winner Vincent Hancock after the final.

  
Alessandra Perilli of San Marino.

Alessandra Perilli of San Marino and Talal Alrashadi of Kuwait claimed the women’s and men’s trap gold medals respectively at the ongoing ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Lonato in Italy.

Alessandra topped women’s trap qualification – four clear of her closest challenger with a score of 122. Madelynn Ann Bernau of USA finished second with 118 and Spain’s Fatima Galvez secured third in a qualification shoot-off with Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova of Slovakia with both scoring 117.

Ellie Seward of Britain was fifth with 116, while Russia’s Ekaterina Subbotina claimed the sixth and final place in a four-way shoot-off with Guatemala’s Adriana Ruano Oliva, Finland’s Mopsi Veromaa and Italy’s Jessica Rossi.

In the final, Alessandra won the gold in a shoot-off with Madelynn, after the American squandered what looked like a win by missing three of her last five targets.

With both locked at 42 points, Alessandra won the gold while Madelynn ended the day with a tinge of disappointment.

Galvez claimed the bronze medal following a shoot-off with Rehak Stefecekova before falling short of the top two.

In the men’s trap qualification, Croatia’s Giovanni Cernogoraz finished with 123 – just two short of a perfect record.

Gennadii Mamkin of Russia finished second in a shoot-off with the US’ Brian Burrows after both scored 122.

Talal of Kuwait took fourth with 121, and France’s Antonin Desert took the fifth spot in a colossal nine-person shoot-off and was joined on that total by Egypt’s Abdel Aziz Mehelba.

Russia’s Maxim Kabatskiy and Poland’s Tomasz Pasierbski fell just short of the final.

Talal then missed just four of 50 targets in the final to score 46 – holding off Mamkin by one point, who was level until he missed his penultimate target.

Abdel claimed bronze safely ahead of Giovanni, but narrowly missed the top two in a shoot-off.

Brian and Antonin finished fifth and sixth respectively.

  
Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria with his Steyr Air Rifle.

Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria shot with a Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle to win the “TOPGUN” title among some of the best shooters in the world including reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky of USA.

Martin was in red-hot form right from the qualification stage as he shot an amazing score of 636.6 (3.1 points more than World Record). He was hardly tested by Israel’s Shiri Strenberg, Lucas and ISSF World Cup Final silver medallist Milenko Sebic in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final respectively in the 10-day event organised by indianshooting.com.

At “TOPGUN”, Steyr was pitted against other gun manufacturers like Walther, Feinwerkbau and Anschutz, but it once again came out with flying colours in the competition which concluded on 8 May.

Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle

A proud Martin fondly recollects his association with the iconic brand, which started production in the middle of the 19th century. “I got a Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle four years ago on the recommendation of teammates Alexander Schmirl and Bernhard. The appointment at Steyr was quick and I took it away after a few adjustments. When I got home, I was thrilled as I never had a rifle that was so calm while firing and the trigger was perfect. The ammunition showed I could use almost any ammunition, but the biggest advantage is I haven’t had to readjust the trigger or anything else. Of course, you can do well with other rifles, but I am convinced that this is the right one for me and responsible for my many successes.”

Enjoying the world’s fame in the domain of weapons’ technology”, Steyr’s latest offering is unique and “a major challenger to the best air rifles in the world. The rifle can be made to fit the shooter perfectly. It represents the new generation of the STEYR LG 110. The electronic trigger was added to the LP10 with an impressive World Cup victory on its first appearance, all the knowledge gained from this is now featured in the Steyr Challenge E to make it the new shooting star.

  
Shooters who competed at TOPGUN.

Rising heartbeat and sweaty palms, that is what “TOPGUN” did to shooters. The one-on-one matches under the fast paced “Race To 10” format mixed with high energy commentary had put the best in the business under immense pressure in the 10-day event which culminated with Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria striking gold on Saturday.

The reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher of USA and her World No 3 teammate Lucas Kozeniesky were both full of praises for indianshooting.com’s latest online competition “TOPGUN”. The two featured in the bronze medal match in which Lucas emerged victorious. “Live shooting with Ginny and shooting in this format was cool,” said the Tokyo Olympic-bound shooter. For Lucas, the competition is “unique and nothing like it is going on right now.”

As for ‘TOPGUN’ providing good preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, Lucas gave a positive response. “The format is excellent, and it certainly adds certain amount of pressure. With people commenting all the time, one has to sit through the pressure.”

Ginny too liked what she experienced for the first time. “This entire year we have not got enough competitive opportunities. I was not sure if online matches would feel the same, would bring the competitive fire in me. But this one was top-notch with a unique format and I enjoyed shooting against other top names.”

The biggest thumbs up came from National coach of USA shooting Dan Durben who termed it “fantastic training for the Olympics. “TOPGUN gave the right feeling of competition and you will see it come through in their show in Tokyo. We are very appreciative to take part in this.”

Based at the US Olympic Training Centre at Colorado Springs, Dan also shared a story of immense interest to Indians. Ginny’s unconventional shooting style evoked a lot on interest during the competition, and Dan mentioned how before the 2008 Beijing Olympics Abhinav Bindra had spent time at the centre perfecting this very style for himself. The work paid off as Abhinav struck India’s first individual Olympic gold.

USA Shooting too expressed its satisfaction. “We hope everyone enjoyed this well-produced series of virtual matches – we certainly did!” the federation said in a Facebook post.

“We had a great time competing and watching, thank you so much for a wonderful virtual match-can’t wait for the next one! added the US shooting body.

USA Range Director, Brent McPherson, said, “This has been really great, thank you guys so much for putting this on! We have really enjoyed this competition!”

After competing for almost a year in online competitions, Martin, the world’s most experienced shooter, said after his victory over Milenko Sebic that he “could feel his heartbeat during every shot”. “I was very nervous in the final and the pressure was the same what I experience in the final of an ISSF World Cup.”

  
Martin Strempfl of Austria.

Martin Strempfl completed his domination at “TOPGUN” with a more than a convincing 2-0 whitewash of Milenko Sebic en-route to being crowned champion on Saturday, the culmination of indianshooting.com’s latest online competition.

From the start of the 10-day event, Martin was in sublime form with his Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle. He won the qualification match by a distance with a score of 636.6 (3.1 more than World Record), and was hardly tested by Israel’s Shiri Strenberg and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky of USA in the quarterfinal and semifinal respectively.

The final was expected to be a close affair with the experienced Serbian expected to test Austria’s Olympic quota winner. That could have happened had Milenko been in better shape. Apart from competing in “TOPGUN”, the Olympian took part in competitions in Croatia and Austria. This saw Milenko drive long hours as he competed in various stages of this competition from three countries. Though he shot from the comfort of his home range in the final, fatigue prevented him from giving his best.

If this played to Martin’s advantage, what swung the final firmly his way was the experience gained over the past few months in online competitions across platforms. The pressure of the ‘Race to 10’ is not for the faint hearted and for once even Martin succumbed to it towards the close of the first match. Rarely would a shooter at the top level score a point with a sub-10 score, but that’s what happened when Martin floundered with a 9.4 in response to Milenko’s 9.8. He went on to wrap it up with two high 10s to make it 10-7, but throughout shooters have stressed how this unique format is excellent preparation for ISSF events and the Olympics.

Milenko lost, but it was in no way a surrender. Like Martin, he too shot a sub-10 just once, but what made the difference was the intensity of his rival’s performance. Two perfect scores and six 10.8s are tough to reply to, and it was to Milenko’s credit that he fought back in the second match after Martin looked to be cruising with a 6-1 lead. The World Cup Final silver medallist paused to have a word with wife and coach Alina, and led him to close the gap to 5-7. “She told me to keep fighting, that made me feel better but it wasn’t enough,” said Milenko. “I arrived in Serbia from Austria at 2am and was tired, but it is not an excuse. It was a tough match,” he added. The hallmark of a top athlete is persistence and despite the fatigue Milenko will be turning up for his country’s national trials in 3 position on Sunday.

Martin wrapped up the final in the next three shots to cap a performance that was in sync with his stature as one of the best in the business, and the joy of coming out on top in a high-pressure situation was understandable. “I could feel my heart beat during every shot and the pressure of a final was real. There were a few shaky shots but this (“TOPGUN”) has been very good preparation for the forthcoming European Championships,” said Martin.

  
Lucas Kozeniesky of USA after winning Bronze medal at "TOPGUN".

Olympic-bound shooter Lucas Kozeniesky reaffirmed his credentials as a World No 3 as he beat his American teammate and reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher 2-0 to claim bronze at “TOPGUN” on Friday.

Barring the closing stages of the second ‘Race To 10’ match when Ginny briefly rallied to test Lucas, the third-place match was largely a one-sided affair with Lucas’ consistency leaving Ginny with few answers. The first match began in a way most contests do with both shooters tentative. As the shooters settled down, Lucas shot his only sub-par score during this phase, and Ginny did so twice. But once the intensity was up, Lucas broke away by shooting high 10s throughout, including three perfect 10.9s.

The score was close till the 11th shot with the score reading 6-5 in Lucas’ favour but thereafter settled in with some top-notch shooting to take the first match 10-7.

The contest appeared to be heading towards a quick finish as Lucas established a huge 6-1 lead in no time, and then 8-3. Once again, a 10.9, his fourth of the match, figured in his road to domination. Perhaps, it was the lack of fight in the decider that instilled complacency in Lucas as he reeled off five low 10s towards the close to allow Ginny to close the gap to 8-6. He recovered in time to seal the match with two strong shots to register a 10-6 win.

One training partner had prevailed over the other, and it was a proud moment for coach Dan Durben to watch his wards engage in an engrossing online contest. It was a first for the Americans and they, especially Lucas, termed the pressure of the ‘Race to 10’ format ideal preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Happy that the day panned out well, Lucas attributed it to “following my routine”. “It was good to shoot live with Ginny; it was a really cool experience”. That her teammate, the two engage a lot in mixed team training apart from practicing together, bagged bronze was a “proud moment”. She will be cheering as well when Lucas takes up position in Tokyo, and in a lighter note promised to share the secrets of how Lucas outsmarted her in an online chat show to be hosted by her next week.

As for Friday’s competition, Ginny attributed the below-par show to competing on back-to-back days. “My hold was good today but not my firing and that reflected in the scores,” she said. It will be back to training for the trials but before they do so, Ginny will buy Lucas ice cream for losing a bet.

Saturday will witness the culmination of the intense action that has been on view since 29 April. The final between Austria’s Martin Strempfl and Serbia’s Milenko Sebic promises to soar to an altogether different level as the world will witness two hotshot marksmen tussle for the “TOPGUN” title.

  
Milenko Sebic of Serbia.

Milenko Sebic’s effort of driving 17 hours from Osijek, one of the biggest cities of Croatia, into Austria paid off as he beat reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher of the US 2-0 to advance to the final of “TOPGUN” on Thursday.

Ginny’s loss to the World No 28 Serbian ended America’s challenge in the 10-day online shooting competition being organised by indianshooting.com, and now she will meet teammate and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky in the bronze medal match on Friday. Milenko will clash with Austria’s Martin Strempfl to decide the gold on Saturday.

The long drive did take a toll on the tall Serb as he admitted later, but that did not deter Milenko from maintaining the high standards he is known for. Fresh from the silver at recent Grand Prix in Croatia, Milenko has carried on the momentum. He had a slow start in the opening ‘Race To 10’ match as Ginny took a 6-4 lead but he reeled off the remaining points to win 10-6. Interestingly, Milenko shot the quarterfinal from Croatia, the semifinal from Austria and hopes to shoot for gold from his base in Serbia.

The scoreline in the first match did not reflect the close contest as the two shooters began with identical 10.7s and again matched the feat in the fourth shot with a 10.5. There were perfect 10.9s by the duo as well but Ginny’s undoing was the sub-10 scores on three occasions.

Ginny’s struggles towards the close of the opener appeared to be over as she started the second match with a 10.8 to match Milenko and shot consecutive perfect scores on the 7th and 8th shots but then Milenko did not allow her a foothold by keeping the pressure on. He took the lead and ensured it stayed that way despite Ginny running him close with another perfect score to make it 6-7. Milenko replied with another 10.9 and the never shot lower than 10.5 in the next three shots to take the match 10-7.

Milenko admitted that the semifinal tested him to the hilt. “It was challenging and by the end I was tired,” said the ISSF World Cup Final silver medallist, who also had to cope with issues of connectivity apart from fatigue.

Ginny took the loss in her stride and complimented Milenko’s superlative show. “Milenko was great, and I love shooting next to him. I wanted to take it to the third match but that was not to be. Still, I did not make it easy for him,” she said. USA coach Dan Durben was a proud man as he watched his shooter overcome initial problems and post an excellent recovery and he complimented Ginny’s show.

Competing with training partner Lucas for bronze on Friday will be a chance to make up for this loss, and Ginny is already looking forward it. “It will be like any other match and may the best man/woman win,” she said.

  
Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria with his Steyr Air Rifle.

When two Olympic-bound shooters slug it out, fireworks can be the only outcome. That was the case as Austria’s Martin Strempfl, who shoots with a Steyr air rifle, beat Lucas Kozeniesky of USA 2-1 to enter the final of “TOPGUN” on Wednesday, but not before the online audience was treated to some top-notch action. Martin, the Olympic quota winner, awaits the shooter who will prevail in the second semifinal between reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher of USA and Serbia’s Milenko Sebic on Thursday.

At the start of the match, the odds were in favour of Lucas after the close win against Martin’s teammate Berhard Pickl. But it seemed the high-voltage match had taken a toll on the World No 3 as he failed to maintain the fluency he had displayed at the start.

It wasn’t as if Martin was below par in the first match, Lucas simply raised the bar to a level his opponent could not match. Even though Lucas wrapped it up easily at 10-3, there was ample proof of the pedigree of the two shooters. On three occasions, the two men matched each other with similar scores.

It was as if roles got reversed in the second match as Martin stepped up admirably with two 10.8s and a perfect 10.9. It was the experience of competing in online competitions since last year that came handy for the tall Austrian. The ‘Race to 10’ is demanding and Martin has come to realise the past few months that staying patient and sticking it out is the only way to bounce back in this extremely fast format. His father and coach, August, watching the proceedings and urging him to hang in there was another key factor in the revival.

The second match had a had a similar 10-3 scoreline but was in Martin’s favour and it was down to the decider. Martin was on a roll by now, and Lucas struggling with his stance and elbow positioning. Whatever the issue, it could not be fixed by Lucas.

With Lucas’ scores dipping and Martin shooting perfect scores twice among other high 10s, the decider was his at 10-5. For the Austrian camp, it was a revenge of sorts for the narrow loss in the last quarterfinal. In fact, Bernhard, who was present at the range from where Martin competed, was among the first to congratulate his teammate. “I’m proud of him, it was a good job.”

Happy to make the final, an elated Martin termed the match “a great fight” and attributed his win to “keeping at it despite the poor start”. As for Lucas, it was about paying the price for failing to rise to the occasion. “I made a few mistakes and lost some points and Martin capitalized on them. It was about pressure also and about how you cope with it and where you end up.”

  
Lucas Kozeniesky of USA.

World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky of USA completed the semifinal line-up at “TOPGUN” with a thrilling 2-0 (10-9, 10-9) win over Bernhard Pickl of Austria on Tuesday.

In the first semifinal on Wednesday, Lucas will take on Bernhard’s Austrian teammate and Olympic quota winner Martin Strempfl. The second semifinal of Thursday will pit Serbia’s Milenko Sebic against reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher.

In fact, Bernhard’s prophecy after the qualification on the opening day of this 10-day competition came true. He had predicted that his quarterfinal against Lucas would be a closely fought one. In the qualification, Lucas and Bernhard finished fourth and fifth respectively with the American finishing ahead of Bernhard by just 0.2 points at 627.9.

The match though when it started seemed to be going Bernhard’s way with the two-times European champion racing to a 5-1 lead and looked set to seal the first ‘Race To 10’ match by making it 8-4. The champion that he is, Lucas, fresh from his golden run at the recent ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, stepped up in style, and how. Shooting high 10s, he first levelled the score 8-8, 9-9 and then sealed the match with a 10.7.

In the second match too, Bernhard raced to a 3-0 lead only to watch Lucas fight his way back to equalize. There was little to choose between the men as they matched each other shot for shot and on quite a few occasions even matched each other’s score.

Lucas’ consistency could be gauged from the string of 10.4s during this period which did not allow Bernhard to take the encounter into the decider despite shooting a perfect 10.9 off the penultimate 42nd shot to level the score 9-9. Spurred by his rival’s act, Lucas also replied with a perfect 10.9 to seal the quarterfinal.

Lucas said the 10.9 from Bernhard inspired him to step up. “I told myself I had been shooting a lot of 10.4s and that wasn’t good enough.” On the match, he termed it “moment for moment and we kept each other on our toes. There were so many tied scores and that kept the energy levels high”.

Bernhard was left to rue about what could have been. “I shot too many 9s and lost out on the chance to take the easy points.” There were other issues too, like triggering and that will need some attention. But at the end, it was also about pressure, and he gave credit to the high-level of competition at indianshooting.com’s latest online competition. “The pressure in “TOPGUN” is like is seen in the German Bundesliga.”

There will be no let-up in the excitement on Wednesday when Lucas and Martin face-off in the first semifinal.

  
Ginny Thrasher of USA.

As expected, the third quarterfinal of “TOPGUN” between India’s Arjun Babuta and Ginny Thrasher of USA soared to greater heights compared to the earlier two quarterfinals, and 22-year-old Arjun’s sterling show early on even raised hopes of an Indian win on Monday. He won the first match comfortably 10-4 before Ginny, 24, showed the stuff Olympic champions are made of. Trailing 5-7 in the second, she pulled back from the brink to win the second 10-7 before wrapping up the decider 10-6 in an encounter that lasted 48 shots over a period of 90 minutes.

Arjun appeared to be the favourite at the start of the match, given his better show in the qualification of “TOPGUN” on the opening day where he finished third. Ginny, not in top shape due to a vaccine shot, got a sixth place. In better shape going into this crunch match, Ginny showed the qualities that got her the Women’s 10m Air Rifle gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It was pressure and the way the two shooters handled it determined the winner. The manner in which Ginny fought back towards the end of the match deflated Arjun to an extent that he could not recover save for the odd high 10s later on. The situation was familiar turf for Ginny and brought the best out of her. “I am excited to make it, Arjun was shooting great and the skill level was very high. As we went on, I got comfortable with the intensity level. I am bit of a pressure player and that has taught me to trust myself in such situations,” said Ginny.

This summed up the difference between the two shooters. As Arjun sensed the match slipping away, his body language changed and he later admitted to this. “I was in the zone but not everything was right physically, better luck next time,” he said. The change in Arjun’s approach was noticed by Ginny’s teammate and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky, also a coach, who was watching the proceedings. “There are physiological changes when the match stretches into the decider,” he said on Arjun changing his posture regularly.

Ranked World No 13, Arjun will surely get time to think about this missed opportunity after sailing through the opening match. But at the same time, he can be proud of matching an Olympic champion for a better part of this quarterfinal.

Tuesday’s last quarterfinal between Lucas and Austria’s Bernhard Pickl will be another match to look out for. In the qualification match, Lucas had finished fourth, just ahead of Bernhard, and the two have a formidable record in ISSF competitions as well. Arjun and Ginny have raised the bar, now it is up to Lucas and Bernhard to move it up further with another exciting performance.

  
Milenko Sebic of Serbia.

Milenko Sebic showed just how critical it is to stay in competition mode on day two of “TOPGUN” as he beat Mireia Rossello 2-0 to enter the semifinal on Sunday. As per the format, Milenko will next take on the winner of the third quarterfinal between India’s Arjun Babuta and reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher of USA.

Milenko, an Olympian himself from the 2016 Rio Games, came into the 2nd Quarterfinal of “TOPGUN” on the back of a silver at the Grand Prix of Croatia in Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions on Friday. It was his class as a World No 28 and being in the flow that saw the 36-year-old get past the 20-year-old Spaniard. Like Saturday’s quarterfinal between Martin Strempfl and Shiri Sternberg, this match too was a contest between experience and youth and panned out similarly.

Milenko began by taking the first point alright in the opening ‘Race To 10’ match but Mireia bounced back and almost kept pace till the 10th shot with the score reading 5-4 in favour of the Serb. It was as if the form book could be proved wrong when the two shooters matched each other with a perfect 10.9 on the 9th shot for a first in this competition.

It was here that Milenko stepped on the gas by consistently shooting high 10s. That rattled Mireia and it showed in her inconsistent scores, especially in the two 9.6. Despite the 10-5 loss, there was hope that the young Spaniard would bounce back in view of the surprising start to the first match.

But that was not to be as Mireia began poorly. The only semblance of resistance she put up was the perfect 10.9 and 10.8 towards the close which allowed her to reduce the margin of loss to 10-2. Like Shiri, Mireia’s bane was inexperience but the future bodes well for both the shooters after the brush with two world-class shooters in Martin and Milenko.

Admitting her fate, Mireia termed her rival as “a very good shooter”. But more importantly, she thanked the organisers, indianshooting.com, for this “online experience”. Given the times with the pandemic forcing another round of lockdown around the world, such events are critical. Milenko too acknowledged the importance of this outing while complimenting Mireia. “It wasn’t an easy match, and I was lucky,” he said.

With both the quarterfinals till now proving to be exciting, Monday’s match between Arjun and Ginny promises to touch greater heights. Ginny is a formidable opponent, but the 22-year-old Indian had finished much ahead of the American in the qualification on the opening day of “TOPGUN”. This would be a source of encouragement as would his recent strong show at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi in March.

  
Martin Strempfl of Austria.

Shiri Sternberg of Israel went down fighting to Austria’s Olympic quota winner, Martin Strempfl, but the young shooter can be proud of the compliment from the seasoned champion after the 1st quarterfinal of “TOPGUN” on Saturday.

“Congratulations to Shiri, she is 15 and much better than me when I was her age. She has a bright future,” said the 36-year-old two-times World Military Games champion after making the semifinals with a 2-0 verdict with his Steyr air rifle. As per the format, Martin will next take on the winner of the fourth quarterfinal between Lucas Kozeniesky of USA and Bernhard Pickl of Austria.

The match began in a way as if it would finish in no time with Martin in full cry after conceding the opening point to Shiri in the first ‘Race To 10’ match. From there on, Martin showed why he is termed the world’s best online shooter as he steamrolled the opposition by consistently shooting high 10s, even getting two perfect 10.9s towards the close of the first match to win 10-1.

Like the qualification match on Thursday, Shiri admitted to being nervous and under pressure, and at this stage it seemed the teenager would be unable to make a comeback. But Shiri showed why sport is unpredictable, and it isn’t over till the final shot is fired.

She again began by taking the lead and even stretched it to 3-0 with the help of some high 10s. She ran close Martin till the 10th shot of the second ‘Race to 10’ match, equalling the score at 4-4 and then surging ahead by a point. But for the bouts of inconsistency in both the matches, the quarterfinal could have been a much more closely fought affair, but then it isn’t easy to match up to a shooter of Martin’s ability.

The score at 5-5, Martin stepped up to race to a 10-5 win, and on the way shooting two consecutive perfect 10.9s and narrowly missing a hattrick with a 10.8. Martin attributed that near miss to “lack of focus” but that run ended Shiri’s hopes of a comeback despite shooting a couple of high 10s, including a perfect 10.9 at this juncture. She lost alright but came away richer from this experience of competing and stretching one of the world’s best shooters in what was expected to be a one-sided match. “It was a good experience,” she said later.

Going with the outcome of this match, Sunday’s encounter between Milenko Sebic and Mireia Rossello could also pan out on similar lines. The experienced Serbian is a ISSF World Cup Final silver medallist with a world ranking of 28, and had finished the qualification match just behind the leader Martin. At 20, Mireia is more experienced in online competitions than ISSF events and that could come into play on Sunday despite her finishing seventh in the rankings.

  

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Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria with his Steyr Air Rifle.

It isn’t for nothing that Martin Strempfl is termed the world’s most experienced online shooter. Austria’s Olympic quota winner for the Tokyo Games showed once again why he is the best in this format as he bettered the world record by 3.1 points on way to an amazing score of 636.6 with his Steyr air rifle to top the qualification match on the opening day of “TOPGUN” on Thursday.

India had reason to cheer as well with Arjun Babuta finishing third in the rankings with a score of 629.9.

Pitted against the top in the business in 10m Air Rifle, in the latest online competition organised by indianshooting.com, seemed to bring the best out of the 36-year-old Marin, a two-time World Military Games Champion. Shooting perfect 10.9s with unfailing regularity was the reason for Martin’s fluency as he shot 105.6, 107, 105.4, 105.7, 105.8, 107.1 in the six series.

Trailing Martin was Serbia’s vastly experienced Milenko Sebic at 631.7. He was followed by Arjun at 629.9, Lucas Kozeniesky of USA at 627.9, Austria’s Bernhard Pickl at 627.7, Ginny Thrasher of USA at 623.1, Mireia Rosello of Spain at 621.2 and the youngest competitor at 15, Shiri Sternberg of Israel at 619.7.

Voted the best Online Shooter of the Year in December last, Martin was thrilled by the show on Thursday and termed it “unbelievable”. As per the rankings, he will be up next against 8th placed Shiri on Saturday. On paper, it appears to be an easy match for him, but Shiri sent out a warning, “It will be fun to compete against him”. With no expectations, the young Israeli, experienced in this format, could run Martin close.

While Martin was always expected to be a strong candidate, the focus was on Ginny as the reigning Olympic champion. The 24-year-old was below par like her World No 3 teammate Lucas and Ginny attributed it to not being in “top physical shape”. “We took our second vaccine shot a few days ago so it was bit of a struggle,” she said after the match.

Ginny will be up against India’s hope Arjun and that promises to be a pulsating contest with the 22-year-old World No 13 expected to test the American shooting star in the third quarterfinal on 3rd May.

In other matches, Milenko will be pitted against Mireia on Sunday, and Lucas will take on Bernhard in a contest between the 4th and 5th ranked shooters on 4th May. Though not very satisfied with his show on the day, Lucas said he was “looking forward to the next match”. For Bernhard, it was the satisfaction of getting back to competition after a while and agreed that it will be a tough match against the ISSF World Cup champion Lucas.

After a day’s break, matches will resume on Saturday and will be played according to the ‘Race to 10’ format, quite like the one followed in the Online Shooting League (OSL) last year. Under this format, the shooter with the higher shot will win a point and the one who reaches 10 points first will be declared the winner. It will be a best of three matches so a shooter who wins two “Race to 10” matches, e.g., 2-0 or 2-1 will be declared the day’s winner and will proceed ahead in the 10-day event.

As always, all the matches will be streamed live on the Facebook page and YouTube channel of indianshooting.com from 7:00 PM – India Time.

  
Shooters who competed at TOPGUN.

Starting Thursday, 29 April, it will be a high-octane clash of man and machine for the next 10 days at “TOPGUN”, indianshooting.com’s latest online competition. With various parts of the world again in lockdown mode because of a second wave of the pandemic, and tournaments drying up as a result, the event comes as a respite with the Tokyo Olympics less than three months away, should the Games take place.

Understandably, elite shooters have lapped up this chance to stay sharp in competition mode. There could not have been a better field in this eight-man competition with Olympic gold medallists, World Cup winners and World Cup Final medallists. Care has been taken to ensure there a balance is struck between youth and experience.

On one hand, there is Ginny Thrasher of USA, who at 24 is the reigning Olympic champion in Women’s 10m Air Rifle, which makes her one of the overwhelming favourites in this invite-only contest. On the other, Shiri Sternberg of Israel is the youngest in the field at 15 but is already an accomplished hand in online shooting competitions like the International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC) and the Online Shooting League (OSL) last year.

Given the quality of the field, every shooter can win on a given day, and that applies to Ginny’s teammate Lucas Kozeniesky, Serbia’s ISSF World Cup Final silver medallist Milenko Sebic, and the young Mireia Rosello of Spain, again an experienced online shooter despite being just 20.

When it comes to rifle shooting, the Austrian duo of Martin Strempfl and Bernhard Pickl are heavyweights with a proven track record over the years. Martin, an Olympic quota winner for his country, and Bernhard were in top form in OSL and IOSC, and Martin was also voted the Online Shooter of the Year in December last.

From an Indian perspective, Arjun Babuta will keen to make a mark after a strong show in last month’s ISSF World Cup in Delhi. Ranked World No. 13, Arjun has impressive credentials at 22 and is a name for the future. Arjun has three bronze in ISSF Junior World Cups and a junior silver in the Asian Championships

As per the competition schedule, there will be a 60 shots qualification match on the opening day which will decide who shoots against who in the four quarterfinals. The four winners of the quarterfinals will proceed to the semifinals and then the two winners of the semifinals will battle it out in the finals for the “TOPGUN” title, one day after the third place match between the shooters who lose in the semifinals.

Each day will witness two shooters in a ‘Race to 10’ face-off, quite like the format followed in the OSL last year. Under this format, the shooter with the higher shot will win a point and the one who reaches 10 points first will be declared the winner. It will be a best of three matches so a shooter who wins two “Race to 10” matches, e.g., 2-0 or 2-1 will be declared the day’s winner.

TOPGUN – QUALIFICATION

Posted by indianshooting.com on Tuesday, 27 April 2021

  
Steyr shooters Martin Strempfl & Bernhard Pickl of Austria.

Watch out, the best in the business will be in action at “TOPGUN” armed with the one of the best air rifles on offer.

Martin Strempfl and Bernhard Pickl evoke awe among rifle shooters anyway, but what makes them more potent is their Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle. This was proved during indianshooting.com’s earlier online offerings last year when Martin and Bernhard combined well for the Austrian Rocks and led them to the Online Shooting League title after beating the fancied Italian Rocks in the final.

Martin, an Olympic quota winner for his country, and Bernhard were again in the thick of action and stamped their class with their Steyr rifles across different editions of the six International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC).

Steyr Challenge E

A proud Martin fondly recollects his association with the iconic brand, which started production in the middle of the 19th century. “I got a Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle four years ago on the recommendation of teammates Alexander S and Bernhard. The appointment at Steyr was quick and I took it away after a few adjustments. When I got home, I was thrilled as I never had a rifle that was so calm while firing and the trigger was perfect. The ammunition showed I could use almost any ammunition, but the biggest advantage is I haven’t had to readjust the trigger or anything else. Of course, you can do well with other rifles, but I am convinced that this is the right one for me and responsible for my many successes.”

“Enjoying the world’s fame in the domain of weapons’ technology”, Steyr’s latest offering is unique and “a major challenger to the best air rifles in the world. The rifle can be made to fit the shooter perfectly. It represents the new generation of the STEYR LG 110. The electronic trigger was added to the LP10 with an impressive World Cup victory on its first appearance, all the knowledge gained from this is now featured in the Steyr Challenge E to make it the new shooting star”.

At “TOPGUN”, Steyr will be pitted against other manufacturers like Walther, Feinwerkbau and Anschutz, but there is an air of confidence in the Austrian camp that they will once again come out with flying colours in the 10-day event, which gets underway from 29 April.

  

  
Mireia Rosello (Spain) and Shiri Sternberg (Israel) will be seen in action at the IOSC.

With each passing day, the excitement is mounting as “TOPGUN” draws closer. Adding to the anticipation is the unique mix of experience and youth that will be on view in indianshooting.com’s latest online competition scheduled from 29 April to 8 May.

There is no dearth of experience in this invite-only event with some of the best shooters of theworld including Olympic and World Cup champions in the starting lineup. In their midst, the presence of Spain’s Mireia Rosello and Israel’s Shiri Sternberg comes like a breath of fresh air. The two might not yet have an equally impressive shooting profile, but are hugely experienced in a format that is relevant in these times of online contests.

Both Mireia, 20, and Shiri, 15, played an active part in the Online Shooting League (OSL) in July last as part of the Spanish Chanos and Israel Maabarot respectively and the subsequent editions of the International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC). In fact, Shiri coached by the legendary shooter Guy Starik has an online ranking of No. 12. With a personal best of 627.3, Shiri, who is also a keen skier, has turned out in two International Championships, three Online Championships and one National Championship and finished as a silver medallist.

Mireia has just about started to participate in ISSF events and in her maiden foray as a junior, she finished 47th at the 2020 European Championships at Wroclaw. Her score in Women’s 10m Air Rifle read 615.6. Mireia though has a personal best score of 625.8 and is coached by the renowned Luciano Porta aka Chano, who also mentored the Spanish Chanos in OSL. Mireia also has three appearances in other international championships and four national championships with a national ranking of 4.

For both Mireia and Shiri, “TOPGUN” is part of the learning curve and competing with the best in the business will surely leave them richer in experience. And who knows, along the way they could create a ripple or two by punching above their weight and defeating fancied rivals.

  
Milenko Sebic of Serbia.

“TOPGUN” will be a meeting point of innovation and experience when the 10-day online event, involving eight world-class shooters, starts on 29 April.

The response has been awesome, and this event will feature the cream of rifle shooters from across the globe. The best in their trade, no inch will be yielded as the eight athletes attempt to outgun the other for the top prize.

The seasoned Milenko Sebic perfectly fits the tag of a champion shooter. The towering Serbian has a world ranking of 28, a personal best score of 632.5 and the rare distinction of being an ISSF World Cup Final medallist. There is more, Milenko is also a keen skier and dabbles in music as well.

The 36-year-old opened his medals tally in ISSF events with silver at the 2016 ISSF World Cup in Munich. In the final of the Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions, he shot 460.1 (1183). It was the stepping-stone to a bigger achievement. Three years later, he won claimed the silver at the ISSF World Cup Final in Putian with a score of 461.5 (1165).

In the interim, Milenko also featured at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The show in his pet event was better, a 11th place in 50m Rifle Three Positions, and 33rd spot in 10m Air Rifle. Milenko has also competed in 2 ISSF World Championships and 20 ISSF World Cups in 10m Air Rifle.

  
Bernhard Pickl of Austria.

Word about “TOPGUN”, indianshooting.com’s latest online competition, is spreading fast. Bernhard Pickl, one of the two shooters to compete from Austria other than Martin Strempfl, shared a creative prepared on him by the organisers with the message “Eight athletes around the world competing in one league. Starts on 29 April”.

With the world slowing down again due to the pandemic, Bernhard’s post on this latest online initiative has evoked a strong response with Martin among those liking the post. Like Martin, an Olympic quota winner, Bernhard packs a punch as well. Hailing from a family of top-level shooters, he took part in his first club championship at age 4 and became a district champion at 6.

There has been no stopping him since then as Bernhard, now with the Austrian armed forces, has traversed from one milestone. The resume makes for impressive reading — 2 ISSF World Championships and 22 ISSF World Cups. Of the 10 European Championships he has featured in, he finished top of the podium in two editions — Baku 2017 with a score of 578 and Bologna 2019 with a score of 591 in 300m Standard Rifle.

The European Championships have been Bernhard’s sphere of influence, given his medals tally. Apart from the two gold, he has a silver in 300m Rifle Three Positions from the 2019 edition in Bologna with a score of 1183 and bronze at Osijek in 2013 with a score of 583 in 300m Standard Rifle. It doesn’t end here, Bernhard has a silver in a ISSF World Cup as well — Guadalajara 2018 with a score of 452.0 (1173).

Currently World No 61, the 30-year-old soccer fan has an impressive record in ISSF World Championships too. The closest he came to a medal was at the 2014 edition in Granada, where he finished 6th with a score of 583. At Changwon in 2018, an 11th place awaited him with a score of 1158.

Add to this, the experience gained over the past year in online competitions, and we have a competitor in Bernhard who is raring to have a go at his rivals at “TOPGUN” from next week. It is a world-class field that boasts of the likes of Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher and her World No 3 US teammate Lucas Kazeniesky. If that is not incentive for Bernhard to give his best in the 11-day event, the presence of teammate Martin will surely fire him up.

  
Olympic-bound Martin Strempfl of Austria with his Steyr Air Rifle.

There is something about India and competitions here that inspires Martin Strempfl to give his best with a Steyr rifle and the Capapie kit. And next week’s “TOPGUN” from 29 April to 8 May, could well see the Austrian scale another peak. This is not mere conjecture but backed by solid statistics. With over two decades of experience of competing at the highest level, Martin blazed to glory at indianshooting.com’s earlier online initiatives last year, the International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC) and Online Shooting League (OSL). He earned the tag of the most experienced online shooter and was voted the Online Shooter of the Year in 10m Air Rifle.

Same is the case with ISSF competitions. Set to turn out for his country at Tokyo Olympic Games in July as a quota winner, Martin, 36, finished fourth for his best show ever on the international stage at the 2019 ISSF World Cup in New Delhi with a score of 205.6 (629.2).

A World Military champion, Martin termed his “fighting spirit” as the key to success. Terming the online events last year as the “perfect training opportunity”, Martin will hold a distinct advantage when he takes aim in a bid to outgun a world-class field of seven other shooters. From July till December last, Martin turned up for various online competitions across platforms, and that will come handy. In terms of experience too few can match the veteran of 1 ISSF World Championship, 13 ISSF World Cups and 6 European Championships.

Ranked No 51 in the world, Martin has a personal best score of 633.7 (0.2 point more than the world record) which he had registered in the 4th IOSC held last year, and “TOPGUN” is another opportunity to scale another peak given his affinity for India. But there is a rider as well. On quite a few occasions last year, Martin was upstaged by young Indian shooters during the online competitions, and the Austrian acknowledged the country’s talent base. “It is impressive to see what great talents and professional commitment India has. I am convinced that we will hear a lot more from these young shooters,” he had told the Olympic Channel in an earlier interview.

This time, Martin will up against, among others, upcoming Indian shooter Arjun Babuta, 22, who impressed at the ISSF New Delhi World Cup last month. But knowing Martin, whose interests are as diverse as falconry, sport and cooking, he will be up for the challenge as competing with the best in the business brings his “fighting spirit” to the fore.

  
Arjun Babuta of India.

Arjun Babuta is a talent waiting to explode on to the big stage, and who knows “TOPGUN” could well be the platform that announces the arrival of the World No 13. A lot will be riding on the 22-year-old’s young shoulders as India’s lone representative at “TOPGUN” which is scheduled from 29 April to 9 May.

Hailing from Punjab’s Jalalabad district, Arjun was quick to show that he was a special talent. Now based out of Chandigarh to further his career, he has only got better under the national coach and Olympian Deepali Deshpande.

Arjun’s tryst with medals began as early as 2016 when he was still in the teenage years. A bronze at the ISSF Junior World Cup in 10m Air Rifle at Gabala with a score of 183.6 (620.3) set him firmly on the quest for excellence. Wako City was the next landmark as he got one better by claiming silver at the 2017 Asian Championships with a score of 249.7 (623.8).

A year later, Sydney got a taste of this sprightly athlete’s prowess as he got an individual bronze at the Junior ISSF World Cup and was a part of the team that got bronze in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle event. His scores read 226.3 with 623.9 in the qualification.

An ardent music buff, Arjun’s burning desire to get better saw him stepping up his performance on bigger stages. A fifth spot at the 2017 ISSF World Championships in Suhl with a score of 184.2 (624.4) set the tone for similar shows at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Changwon, where he finished 6th with a score of 165.2 (627.0).

With a personal best of 632.4, Arjun’s brightest moment came at last month’s ISSF World Cup at New Delhi. He made the 10m Air Rifle final and eventually finished 5th with a score of 185.5 (631.8).

Regular exposure to top-level competition has prepared Arjun for the big stage. “TOPGUN” will be one more opportunity to show his skill against some of the best in the business. He will be up against the likes of Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher and her US teammate Lucas Kozeniesky, experienced Milenko Sebic of Serbia, Austria’s Olympic quota winner Martin Strempfl and his equally illustrious teammate Bernhard Pickl. It’s now up to Arjun to make the most of this chance amid a raging pandemic and hold aloft the Tricolour.

  
Lucas Kozeniesky of USA.

If one were to go with the form book, Olympian and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky is certainly one of the favourites to walk away with top honours at “TOPGUN” which involves the world’s best rifle shooters and is scheduled from 29 April to May 8.

The 25-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, has literally been on a roll the past few months and makes him a potential medal prospect at the July Tokyo Games. At the Olympic trials in February last year, Lucas matched the World Record and set a new United States Record with a score of 633.5 to secure his Olympic spot and became the first Tokyo Olympic qualified athlete for USA Shooting.

Lucas, who had featured in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, emerged from lockdown in November last to win the individual and team gold in 10m Air Rifle at the Hungarian Open. The men’s final in Budapest was a nail-biting affair as Lucas and World No 1 Istvan Peni of Hungary tied twice after the 20th and 22nd shots and were separated by a mere 0.1 point in favour of Istvan before the last shot but it was Lucas who bagged the gold with a margin of 0.4 points after scoring 250.8. He then combined with compatriot Ginny Thrasher to clinch the team gold.

Lucas’ fluent form continued into the New Year as well. Not only did he finish top in his pet event at the recently held ISSF World Cup in New Delhi with a score of 249.8 (628.8), he played a critical part in USA taking home the team gold as well with a score of 1880.8 (Semifinal 625.1; Final 16). The India connection seems to work for Lucas as USA won the team bronze in Mixed 10m Air Rifle with a score of 633.5 (Semifinal 418.8; Final 17)

Lucas could not have asked for a better build-up to “TOPGUN”, as last week he registered an amazing score of 634.7 which is 1.2 point more than the World Record in Men’s 10m Air Rifle at the US National Shooting Championship.

His career graph has been all about getting better with time. Lucas was in the news in 2018 as he got silver at the Continental American Championships in Guadalajara with a score of 246.7 (619.5) and finished third best in 50m Rifle Prone with a score of 618.9.

Going with his motto, “patience is the key to this sport”, Lucas shot his career’s first gold at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima with a score of 248.2 (622. 1). Since then, it has been scaling one peak to another for Lucas, whose quest for excellence has led him to share his experience and support young athletes.

  
Ginny Thrasher of USA.

Ginny Thrasher of USA is probably the brightest shooting star to grace “TOPGUN”, indianshooting.com’s latest online competition. Starting today, we profile the eight shooters set to fight it out from 29 April to 8 May.

We begin with the 24-year-old, Ginny, gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

August 6, 2016 is a red-letter day in Ginny’s decade long shooting career. Not only did Ginny pick up the first gold on offer at the Rio Games, the 10m air rifle medal was also the first for the US in the sport.

The feat at the crowded Olympic Shooting Centre of Deodoro came under intense pressure as Ginny, then ranked World No 23, held nerve to overcome two fancied names — Olympic champions Du Li and Yi Siling of China. She could well have landed a second medal but fell short of making the final of 50m Rifle Three Positions by one point, finishing with a score of 581.

The show in Rio was a vindication of faith for Ginny as well. Before the 2016 Olympics, she wanted to be a figure skater, but was told by her coaches that she was no good. By the time she was into high school, realization dawned that she had no future in the sport.

A chance hunting trip with her grandfather was lifechanging and she switched to rifle shooting in 2011. From thereon, there was no looking back as Ginny only got better. She went on to create more than 20 USA Shooting and National Rifle Association records, was named the top performer at the 2015 NCAA Championships after leading West Virginia University to the team title and won individual titles in small bore and air rifle.

“I was trying to shoot the best I could. For my first Olympic experience and coming away with a medal is a phenomenal thing. For me, to come away with the very first gold medal in Rio 2016, for the United States of America, at 19 years old, is incredible!

“I think I knew it was realistic to make the finals, but I was not focused on that. I was focusing on shooting the best that I could, and that got me there,” she said after the Rio gold. Ginny scored 208 points, setting a new final Olympic record after marking 416.3 points during qualification.

Her good form continued at the 2016 ISSF World Cup Final in Bologna where she had a bronze in her pet event. Closer to time, Ginny added another bronze to her name at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima in 50m Rifle Three Positions.

The hallmark of a champion is the ability to battle the odds, and Ginny showed she had the appetite for challenges. Emerging from a prolonged lockdown last November due to the pandemic, Ginny won the individual and team gold for USA at the Hungarian Open.

Ranked World No 56, She comes into “TOPGUN” in good form, especially after another strong show at last month’s ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

  
Lucas Kozeniesky, Ginny Thrasher & Martin Strempfl.

The action rarely stops at indianshooting.com. In its latest online initiative scheduled from 29 April to 8 May, eight world-class shooters comprising the cream of the sport will vie for top honors in a competition titled “TOPGUN”.

The start list for this invite-only event, makes for an impressive reading as literally the who is who of rifle shooters will be seen in action.

Leading the way is 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist Ginny Thrasher of USA. Her teammate and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky has also confirmed his participation, so have Austria’s celebrated duo of Martin Strempfl and Bernhard Pickl, Serbia’s Milenko Sebic, Shiri Sternberg of Israel and Spain’s Mireia Rosello.

There will be Indian interest as well with World No 13 Arjun Babuta completing the star line-up. The 22-year-old from Chandigarh has won three ISSF Junior World Cup bronze medals.

The 23-year-old Ginny made news in November last when she emerged from lockdown and won gold at the Hungarian Open despite seeing no action for almost nine months. The gold went a long way in her in her preparations and “TOPGUN” will be another opportunity to stay sharp.

Lucas, 25, has been in red-hot form of late, bagging gold at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi last month. The gold was his third international competitions. He had also teamed up with Thrasher to win the team gold for US at the Hungarian Open.

The Austrian duo of Martin and Bernhard were prolific in the Online Shooting League (OSL) and International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC) to add to their already impressive resumes. Martin is an Olympic quota winner for his country while Bernhard bagged gold at the 2019 European Championships in Bologna in Men’s 300m Standard Rifle.

Serbia’s Milenko, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is another experienced shooter with a silver at the 2019 ISSF World Cup Final in Putian in Men’s 50m Three Positions.

Shiri was an integral part of the Israeli team that took part in OSL, quite like Spain’s Mireia.

As per the competition schedule, there will be a 60 shots qualification match on the opening day which will decide who shoots against who in the four quarterfinals. The four shooters who win in their quarterfinal matches will proceed to the semifinals and then the two winners of the semifinals will fight it out for the “TOPGUN” title in the finals one day after the third place match between the two losers of the semifinals.

Each day will witness two shooters in a ‘Race to 10’ face off, quite like the format followed in the OSL last year. Under this format, the shooter with the higher shot will win a point and the one who reaches 10 points first will be declared the winner. It will be a best of three matches so a shooter who wins two “Race to 10” matches, e.g., 2-0 or 2-1 will be declared the day’s winner.

Matches on all days will be streamed live on the Facebook and YouTube pages of indianshooting.com from 7:00 PM – India Time.

  
Gagan Narang with Annu Raj Singh

Keeping in view of the rise in Covid-19 cases, Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Annu Raj Singh, who are set to tie the knot on 21st April, have decided to call off their wedding celebrations.

Gagan and Annu had planned an elaborate wedding ceremony with all Covid-19 precautions in place but with a surge in coronavirus, pandemic situation not conducive for a social gathering, the two shooters have decided to have the wedding ceremony in presence of immediate family members only.

“We had planned and envisioned a different beginning to our new life. However, current pandemic circumstances call for different measures.”

“Keeping in view ours and everyone else’s safety and well being, after a careful consideration, we have decided to call off the wedding ceremony events scheduled in Hyderabad next week.’’

Gagan said health safety was their top priority. “It would have given us immense joy to have you all with us on our special day and seek your blessings in person, but health and safety of our loved ones is our highest priority. In present times, we acknowledge it may not be possible to do so. With pandemic still a growing concern, we have decided to opt for an intimate ceremony.

“Having said that, myself and Annu are sure that you would be present in thought and spirit with us as we take our wedding vows in the presence of only immediate family members.’’

  
Diana Igaly

The shooting fraternity is in a state of shock following the demise of Olympic gold medallist Diana Igaly of Hungary due to Covid-19.

The 56-year-old Igaly, who won gold in women’s skeet at the 2004 Athens Olympics, had been hospitalized on Tuesday and lost the battle against the deadly Coronavirus on Friday.

Igaly had also won bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was a four times ISSF World Champion “She was a legend of the sport,” the statement added.

Diana Igaly

Igaly was born into a shooting family. Her father was left off the Olympic shooting team in 1976 for political reasons, when Hungary was under Communist rule. He subsequently became her coach and developed a shooting style that made Igaly one of the fastest in the field.

Igaly competed in international events teaming up with her mother – who took over her training after her father’s death in 1997 – and won her first major international title at age 25.

She participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when women competed in a single field against men, then took home bronze from the first Olympics where men and women competed separately, the 2000 Sydney Games.

In Athens, Igaly missed just three of 100 shots, hitting all 25 of her targets in the semifinal and final rounds, en route to becoming the first Hungarian woman to win an Olympic gold in shooting.

  
Diana Igaly

The shooting fraternity is in a state of shock following the demise of Olympic gold medallist Diana Igaly of Hungary on Friday due to Covid-19.

The 56-year-old Igaly, who won gold in women’s skeet at the 2004 Athens Olympics, had been hospitalized on Tuesday.

Igaly won bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was a four times ISSF World Champion “She was a legend of the sport,” the statement added.

Igaly was born into a shooting family. Her father was left off the Olympic shooting team in 1976 for political reasons, when Hungary was under Communist rule. He subsequently became her coach and developed a shooting style that made Igaly one of the fastest in the field.

Igaly competed in international events teaming up with her mother – who took over her training after her father’s death in 1997 – and won her first major international title at age 25.

She participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when women competed in a single field against men, then took home bronze from the first Olympics where men and women competed separately, the 2000 Sydney Games.

In Athens, Igaly missed just three of 100 shots, hitting all 25 of her targets in the semifinal and final rounds, en route to becoming the first Hungarian woman to win an Olympic gold in shooting.

  
Gagan Narang with Annu Raj Singh

Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang is set to tie the knot with Commonwealth Games gold medallist Annu Raj Singh in Hyderabad on 21st April.

A day before that there will be a “Sangeet” ceremony to kick off the wedding celebrations.

Both Gagan and Annu have been friends since 2002 and have represented the country at various international meets, including the Olympics.

Gagan and Annu were both part of the Indian team at the 2012 London Olympics where Gagan had won the bronze in Men’s 10m Air Rifle while Annu had finished 23rd in Women’s 10m Air Pistol.

Annu, who is currently ranked 63 in the world, had won silver at the ISSF World Cup at Fort Benning, USA in 2011.

  
Mairaj Ahmad Khan

The Sports Ministry on Tuesday reiterated its support to the Tokyo Olympic-bound athletes, saying that it has all along “realised Indias dream at the Olympic Games through athlete-centric development”.

The ministry, through its Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) for elite athletes, has spent upwards of Rs five crore on the 15 Olympic-bound shooters.

A sum of Rs 1.02 crore has been spent on shotgun stalwart Mairaj Ahmad Khan, who was a part of the scheme from September 2017 to August 2018 and was re-inducted in December 2019 after he booked an Olympic quota place in skeet.

A sum of Rs 88.1 lakh has gone into customised support for Mairaj, who will be competing in his second Olympics, while the rest of the money has been given as ‘out-of-pocket allowance’ (OPA).

Another top shotgun shooter, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, who holds the skeet final world record of 60/60 and had bagged gold at the 2018 Asian Shotgun Championship, has received a total grant of Rs 73.11 lakh under the TOPS scheme since 2017. Of this amount, Rs 53 lakh have been spent on his training in Italy and Cyprus and procurement of equipment and the rest given as OPA.

TOPS is a sports ministry programme, which attempts to provide assistance to the country’s top athletes and aims to add a premium to the preparations of these athletes so that they can win Olympic medals.

Names of shooters with TOPS grants in brackets: Abhishek Verma (Rifle, Rs 16.23 lakh); Saurabh Chaudhary (Pistol Rs 32.97 lakh); Yashaswini Deswal (Pistol, Rs 20.39 lakh); Manu Bhaker (Pistol, RS 29.93 lakh); Rahi Sarnobat (Pistol, Rs 27.73 lakh); Divyansh Singh Panwar (Rifle, Rs 20.35 lakh); Deepak Kumar (Rifle, Rs 35.58 lakh); Apurvi Chandela (Rifle, Rs 20 lakh); Elavenil Valarivan (Rilfe, Rs 14 lakh); Anjum Moudgil (Rifle, Rs 37.89 lakh); Sanjeev Rajput (Rifle, Rs 38.28 lakh); Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (Rifle, Rs 8 lakh); Mairaj Ahmad Khan (Shotgun, Rs 1.02 crore); Angad Vir Singh Bajwa (Shotgun, Rs 73.11 lakh); Tejaswini Sawant (Rifle, Rs 21.97 lakh).

  
Gagan Narang

Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang is set to tie the knot with Commonwealth Games gold medallist Annu Raj Singh in Hyderabad later this month.

Both Gagan and Annu are 37-year-old and have been friends since 2002. They have represented the country at various international meets, including the Olympics.

Annu Raj Singh

Gagan and Annu were both part of the Indian team at the 2012 London Olympics where Gagan had won the bronze in Men’s 10m Air Rifle while Annu had finished 23rd in Women’s 10m Air Pistol.

Annu, who is currently ranked 63 in the world, had won silver at the ISSF World Cup at Fort Benning, USA in 2011.

  
Sanjeev Rajput - Photo: indianshooting.com

World No 1 Elavenil Valarivan was on Sunday included in a 15-member Indian shooting contingent for the Tokyo Olympics where the highly accomplished Manu Bhaker will represent the country in three events.

However, Olympic quota winner Chinki Yadav could not make the main team despite winning a gold medal in the recently concluded ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

It was decided by the national selection committee that the quota won by Chinki in the women’s 25m pistol would be swapped in favour of Anjum Moudgil, to enable her to compete in the Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions as India’s second entry alongside former world champion Tejaswini Sawant.

Elavenil is the only member in the Olympic team to have not secured a quota for herself but performed consistently in the Olympic qualifying cycle, forcing the NRAI to include her in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Team in place of Moudgil.

To deal with the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NRAI named two reserves in each discipline where its shooters have won quota places.

In the individual events, Bhaker will be fielded in both the Women’s 25m Pistol alongside the experienced Rahi Sarnobat and in her pet 10m Air Pistol with Yashaswini Singh Deswal.

Besides, the 19-year-old Bhaker will partner with Saurabh Chaudhary in the Mixed 10m Air Pistol.

The shooters were selected based on their performance in the NRAI’s Olympic qualifying cycle, starting with the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games which was followed by World Championship (both in 2018), all four World Cups and Asian Championships in 2019 and selection trials stage 1 and 2 earlier this year.

As per the NRAI’s stated policy, an average of five best scores in an international competition, starting with the Jakarta Asiad, was taken into account while picking the final team.

Commenting on the team, NRAI president Raninder Singh said, “The main focus was to select the strongest squad for the Games and to ensure that the most consistent performers in each event, during the course of this entire Olympic cycle, do not miss out.”

He added, “The selection I believe has been done purely on merit and in keeping with the provisions of NRAI’s Olympic selection ranking policy. ”

“This merit based approach has enabled us to field a third specialist shooter in the women’s 10m air rifle events as well as go with the two best shooters in women’s 25M pistol event.”

Bhaker’s overall performances in the women’s 25m pistol had been better and the committee felt it would take advantage of the double-start rule and compete in both the women’s 10m air pistol and the 25m pistol individual events.

Moudgil would also compete in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle Team alongside Deepak Kumar as India’s second team in the event. Elavenil and Divyansh Singh Panwar would form the first pairing.

Apurvi Chandela, therefore, will compete only in the women’s 10m air rifle individual competition.

Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela were the first India shooters to earn quotas for the Tokyo Games at the 2018 World Championships. Chandela and Elavenil will participate in the women’s 10m air rifle event.

Both Chinki and Anjum were kept as reserves in 25m Pistol and 50m Rifle Three Positions events respectively.

The quota belongs to the country and not the shooter who secures it.

The Indian shooting team for Tokyo 2020

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: Divyansh Singh Panwar, Deepak Kumar. Reserves: Sandeep Singh, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar.

Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: Sanjeev Rajput, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar. Reserves: Swapnil Kusale, Chain Singh.

Men’s 10m Air Pistol: Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma. Reserves: Shahzar Rizvi, Om Prakash Mitharval.

Men’s Skeet: Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan. Reserves: Gurjoat Singh Khangura, Sheeraz Sheikh.

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: Apurvi Chandela, Elavenil Valarivan. Reserves: Anjum Moudgil, Shreya Agrawal.

Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant. Reserves: Sunidhi Chauhan, Gaayathri Nithyanandam.

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal. Reserves: P Shri Nivetha, Shweta Singh.

Women’s 25m Pistol: Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker. Reserves: Chinki Yadav, Abhidnya Patil.

Mixed 10m Air Rifle: Divyansh Singh Panwar, Elavenil Valarivan; Deepak Kumar, Anjum Moudgil.

Mixed 10m Air Pistol: Saurabh Chaudhary, Manu Bhaker; Abhishek Verma, Yashaswini Singh Deswal.

  
Sanjay Chakravarty with Suma Shirur, Gagan Narang, Deepali Deshpande & Anjali Bhagwat.

The country’s shooting fraternity is in a state of shock following the demise of legendary coach Sanjay Chakravarty’s in Mumbai late on Saturday. He was 79. Despite failing health, he carried on with his mission of giving direction to young shooters before losing the fight to Covid-19. Chakravarty’s zest for life was clear as earlier he had won a pitched battle against cancer.

A Dronacharya awardee in 2017, Charkavarty coached and mentored stalwarts like London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang, Anjali Bhagwat, Suma Shirur, Anuja Tere and Deepali Deshpande.

Born in Uttar Pradesh, Chakravarty moved to Mumbai and later joined the Navy where he was attracted to shooting. That started a love affair that lasted more than four decades, so much so that he did not marry lest his focus got divided. “Shooting was everything for me,” said the man who helped built Mumbai’s first 10metre shooting range outside the Maharashtra Rifle Association facility at the Ruia College.

Sanjay Chakravarty receiving the Dronacharya Award from President Ram Nath Kovind in 2017.

Chakravarty leaves behind a legacy not just in coaching but in articles on the importance of visualisation in the sport, to remain tough mentally and focused on understanding and balancing the body given that the tiniest of movements can spoil a shot.

After he set the ball rolling in the 80s, shooters mushroomed from different parts of Maharashtra. The state, as well as Mumbai, now boasts of good infrastructure while Chakravarty’s trainees have now turned to coaching and run academies.

Tributes poured in as his students looked back with moist eyes. At the forefront were those who owe their existence to the man who was known as “Sir”.

“I owe everything to Sanjay sir. I took up the sport and could continue for more than a decade only because of him. He didn’t only teach us to shoot, but also showed us how to be a good human being and a good sportsperson,” Bhagwat, one of Chakravarty’s earliest students, said during a virtual condolence meeting.

Narang remembered Chakravarty as someone who may not have been abreast of the latest technical updates in the sport but “always knew what we were capable of and made us realise that”. Narang’s bronze at the 2012 London Olympics vindicates the faith Chakravarty was able to instil in his students.

Shirur tweeted, “The grief of losing a real Dronacharya in Sanjay Sir. Our modern day Dronacharya who created not just one but many Arjunas (including me) and never asked for a Guru Dakshina! Indian Shooting has lost one of its pioneering doyens.”

  
Ganemat Sekhon

When Amrinder Sekhon took his daughter Ganemat to the shooting range for the first time in 2016, the 14-year-old liked what she saw right away. Sport always fascinated her and given the not-so happy association with academics, the “easy-going environment” in and around the shotgun area drew her into making a decision. The clincher was the sight of orange clay targets flying from left to right and the thrill of changing stations between shots.

The quick learner that Ganemat has been, the latest proof lies in her superlative show in the recently concluded ISSF World Cup in New Delhi with a team gold, silver and historic individual bronze, a choice was made within no time. Skeet it was but not before she had tried her hand at trap and double trap. “Unlike trap, where no one talks or looks at each other, the environment in skeet is easy going,” says Ganemat.

Embracing an expensive sport is a drain but Amrinder never let this dawn on his daughter. From the right equipment to ammunition, whenever the need arose Ganemat got what she required. “Initially, I was young to understand, but as time went by, I came to appreciate the efforts.”

Her biggest acknowledgement was the spark early on. Within a year of taking to the sport, Ganemat made the Indian junior team. A lot of lessons were learnt while criss-crossing continents, and among the main takeaways apart from strong results was mother Puneet stepping up even more as a bedrock of support. Even now when Ganemat is on tour, she makes it a point to call home for a chat. “Even though mom has no links with the sport, she is like a mental trainer. Talking to her has a calming effect and keeps me going.”

The career on fast track, Ganemat has had to deal with setbacks too. During a World Cup outing at Korea in 2019, she shot a high score on the opening day to be in reckoning but “got carried away” and fell back the following day. On return, the trials conducted by the NRAI were on similar lines and she had to sit out of the team for two international events. “That pushed me to work harder,” says Ganemat.

Parents apart, another vital cog in her support system has been former national junior coach Piero Genga. The first encounter happened during a camp at Sydney in 2018. “He treated me like his daughter and pushed me into believing that I had it in me to succeed.” Since then, the two have stayed in touch even after the Italian relinquished charge. “During lockdown, I called him a number of times and he was always there for me.” Ganemat may not have made the roll of honour at Vivek High School in Chandigarh, but she is effusive about the support from the institution during those formative years. “Taking time off for practice was never linked to performance and that was a critical factor in getting better.”

Like all athletes, Ganemat was in a quandary when the lockdown kicked in as a result of the pandemic. With tournaments cancelled or postponed and shooting ranges out of bounds for practice, staying motivated became a challenge. In this difficult hour, the gesture by the Sports Authority of India to help core group shooters with doorstep delivery of ammunition was a boon. Staying in touch helped when the situation eased and shooters were allowed to access the range. Real-time practice with social distancing norms gave the feel of a competition in a way but Ganemat missed having Amrinder watch her as parents were not allowed.

Hence, the joy of winning the first individual medal for the country in women’s skeet doubled as the father watched his girl bring glory at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range. “When you know that the person sitting behind wishes you well, the joy gets doubled,” said Ganemat. There was more in store as she went on to win silver in the women’s team final and gold in mixed team.

This World Cup has proved to be gamechanger for skeet, which for long has lagged trap and double trap in which the country has a rich tradition. “It has taken time but we (skeet shooters) are coming up. The current crop bodes well for the future as we are constantly pushing ourselves to get better,” says Ganemat. Perhaps, the biggest certificate came from Olympian Mairaj Ahmed Khan after Ganemat’s bronze. “His words were, ‘not only have you made yourself proud, it is recognition for skeet as well’.”

There will be no resting on laurels as soon after the World Cup Ganemat will be back at training with one eye on the upcoming World Cup in Lonato. The other will be on the fast-changing situation with the virus threatening again in the hope that the world does not come to a standstill again.

By Robin Bose

  
India's Shreyasi Singh, Manisha Keer & Rajeshwari Kumari with their Gold medals.

India pulled the curtains down on its best-ever ISSF World Cup campaign with two more gold medals in women’s and men’s trap team events at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

Dominating the event from start to end, hosts India topped the chart with an incredible tally of 30 medals, half of them being gold along with 9 silver and 6 bronze medals.

On the last competition day, the trio of Shreyasi Singh, Manisha Keer and Rajeshwari Kumari had it relatively easy, as it outclassed Kazakhstan team of Sarsenkul Rysbekova, Aizhan Dosmagambetova and Mariya Dmitriyenko 6-0 in Women’s Trap Team. In the qualification, the Indian team scored 321 while Kazakhstan shot 308.

India’s Lakshay Sheoran, Prithviraj Tondaiman & Kynan Chennai after winning Gold.

In the men’s event, the Indian team of Kynan Chenai, Prithviraj Tondaiman and Lakshay Sheoran shot remarkably well to beat Slovakian team of Michal Slamka, Adrian Drobny and Filip Marinov 6-4, which had finished 4 points ahead of the Indians with a qualification score of 498.

Kynan, who finished fourth in the individual event to miss out on a podium finish on Friday, had something to cheer about as he ended the campaign on a positive note.

On Saturday, the pair of Shreyasi and Kynan missed out on a podium finish as they settled for the fourth place in the Mixed Trap.

The Results:

Women’s Trap: 1. India (Shreyasi Singh, Manisha Keer, Rajeshwari Kumari) 6 (321); 2. Kazakhstan (Mariya Dmitriyenko, Aizhan Dosmagambetova, Sarsenkul Rysbekova) 0 (308).

Men’s Trap: 1. India (Kynan Chenai, Prithviraj Tondaiman, Lakshay Sheoran) 6 (494); 2. Slovakia (Michal Slamka, Adrian Drobny, Filip Marinov) 4 (498); 3. Kazakhstan (Viktor Khassyanov, Maxim Kolomoyets, Andrey Mogilevskiy) 6 (489).

  
Photo for representative purpose only.

The NRAI on Friday announced that it has postponed next month’s National Shooting Championship. This is a result of a sudden spike in coronavirus cases that has disrupted sporting activities that had resumed in January in a phased manner across the country.

According to an NRAI statement, the 64th National Shooting Championship in rifle, pistol and shotgun events to be held next month have been postponed. “In view of the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases all over India, the NRAI president has decided that the nationals be postponed,” said the statement.

The venue for the rifle competition was Bhopal while the pistol and shotgun competition were to be held at New Delhi’s Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range. The national competition will now be held after the Tokyo Olympics, to be held from July 23 to August 8. “A considered decision will be taken after the Tokyo Olympics, depending on the prevailing Covid-19 conditions at that point of time,” the NRAI said.

The NRAI in its circular in January had asked all the state units to conduct competition before February. The zonal competitions are in progress at different venues across the country.

The North Zone competition is being held in Jaipur, under the aegis of the Rajasthan Rifle Association. The organisers of the North Zone competition have made it mandatory for all competitors to have bring a negative report of the Covid-19 RT-PCR test to be eligible to compete in the zonal competition that started Wednesday, and will conclude on Thursday.

  
India's Vijayveer Sidhu during the Finals of Men's 25m Rapid Fire Pistol.

Vijayveer Sidhu of India won the silver medal, missing the gold in a shoot-off to Peeter Olesk of Estonia, in Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

With 26 hits each, both Vijayveer and Peeter were tied for the top spot at the end of the 40-shot final. In the shoot-off, after having shot brilliantly to score 4 out of 5 hits in the eighth and final series, Vijayveer managed just one. Under no pressure, Olesk got 4 hits to win the top prize after a consistent showing through the finals.

It was a brave effort by Vijayveer, after Olympian Gurpreet Singh and Anish Bhanwala had slipped out in the 5th and 6th place. Anish was kept in the team against the selection norms as he had a chance of winning the Olympic quota on the basis of world rank.

Oskar Miliwek of Poland bagged the bronze with 20.

In the qualification, Vijayveer had made the cut after managing to grab the 6th slot with 579. Olympian Gurpreet was the best-placed Indian at third place with a total of 581 while Anish was in 5th place with 579.

Marko Carrillo of Peru shot the best qualification score of 582.

The Results:

Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: 1. Peeter Olesk (Est) 26(4) 582; 2. Vijayveer Sidhu 26(1) 579; 3. Oskar Miliwek (Pol) 20 (580); 5. Anish Bhanwala 579 (13); 6. Gurpreet Singh 9 (581). MQS: Adarsh Singh 569.

  
Peter Sidi

The gold medal contest between India and Hungary in the Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions Team at the ongoing ISSF World Cup was on Thursday postponed after the visiting team pulled out following an internal dispute with its star marksman Peter Sidi.

The Hungarian team for the particular event has been disqualified from the tournament due to “unsporting behaviour”.

The gold medal round will now take place on Friday between hosts India and third-placed team USA in what seems to be an unprecedented development in the marquee event.

India and Hungary, who had finished in first and second place in the qualification round on Wednesday, turned up for their gold medal match, scheduled to begin at 11 am, but the visiting team’s world number one shooter Istvan Peni and Zavan Pekler, after a discussion with the technical officials, refused to participate alongside Sidi.

The 42-year-old Sidi is a five-time Olympian and former world champion, having won the gold medal at the 2010 ISSF World Championships in Munich.

“The Hungarian team has revolted against Sidi,” said an insider involved with the ongoing tournament.

“They say he is pushing the rules. It is an internal problem within the Hungarian shooting team and has been going on for the last four-five years, more so in the last one year, including last year’s National Championship,” he added.

According to the source, the whole issue was over a bipod that Sidi had attached to the end of his rifle barrel.

Sidi contended that he was using the two-legged stand for weight balancing, which is in sync with the ISSF rule book, and not to stabilize the rifle during competition, which is not technically allowed, but Peni and his other teammate objected to it.

The source said the ISSF did not find anything wrong with Sidi after the matter was reported to the apex body’s technical delegate. Later in the evening, an NRAI source said the Hungarian team has been disqualified for the event.

“The team has been disqualified from the tournament due to unsporting behaviour, that is what the technical director of the ISSF, Yair Davidovich, said,” the source said. However, the other athletes from the country are allowed to participate in their respective events.

In Wednesday’s qualification, the Indian team of Niraj Kumar, Swapnil Kusale and Chain Singh led the field with an aggregate score of 875.

The Hungary team, comprising Peni, Pekler and Sidi, was placed second, while the American trio of Nickolaus Mowrer, Timothy Sherry and Patrick Sunderman was third.

The fourth team, Kenya, did not start.

India are currently leading the medals tally with 21 medals, including 10 gold, 6 silver and 5 bronze.

  
Indian Women's 25m Pistol Team of Manu Bhaker, Rahi Sarnobat & Chinki Yadav with their Gold medals. Photo: indianshooting.com

Olympic quota winners Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker and Chinki Yadav claimed the gold medal in the Women’s 25m Pistol Team at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

The Indian trio of Rahi, Manu and Chinki defeated the Poland team of Joanna Iwona Wawrzonowska, Julita Borek and Angieszka Korejwo 17-7 in the gold medal match.

The team gold comes only a day after Chinki, Rahi and Manu swept the individual event by winning all the medals on offer.

Manu Bhaker, Rahi Sarnobat & Chinki Yadav after winning the Gold.

The victory in this event consolidated India’s position in the top of the pecking order with 21 medals, including 10 gold, 6 silver and 5 bronze.

The Results:

Women’s 25m Pistol: 1. India (Rahi Sarnobat, Chinki Yadav, Manu Bhaker); 17 (419) 844; 2. Poland (Joanna Iwona Wawrzonowska, Julita Borek, Agnieszka Korejwo) 7 (399) 848.

  
Chinki Yadav - Photo: Kamesh Srinivasan

Olympic quota winner Chinki Yadav upstaged the experienced Rahi Sarnobat and the fancied Manu Bhaker to win gold as India won all three medals in Women’s 25m Pistol at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

The 23-year-old Chinki, who shot the second best qualification score of 580, was brilliant in the finals as she beat Asian Games gold medallist Rahi 4-3 in the shoot-off, after the two were tied 32-32.

Manu shot 28 to settle for the bronze in a field of 16 shooters. This was Manu’s fourth medal in the tournament.

India’s Rahi Sarnobat, Chiki Yadav and Manu Bhaker with their medals.

Earlier in the qualification, Rahi shot the best score of 581 while Manu shot 576.

All three shooters have already bagged their quotas for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinki had bagged the Olympic quota with a silver at the 2019 Asian Championships in Doha.

With the three pronged race in the event for the Olympics, Chinki’s gold could help her retain the Olympic quota.

The event saw India continue their domination in the ongoing ISSF World Cup with nine gold, five silver and five bronze.

The Results:

Women’s 25m Pistol: 1. Chinki Yadav (India) 32(4) 580; 2. Rahi Sarnobat (India) 32(3) 581; 3. Manu Bhaker (India) 28 (576). MQS: Abhidnya Patil (India) 586; Neeraj Kaur (India) 568.

  
India's Aishwarya Pratap Singh Tomar.

Olympic quota winner Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar of India claimed the gold medal in Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

The 20-year-old Aishwary shot 462.5 to win the yellow metal with a margin of 0.9 point ahead of World No 1 Istvan Peni of Hungary. The bronze was won by Steffen Olsen (450.9) of Denmark who also won the Olympic quota for his country.

This comes three days after Aishwary combined with Deepak Kumar and Pankaj Kumar to win silver in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle Team event.

Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar poses with his Gold medal.

The other Indians in the final, veteran Sanjeev Rajput and Niraj Kumar, finished 6th and 8th respectively in a field of 33 shooters. Sanjeev led the qualification with 1172 while Aishwary and Niraj shot an identical score of 1165.

Aishwary had won the bronze at the 2019 Asian Shooting Championships in Doha to secure an Olympic quota.

Even though none of the three Indian shooters could make it to the finals in the women’s event, India was sitting pretty on top of the medals table with nine gold, five silver and five bronze. US followed a distant second with three gold, two silver and a bronze.

Olympic quota winner Tejaswini Sawant shot 1164 to finish 12th while Anjum Moudgil was 16th with 1162. The third Indian shooter Sunidhi Chauhan shot 1161 to finish 17th in a field of 37 shooters.

The Results:

Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: 1. Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (India) 462.5 (1165); 2. Istvan Peni (Hungary) 461.6 (1169); 3. Steffen Olsen (Denmark) 450.9 (1165; 6. Sanjeev Rajput (India) 413.3 (1172); 8. NIraj Kumar (India) 400.3 (1165). MQS: Swapnil Kusale (India) 1165; Chain Singh (India) 1159.

Women’s 50m Rifle Three Position: 1. Ziva Dvorsak (Slovenia) 457.1 (1170); 2. Nina Christen (Switzerland) 455.1 (1171); 3. Aneta Stankiewicz (Poland) 443.5 (1179); 12. Tejaswini Sawant (India) 1164; 16. Anjum Moudgil (India) 1162; 17. Sunidhi Chauhan (India) 1161. MQS: Gaayathri Nithyanandam (India) 1159; Shreya Saksena (India) 1157.

  
India's Angad Vir Singh Bajwa & Ganemat Sekhon with their Gold medals.

India’s Ganemat Sekhon and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa won gold medal in the mixed skeet at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

Ganemat and Angad, who had topped the qualification with a score of 141, produced another good show beating Kazakhstan pair of Olga Panarina and Alexandr Yechshenko 33-29 in the gold medal showdown.

This is 20-year-old Ganemat’s third medal at this World Cup, having won bronze in women’s skeet and silver in the team event.

Meanwhile, another Indian pair of Parinaaz Dhaliwal and Mairaj Ahmed Khan lost the bronze medal match 31-32 to Qatar’s Rashid Hamd and Reem Al Sharshani. The duo had produced a perfect score in the final four shots even as Parinaaz crumbled under pressure and missed a shot to miss out of the medal.

The Results:

Mixed Skeet: 1. India (Ganemat Sekhon, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa) 33 (141); 2. Kazakhstan (Olga Panarina, Alexandr Yechshenko) 29 (140); 3. Qatar (Reem Al Sharshani, Rashid Hamad) 32 (140) (1,2); 4. India-2 (Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Mairaj Ahmad Khan) 31(140) (1,1).

  
India's Yashaswini Singh Deswal & Abhishek Verma.

Owing to their impressive performance in the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, India’s 10m Air Pistol shooters Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Abhishek Verma have moved to the number one position in the latest ISSF World rankings.

On Sunday, Abhishek won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol while his compatriot Saurabh Chaudhary bagged the silver. On the other hand, Yashaswini bagged the gold in the women’s event while Manu Bhaker took the silver.

Yashaswini and Abhishek also won the bronze in the Mixed 10m Air Pistol on Monday.

Meanwhile, Elavenil Valarivan, who teamed up with Divyansh Singh Panwar to win the gold in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle, also retained her No 1 spot in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle, meaning three Indian shooters now hold the top spot.

  
Indian Men's Skeet Team of Gurjoat Khangura, Mairaj Ahmad Khan & Angad Vir Singh Bajwa with their Gold medals.

Indian shooters continued their medal-winning spree at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi. The trio of Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Gurjoat Khangura won the gold medal in Men’s Skeet Team, taking India’s medal tally to 14.

India won the gold in Men’s Skeet Team after outclassing Qatar 6-2 in the gold medal match on Monday. The gold-winning performance came a little after the trio of Parninaaz Dhaliwal, Karttiki Shaktawat and Ganemat Sekhon won the silver in Women’s Skeet Team. The women’s team lost the gold medal match 4-6 to Kazakhstan.

Notably, the trio of Mairaj, Angad and Gurjoat won India its 3rd Gold medal of the day on Monday.

India’s Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal & Karttiki Singh Shaktawat after winning Silver in Women’s Skeet Team.

World No 1 Elavenil Valarivan and World No 2 Divyansh Singh Panwar started the gold rush by finishing on top of the podium in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle.

The India duo shot a combined total of 16 in the gold medal match to finish ahead of World No 1 Istvan Peni and Eszter Denes of Hungary who managed 10. The Indians shot a 10.4 each in the final shot to secure the top prize while the Hungarian pair got 10.7 and 9.9.

Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary then won the gold in the Mixed 10m Air Pistol on Monday. Manu and Saurabh beat the Iranian team of Golnoush Sebghatollahi and Javad Foroughi in the gold medal match. The Indian duo had a total of 16 points while Iran managed 12.

India’s Manu Bhaker & Saurabh Chaudhary after winning Gold in Mixed 10m Air Pistol.

India also bagged the bronze medal thanks to Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Abhishek Verma, who beat Turkey’s Sevval Ilayda Tarhan and Ismail Keles 17-13.

India have so far won 6 gold, 4 silver and as many bronze medals to top the medal tally after Day 3 of the World Cup. USA is second on the table with just 6 medals.

  
Ganemat Sekhon

India’s Ganemat Sekhon won the country’s first-ever ISSF World Cup medal in Women’s Skeet when she bagged a bronze on the third competition day of the tournament in New Delhi.

The 20-year-old Ganemat, ranked 82 in the world, shot a personal-best qualification score of 117 and followed it up with 40 in the final for a podium finish.

Ganemat was also the first Indian woman skeet shooter to win a medal in the ISSF Junior World Championships in 2018, a bronze. On Sunday, she proved her progress in the senior ranks.

“After the event today I came to know that it’s a historic medal and I was very excited,” said Sekhon. “I was working towards this and my aim was to come to the final for the first time in seniors and go for the medal. It is very big for me.”

The Chandigarh shooter said she was initially nervous in the final.

“It was the first time in the senior final and there were too many emotions, but I feel after the second round I was in focus even after missing some targets. I thought of it is an opportunity that I can’t let go.”

Shooting in her home range helped regain confidence in the final. “It was an advantage for me.”

Ganemat had won silver at the 2019 Asian Championships in Doha and also competed in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, where she finished 10th.

The other Indian in the finals, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat, settled for the fourth position after an impressive start, shooting 32. Earlier in the qualification, Karttiki was fourth with 116.

The third Indian in the event, Parinaaz Dhaliwal shot 108 to finished ninth in a field of only eleven shooters.

Amber Hill of Great Britain, who shot the best qualification score of 124, won the gold after outgunning Kazakhstan’s Zoya Kravchenko 4-3 in a shoot-ofwon the f as both were tied on 51 after 60 shots.

In the men’s skeet final, Gurjoat Khangura finished 6th with a score of 17 after making it to the finals in sixth place with 121 ahead of Olympic quota winner Mairaj Ahmed Khan who also shot 121 but lost out in the shoot-off, taking the 7th position. Another Olympic quota winner from India Angad Vir Singh Bajwa could only manage 117 and finished 19th in a field of 23 shooters.

Denmark’s Jesper Hansen (58) won the gold ahead of UAE’s Bin Futais Saif (51) and 2012 London Olympic bronze medallist Nasser Al-Attiyah (44).

The Results:

Women’s Skeet: 1. Amber Hill (Great Britain) 51(4) 124; Zoya Kravchenko (Kazakhstan) 51(3) 114; Ganemat Sekhon (India) 40 (117); 4. Karttiki Singh Shaktawat (India) 32 (116); 9. Parinaaz Dhaliwal (India) 108.

Men’s Skeet: 1. Jesper Hansen (Denmark) 58 (121); Saif Bin Futais (UAE) 51 (122); Nasser Al-Attiya (Qatar) 44 (123); 6. Gurjoat Khangura (India) 17 (121); 7. Mairaj Ahmed Khan (India) 121; 19. Angad Vir Singh Bajwa (India) 117.

  
India's Yashaswini Singh Deswal & Manu Bhaker after winning Gold & Silver medals respectively in Women's 10m Air Pistol at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

The efforts of indianshooting.com to keep shooters, especially the elite marksmen of the country, competition ready while the pandemic was raging bore fruit on Saturday as Olympic quota winners Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Manu Bhaker did the nation proud by claiming gold and silver medals respectively in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol at the ongoing ISSF World Cup.

World No 1 Divyansh Singh Panwar of India got bronze in Men’s 10m Air Rifle with a late flourish in the finals.

The trio had participated at various stages of the six International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC), conceived by former India shooter Shimon Sharif, and had covered themselves in glory in a field that boasted of some of the world’s best while shooting from their respective locations.

Yashaswini, who bagged three consecutive gold at the 3rd, 4th and 5th IOSC, continued her golden run with another commanding show. A picture of poise, the 23-year-old World No 4, upstaged the celebrated 19-year-old Manu, ranked No 2 in the world, comfortably in the star studded final. Yashaswini shot 238.8 to ease to the top spot while Manu, also an Olympic quota winner, settled for silver with a score of 236.7. Viktoria Chaika of Belarus got bronze with 215.9. The third Indian in the final, Shri Nivetha, was fourth with a score of 193.5.

Earlier, Yashaswini topped the qualification with 579 while Manu shot the second best with 577. Shri Nivetha shot the fourth best 574.

Manu had got bronze in the 1st IOSC and had finished third best in the 3rd IOSC that was won by Yashaswini. Saturday’s final was a revenge match in a way for Manu but Yashaswini again proved to be the better shooter on the day. The gold is also an extension of her superb form on the international forum of late. Yashaswini had won gold at the 2019 ISSF World Cup in Rio de Janeiro and 2017 World Championships as a junior in Suhl, Germany. Over the years, she also has three silver in Asian Championships and Junior ISSF World Cup.

At 19, Manu’s resume in ISSF events is even more impressive with 14 gold and two silver with recent successes being gold medals at the 2019 ISSF World Cups in Putian, China and 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Yashaswini Singh Deswal (India) 238.8 (579); 2. Manu Bhaker (India) 236.7 (577); 3. Viktoria Chaika (Belarus) 215.9 (571); 4. P Shri Nivetha (India) 193.5 (575). MQS: Shweta Singh (India) 573; Esha Singh (India) 567.

  
L-R: Saurabh Chaudhary (India), Javad Foroughi (Iran), Abhishek Verma (India) at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

Olympic quota winners Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma of India settled for the silver and bronze medals respectively in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol on the second competition day of the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

The fancied World No 4 Saurabh was humbled in the final shot by Iran’s Javed Foroughi, currently ranked 107th in the world.

The 41-year-old Javed, who had only 14 seconds on the clock to fire his final shot, scored a winning 10.5 after the 18-year-old Saurabh managed 9.8 in his last attempt of the gold medal round.

Javed Foroughi of Iran after winning Gold in Men’s 10m Air Pistol at ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

Javed shot a score of 243.6 to claim the top prize and Saurabh fired 243.2 to win silver while Abhishek aggregated 221.8 to bag the bronze.

The third Indian and Former World No 1 Shahzar Rizvi had a fortuitous entry into the regular section, after having been entered for MQS. He eventually placed fifth with 177.1.

Sarabjot Singh who was the original entry and Ravinder Singh the second MQS entry could not compete owing to COVID positive results, along with another shooter from abroad.

Earlier in the qualification, Asian Games gold medallist Saurabh shot the highest score of 587. Abhishek was second with 583 while Shahzar was fourth with 580.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Javad Foroughi (Iran) 243.6 (583); 2. Saurabh Chaudhary (India) 243.2 (587); 3. Abhishek Verma (India) 221.8 (583); 5. Shahzar Rizvi (India) 177.1 (580).

  
L-R : Manu Bhaker (India), Yashaswini Singh Deswal (India) & Victoria Chaikha (Belarus) at ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

Olympic quota winner Yashaswini Singh Deswal personified consistency and calmness on her way to winning the gold medal in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol ahead of her more celebrated compatriot Manu Bhaker at the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

Yashaswini shot the best qualification score of 579 and the followed it up with a 238.8 to win the yellow metal with a 2.1 point margin over Manu who is also an Olympic quota winner.

Viktoria Chaika of Belarus bagged the bronze with 215.9.

The other Indian in the final, Shri Nivetha Paramanantham, started well but had to eventually settle for the fourth place with 193.5.

This is Yashaswini second World Cup gold after the one at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2019.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Yashaswini Singh Deswal (India) 238.8 (579); 2. Manu Bhaker (India) 236.7 (577); 3. Viktoria Chaika (Belarus) 215.9 (571); 4. Shri Nivetha Paramanantham (India) 193.5 (575)). MQS: Shweta Singh (India) 573; Esha Singh (India) 567.

  
India's Divyansh Singh Panwar during the Finals of Men's 10m Air Rifle at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

World No 1 Divyansh Singh Panwar opened India’s medals tally with a bronze in Men’s 10m Air Rifle on the second competition day of the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

The 18-year-old Divyansh shot 228.1 to finish third on the podium while another Indian in the final, 22-year-old Arjun Babuta, finished in fifth place after three scores below 10.

Lucas Kozeniesky of USA claimed the gold with 249.8 while Istvan Peni of Hungary bagged silver with 249.7.

Olympic quota winner Divyansh shot 629.1 to be placed sixth in the finals while Arjun shot the third best 631.8.

In the women’s event, Olympic quota winner Anjum Moudgil had to settle for a fifth-place with 187.8.

Mary Carolynn Tucker (251.5) and Alison Marie Weisz (250.4) grabbed the gold and silver medals respectively for USA.

Eszter Denes of Hungary bagged the bronze with 230.2 after being eliminated in a shoot-off.

The 27-year-old Anjum had qualified for the final by finishing an impressive second with 629.6. She will also be competing in the Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions.

World No 1 Elavenil Valarivan of India shot 626.7 to finish 12th while the third Indian in the event and Olympic quota winner Apurvi Chandela finished 26th with 622.8.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Lucas Kozeniesky (USA) 249.8 (628.8); 2. Istvan Peni (Hungary) 249.7 (629.6); 3. Divyansh Singh Panwar (India) 228.1 (629.1); 5. Arjun Babuta (India) 185.5 (631.8). MQS: Aishwary Pratap Singh (India) 632.4; Pankaj Kumar (India) 627.1

Women’s 10m Air Rifle:1. Mary Carolynn Tucker (USA) 251.5 (629.1); 2. Alison Marie Weisz (USA) 250.4 (628.4); 3. Eszter Denes (Hungary) 230.2 (629.8); 5. Anjum Moudgil (India) 187.8 (629.6); 12. Elavenil Valarivan (India) 626.7; 26. Apurvi Chandela (India) 622.8. MQS: Nisha Kanwar (India) 629.4; Shriyanka Sadangi (India) 626.4.

  

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Divyansh Singh Panwar

The world’s top three shooters in the Men’s 10M Air Rifle are set to clash on competition day one of the ISSF World Cup commencing on Friday at New Delhi.

The host country’s Divyansh Singh Panwar, currently ranked one in the world in the event, will be up against world number two, Petar Gorsa of Croatia, and world number three Istvan Peni of Hungary, as they attempt to qualify for the eight-man final scheduled on Saturday, from a field of 55 shooters.

The first competition day will see two qualification matches, both beginning in the second half of the day, with the Women’s 10M Air Rifle qualification also slated to begin after the men’s qualification gets over.

In Women’s 10M Air Rifle too, India heads the world charts with Elavenil Valarivan perched on the summit. That will be a tough clash as well what with reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher of the USA, also entered among the 45 shooters in the fray.

In fact, both the 10M Air Rifle events, will give a sneak-peek into what lies in store for Indian shooters at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, with no less than 14 (seven each in both events besides the Indian quota winners) Tokyo quota holders lined up for starts at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.

In the men’s event, apart from Petar and Istvan, the Indian trio of Divyansh, Deepak Kumar and Arjun Babuta, will also have to contend with the likes of Hungarian Shooting legend Peter Sidi and Ukranian Serhiy Kulish, Rio Olympics silver medallist and the man who denied Abhinav Bindra a medal there.

Serhiy is still looking for a Tokyo quota and with his current rank of 41, will look to win the event to qualify. Other strong contenders for the quota in the event will be Illia Charheika (World No.10 from Belarus), Nam Taeyun (World No.18 from Korea), Peter Hellenbrand (World No. 32 from the Netherlands) and Napis Tortungpanish (World No. 49 from Thailand)

In the Women’s 10M Air Rifle, Elavenil, Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil of India will also be facing the determination of several top shooters who would be looking to bag the final rankings spot for Tokyo with an outright win.

Among them the likes of World No 11 Ibsen Rikke Maeng of Denmark, and Mary Tucker of the USA, who is currently ranked 20 in the world. This is over and above the challenge from shooters like Olympic champion Virginia, Croatian Rifle legend Snjezana Pejcic and world number eight and Tokyo quota holder Seonaid McIntosh, the reigning Rifle Prone World Champion.

A total of 295 shooters from 53 countries are entered to participate in the year’s first combined Shooting World Cup, which will feature all three Olympic disciplines of Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun. While most quota places have been distributed and India has already bagged a record 15 berths, a final spot in each Olympic event is still to be decided on the basis of World Rankings and this is the final event before Tokyo for Rifle and Pistol Shooters, where it can be achieved.

  
Manu Bhaker during an International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC).

Eleven world class shooters including six from India who kept themselves in competition mode throughout the pandemic last year — thanks to the innovative idea of online shooting by former India shooter Shimon Sharif — will now be seen in action at the ISSF World Cup which kicks-off on Thursday in New Delhi.

The online shooting competitions, which got a thumbs up from the shooting fraternity, proved a boon for shooters from as many as 30 countries including the Olympic quota winners from India — Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, Sanjeev Rajput and World No 1 Divyansh Singh Panwar. With shooting ranges shut and no training camps staged last year, the quartet stayed sharp and in competition mode as they got to compete with quota winners from other countries. They will now be seen in action along with Anish Bhanwala and Shahzar Rizvi who were the other two Indian shooters to stay sharp via the online competitions organised by Sharif.

Yashaswini was the most sucessfull as she won back-to-back gold in three International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC) and claimed the No 1 spot in the Online Shooting Rankings announced by indianshooting.com in January. Sanjeev and Shahzar too were in the top bracket with gold-winning performances in the 2nd IOSC. Anish got bronze in the third edition of the IOSC, and Manu had two bronze against her name from as many editions.

Manu and World No 1 in Men’s 10m Air Rifle, Divyansh, found the IOSC very innovative. A two-time Olympian, Sanjeev, tweeted, “Improvisation in difficult times, with an online shooting competition! Good to be a part of this.

Among the foreign shooters who will also look to drive home the advantage during the World Cup are Olympian Jorge Diaz of Spain, Eszter Denes of Hungary, Malika Laguntenko of Tajikistan, Viktoriya Sukhorukova of Ukaraine and Israel’s Tal Engler.

All the shooters who turned up admitted that the opportunity was able to “awaken the competitive spirit” and put them under pressure too, the kind that normally accompanies major tournaments like the ISSF World Cups.

  
Photo for representative purpose only - Photo: indianshooting.com

Qatar on Thursday became the first country to arrive for the upcoming ISSF World Cup in New Delhi while Brazil and UK are reaching on Friday, after which the teams will go into a seven-day hard quarantine.

Six shooters and their support staff from Qatar reached the national capital on Thursday.

Both Brazil and the United Kingdom have witnessed a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent times.

Participants, coaches and officials from the two countries will be quarantined at the Radisson Hotel situated close to the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, the venue for the March 18-29 ISSF World Cup.

The ISSF tournament will see shooters from more than 40 countries, including UK and Brazil, taking part.

Last month, Sports Minister of India Kiren Rijiju had said that a shorter and convenient quarantine period would be put in place for the world cup in order to not discourage international shooters from competing at the event.

“I have already assured that India will conduct international tournaments in such a way that COVID protocols will be followed but foreign players will not be staying in long quarantine and will not be discouraged to participate,” Rijiju had said.

Before that, a request was placed before the ministry that shooters be exempted from the hard quarantine period of 14 days and that foreign delegates be given vaccine shots on priority.

More than 40 countries have so far confirmed their entries, including Korea, Singapore, USA, United Kingdom, Iran, Ukraine, France, Hungary, Italy, Thailand and Turkey.

Some countries, which are not sending their teams include the likes of China, Japan, Germany, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait and Malaysia.

  

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The 40th North Zone Shooting Championship 2021 in Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun events will be held at OASES Shooting Range, Jagatpura, Jaipur, Rajasthan. This will be conducted as under:

Shotgun events from 23rd to 1st April 2021
Rifle/Pistol events from 23rd March to 6th April 2021

This championship will be conducted by Rajasthan Rifle Association under the aegis of the National Rifle Association of India and as per rules and regulations under NRAI Match Book 2018 (amended).

  

The 8th West Zone Shooting Championship 2021 in Pistol events will be held at MRA Range, Worli Sea Face (North), Mumbai, Maharashtra from 22nd to 28th March 2021 as per rules and regulations under NRAI Match Book 2018 (amended). This championship will be conducted by Maharashtra Rifle Association under the aegis of the National Rifle Association of India.

  

The 5thEast Zone Shooting Championship 2021 in Rifle/Pistol events will be held at Asansol Rifle Club, Paschim Bardhaman, West Bengal from 11th to 14th March 2021 as per rules and regulations under NRAI Match Book 2018 (amended). This championship will be conducted by West Bengal Rifle Association under the aegis of the National Rifle Association of India.

  

The XII South Zone Shooting Championship 2021 in Rifle/Pistol will be held at Tamil Nadu Special Police, 3rd Battalion Shooting Range, Veerapuram, Avadi, Chennai from 9th to 13th March 2021 as per rules and regulations under NRAI Match Book 2018 (amended). This championship will be conducted by Tamil Nadu Shooting Association under the aegis of the National Rifle Association of India.

  
L-R: Kirti Singh, Manisha Keer & Rajeshwari Kumari with their medals at ISSF World Cup.

Indian women’s trap team comprising Manisha Keer, Kirti Gupta and Rajeshwari Kumari won the silver medal on the concluding day of the ISSF World Cup in Cairo, Egypt. Their effort ensured that the Indian squad finished the World Cup with two medals, with the men’s skeet team bagging a bronze earlier in the competition.

The trio made a fantastic comeback in the gold medal match on Thursday, coming back from 0-4 down to tie the final at 4-4. However, it could not hold on in the last series of 15-shot per team and had to be content with second best after loosing 4-6 to Russia.

Manisha, Kirti and Rajeshwari shot a combined score of 444 to make it to the gold medal match along with Russia, who topped the qualifying round with a total of 463.

There were a total of seven 25-shot rounds, five of which had been shot in the previous days.

On Thursday, all three Indian women shot scores of 20 or more in the final two qualifying rounds, with Manisha top-scoring for them with 158/175.

The men’s trap team, however, could not make it to the medal rounds after shooting a combined score of 469 to finish sixth out of 11 teams in the fray.

A brilliant Silver medal winning effort at the ISSF Cairo World Cup yesterday💪💪!! The Women’s Trap Team put a real gutsy…

Posted by Mansher Singh on Thursday, 4 March 2021

  
L-R: Gurjoat Khangura, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan with their medals in ISSF World Cup.

Indian Men’s Skeet team, comprising of Mairaj Ahmed Khan, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Gurjoat Khangura, beat Kazakhstan 6-2 to win bronze medal at the ongoing ISSF World Cup Shotgun in Cairo, Egypt.

Olympic quota winner Angad was the star of the bronze medal match, hitting all his 16 targets.

The trio could have qualified for the gold medal match but they lost 6-5 to Russia in a shoot-off after the two were tied at a score of 491 each out of 525 in qualifying, which comprised seven rounds.
Russia won the Gold eventually beating the Czech Republic 6-0 in the finals.

Russia went on to win the gold by beating the Czech Republic 6-0 in the final.

The Indian Women’s Skeet team of Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal and Karttiki Singh Shaktawat too made it to the bronze medal match against Kazakhstan but lost 6-4.

Incidentally, Russia bagged gold by beating the Czech Republic 6-2 in the women’s event too.

  
Angad Vir Singh Bajwa

A 13-member Indian squad will seek medals in the Shotgun World Cup starting in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday as the the ISSF’s marquee event return after a break of almost a year due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The eight-day competition is the year’s first World Cup, beginning with skeet events on the opening day.

There will be 10 events in the competition.

As many as 191 athletes from 33 countries have entered the fray and for the first time, the women’s and men’s team competitions will be held based on the new team event formats declared last year by the ISSF.

The Cairo World Cup assumes additional significance given that this will be the final chance for the shooters to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics on the basis of world rankings.

For example, the current world number one in men’s trap, Mauro De Filippis of Italy, still does not have a Tokyo berth and will be looking to hold on to his ranking points with a good show to confirm his quota.

Sharing his thoughts from Cairo, Olympic quota winner in men’s skeet Angad Bajwa said, “It’s the first competition after more than a year and I am taking it like match practice before the Olympics. It’s much needed to get back into the rhythm.”

Mansher Singh, chief shotgun coach of the Indian team, said, “This is the first World Cup of the year and assumes importance after the lockdown because it should give us a good start to the calendar 2021. Being the first experience for lot of young shooters, I think it is important for them to learn from this event, as well as those who are going to the Olympics will also get very good training prior to commencing their final preparations for Tokyo. The training here is Cairo is going very well and smoothly. The conditions are good for shooting, the ranges are tough, so we expect the scores to be not very high. The boys and girls are happy with their training. The competition begins tomorrow and we hope to do very well, largely because of the long camps we have held. Separate preparations for the Olympics I think have helped the quota place winners as well to get ready for this competition. So we are all very excited and hoping for a very good result here.”

The Indian Men’s Skeet squad has Angad along with his senior Mairaj Ahmad Khan, also a Tokyo 2020 quota winner competing on Wednesday. Gurjoat Khangura completes the three-man squad. The Women’s Skeet squad features Ganemat Shekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal and Karttiki Singh Shaktawat.

The first final will be in women’s skeet and is scheduled for Thursday which will be followed by the men’s Skeet final on the same day.

The ISSF has announced that the 10 Finals will be broadcast live on their social media streams. The signal will also be distributed through the European Broadcasting Union.

  
Naresh Sharma

In a career spanning close to three decades, Naresh Sharma has fought harder battles off the shooting range than from his firing line. It hasn’t just been about the frequent run-ins with the national federation, Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), it is also about staying motivated to carry on what has been a relentless fight for this celebrated shooter.

The 47-year-old Naresh now has a reason to celebrate after a long gap as he is back in the Indian team that will travel for the Para Shooting World Cups in Al Ali, UAE, and Wroclaw, Poland, in March and April respectively. The road back has been arduous and even meant knocking the doors of the courts against what he claims the “unjust policies” of the PCI that keep changing like shifting sand.

Naresh came out with flying colours in his pet event, 50m rifle three positions, in the January 21-29 selection trials at Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range with scores of 1135 and 1145 to leave the competition far behind. The triumph was not about shooting high scores but the three-year preparation to pull them off. After the 2017 World Cup in Bangkok, Naresh had exited the Indian team for what he claims failing to shoot the absurdly high scores set by PCI at trials.

Naresh Sharma

After approaching the courts against this policy and the “fight for rights”, Naresh decided the way to fight back was by raising the bar himself. “I did not want people to say that Naresh Sharma quit for the fear of shooting high scores.”

Despite being severely handicapped by a resource crunch as he has been without a job for a while, Naresh has spent Rs 1.5 lakh (Rs 30 a bullet) to procure ammunition in preparation for the upcoming World Cups. The number reads a staggering Rs 10 lakh for the past four years. “I could not pay special attention to my diet because of money matters, what I could do was train more to get better,” said the five-time Paralympian.

A typical morning began at 7am with an hour-long session of stretching and yoga, followed by a strenuous training session of four hours. The afternoon session was similar with training on till 4pm. The results started to show as Naresh shot 1129 at the 2019 Nationals at Trivandrum for gold in 50m three positions and 1132 at the selection trials in January 2020. This was just short of the PCI target of 1138 at trials for a non-Olympic quota World Cup. Incidentally, the International Paralympic Committee has set the bar at 1120 for a World Cup that comes with quota places for the Olympics.

When Naresh got to know of his inclusion in the 13-member team for the World Cups on January 29, there was joy that he had trumped the odds. “It’s God’s gift that I am mentally strong, and I always told myself that I would prove myself come what may,” says Naresh. There was anguish as well. “I could have performed better at the trials and going forward I have to work harder.”

By Robin Bose

  
Olympic-bound Manu Bhaker of India.

Manu Bhaker on Friday took to Twitter and sought help from Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri after officials at the Delhi airport stopped her from boarding her flight to Bhopal. The Tokyo Olympic-bound shooter said that the officials stopped her and treated her “like a criminal” because she was carrying guns and ammunitions for training.

In her tweet, the 19-year-old, added that she faced humiliation despite carrying all valid documentation and (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) DGCA permit. In a series of tweets, Bhaker also revealed that she was being asked to pat Rs 10,200 by the airlines officials. She also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in one of her tweets.

Bhaker, an ISSF World Cup gold-medallist, later thanked Kiren Rijiju for the “strong support” which helped her finally board the flight.

  
Anish Bhanwala

A 57-member Indian team has been announced for the ISSF World Cup scheduled to be held from 18th to 29th March at New Delhi.

The team, which includes all 15 Olympic quota winners, was selected on the basis of the latest Indian rankings except Anish Bhanwala’s selection in Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol. He was picked because his current world ranking of 12 gives him a better chance of securing a quota pending a good finish.

The World Cup will be a combined competition for rifle, pistol and shotgun shooters featuring as many as 30 different events.

The Indian Team:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: Divyansh Singh Panwar, Arjun Babuta, Deepak Kumar, Pankaj Kumar (MQS), Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (MQS)

Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: Sanjeev Rajput, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Niraj Kumar, Swapnil Kusale (MQS), Chain Singh (MQS)

Men’s 10m Air Pistol: Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma, Sarabjot Singh, Ravinder Singh (MQS), Shahzar Rizvi (MQS)

Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: Vijayveer Sidhu, Gurpreet Singh, Anish Bhanwala, Arpit Goel (MQS), Adarsh Singh (MQS)

Men’s Trap: Kynan Chenai, Lakshay, Prithviraj Tondaiman, Zoravar Singh Sandhu (MQS), Namanveer Singh Brar (MQS)

Men’s Skeet: Angadvir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Gurjoat Siingh Khangura, Karam Sukhbir Singh (MQS), Amrinder Singh Cheema (MQS)

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: Elavenil Valarivan, Anjum Moudgil, Apurvi Chandela, Shriyanka Sadangi (MQS), Nisha Kanwar (MQS)

Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: Tejaswini Sawant, Sunidhi Chauhan, Anjum Moudgil, Gaayathri N. (MQS), Shreya Saksena (MQS)

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, P. Shri Nivetha, Shweta Singh (MQS), Esha Singh (MQS)

Women’s 25m Sports Pistol: Manu Bhaker, Rahi Sarnobat, Chinki Yadav, Neeraj Kaur (MQS), Abhidnya Ashok Patil (MQS)

Women’s Trap: Rajeshwari Kumari, Shreyasi Singh, Manisha Keer, Kirti Gupta (MQS), Neeru (MQS)

Women’s Skeet: Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat, Darshana Rathore (MQS), Zahra Mufaddal Deesawala (MQS)

Mixed 10m Air Rifle: Divyansh Singh Panwar and Elavenil Valarivan; Arjun Babuta and Anjum Moudgil

Mixed 50m Rifle Three Positions: Sanjeev Rajput and Tejaswini Sawant; Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar and Sunidhi Chaudhan

Mixed 10m Air Pistol: Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker; Abhishek Verma and Yashaswini Singh Deswal

Mixed 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: Vijayveer Sidhu and Tejaswani; Gurpreet Singh and Abhidnya Ashok Patil

Mixed Trap: Kynan Chenai and Rajeshwari Kumari; Lakshay and Shreyasi Singh

Mixed Skeet: Angadvir Singh Bajwa and Ganemat Sekhon; Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Parinaaz Dhaliwal

Men’s 10m Air Rifle Team: Deepak Kumar, Pankaj Kumar, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar

Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: Niraj Kumar, Swapnil Kusale, Chain Singh

Men’s 10m Air Pistol Team: Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma, Sarabjot Singh

Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol Team: Vijayveer Sidhu, Gurpreet Singh, Arpit Goel

Men’s Trap Team: Kynan Chenai, Lakshay, Prithviraj Tondaiman

Men’s Skeet Team: Angadvir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Gurjoat Siingh Khangura

Women’s 10m Air Rifle Team: Apurvi Chandela, Shriyanka Sadangi, Nisha Kanwar

Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions Team: Anjum Moudgil, Gaayathri N, Shreya Saksena

Women’s 10m Air Pistol Team: Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, P. Shri Nivetha

Women’s 25m Pistol Team: Manu Bhaker, Rahi Sarnobat, Chinki Yadav

Women’s Trap Team: Rajeshwari Kumari, Shreyasi Singh, Manisha Keer

Women’s Skeet Team: Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat

  
Photo for representative purpose only - Photo: indianshooting.com

The NRAI has announced that the 64th National Shooting Championship will be held in Bhopal and Delhi, in April.

Rifle events will be held at Bhopal from April 14th to 29th, pistol events will be held at New Delhi from 11th to 29th while shotgun events will be held at New Delhi from 10th to 24th.

The NRAI also announced that all Zonal Championships will be completed before 31st March 2021.

  
Photo for representative purpose. Photo: indianshooting.com

India will not take part in the ISSF World Cup in Changwon in April because of Korea’s mandatory two-week quarantine rules, which will come in the way of the shooters’ training.

“Our shooters are not going to be participating in the World Cup in Korea as there is a 14-day mandatory quarantine. That means they will not be able to train for that period,” said a top official of the NRAI on Monday.

The tournament in Korea from April 16 to 27 is a combined World Cup with shooters from rifle, pistol and shotgun competing for top honours.

The official said the shooters will not be exempted from the quarantine as per the directives of the concerned South Korean authorities.

India is also scheduled to host a combined World Cup from March 18 to 29, at the national capital’s Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.

Before that, there is a shotgun World Cup slated in Cairo from February 22 to March 5.

The Indian shooters were also to join their counterparts from other countries for the National Test Event in Tokyo from April 25 to 30, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese capital is set to host the Olympics in July-August this year.

All the upcoming tournaments will form part of preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

The World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, scheduled for June, will be the last international competition before the Tokyo Olympics.

  
Sanjeev Rajput - Photo: indianshooting.com

Olympic quota winner Sanjeev Rajput of Haryana continued his impressive run as he won the Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions (T4) for the second day in a row at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 40-year-old Rajput shot the best qualification score of 1182 and was class apart in the finals too with a brilliant 463.1 to leave second-placed Niraj Kumar of Navy way behind with 459.6.

Olympian Chain Singh of Army once again finished third with 448.2. He had won the same spot in the third trial (T3) held yesterday.

The Results:

Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: 1. Sanjeev Rajput (Haryana) 463.1 (1182); 2. Niraj Kumar (Navy) 459.6 (1181); 3. Chain Singh (Army) 448.2 (1175).

  
Yashaswini Singh Deswal

Olympic quota winner Yashaswini Singh Deswal stamped her class by winning the Women’s 10m Air Pistol (T4) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 23-year-old Yashaswini, who had finished fifth in the third trial (T3), shot 242.9 to claim the top spot with a margin of 2.3 points.

2014 Asian Games bronze medallist Shweta Singh of ONGC, who had finished seventh in the third trial (T3), won the second spot with 240.6.

The 47-year-old Padma Devaram of Railways who came second in third trial (T3) finished third with 219.1.

Shri Nivetha of Tamil Nadu shot the best qualification score of 584 but finished fifth.

Another quota winner Manu Bhaker of Haryana, the winner of the third trial (T3), reached yet another final but eventually finished seventh eventually.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Yashaswini Singh Deswal (Haryana) 242.9 (574); 2. Shweta Singh (ONGC) 240.6 (580); 3. Padma Devaram (Railways) 219.1 (573).

  
Elavenil Valarivan - Photo: indianshooting.com

World No.1 Elavenil Valarivan of Gujarat came up with a brilliant performance to stamp her class in Women’s 10m Air Rifle (T3) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

Th 22-year-old Elavenil shot the best qualification score of 631.6 and topped the finals with a brilliant 253.0 which is 0.1 better than the world record of 252.9 held by Olympic quota winner Apurvi Chandela, who was below par and failed to make the final today.

Apurvi had set the world record in 2019 at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.

This was the second time an Indian broke a world record mark in two days at the ongoing selection trials. Only yesterday, Divyansh Singh Panwar of Rajasthan had also gone past the world mark in Men’s 10m Air Rifle (T4).

Vanshika Rathore of Rajasthan came second with 250.5 while Meghana Sajjanar of Karnataka took the third spot with 229.0.

Olympian Ayonika Paul of Railways (631.3), Shriyanka Sadangi of Orissa (630.9) and Meghana (630.0) were all very impressive in qualification.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Elavenil Valarivan (Gujarat) 253.0 (631.6); 2. Vanshika Rathore (Rajasthan) 250.5 (625.7); 3. Meghana Sajjanar (Railways) 229.0 (630.0).

  
Divyansh Singh Panwar

World No.1 Divyansh Singh Panwar of Rajasthan came up with a brilliant performance to stamp his class in Men’s 10m Air Rifle (T4) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

Th 18-year-old Divyansh shot the third best qualification score of 629.7 and topped the finals with a brilliant 253.1 which is 0.3 point more than the world record.

Divyansh outgunned Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar of Madhya Pradesh with a perfect 10.9 on the last shot after the two Olympic quota winners were tied at 242.2 after the 23rd shot.

Junior Asian Champion Yash Vardhan of Rajasthan came third with 231.6.

Paarth Makhija of Delhi registered the best qualification score of 630.3 but finished 5th in the finals with 187.8.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Divyansh Singh Panwar (Rajasthan) 253.1 (629.7); 2. Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (Madhya Pradesh) 252.6 (628.7); 3. Yash Vardhan (Rajasthan) 231.6 (629.8).

  
Chinki Yadav - Photo: indianshooting.com

Olympic quota winner Chinki Yadav of Madhya Pradesh won the Women’s 25m Pistol (T3) on the opening day of the 3rd and 4th selection trials in New Delhi.

The 23-year-old Chinki qualified for the finals on the 4th place with a score of 579, two points behind the Asian Games champion Rahi Sarnobat of Maharashtra who shot the third best.

Chinki started the finals with a perfect round of 5 and went on to register 37 hits to win the finals, 3 points ahead of Rahi.

Manu Bhaker of Haryana, who shot the best qualification score of 582, finished 3rd with 30.

The Results:

Women’s 25m Pistol: 1. Chinki Yadav (Madhya Pradesh) 37 (579); 2. Rahi Sarnobat (Maharashtra) 33 (581); 3. Manu Bhaker (Haryana) 30 (582).

  
Ayushi Podder

Ayushi Podder’s rich haul of five gold and one silver across three events at last week’s 53rd West Bengal State Shooting Championship in Asansol is a rarity in the Indian context. More than the novelty, the feat is testimony to Ayushi and father-cum-coach Pankaj Podder’s determination to break a stereotype, and the reason why the 20-year-old is billed Indian shooting’s next big star.

“When I started, a lot of people told me to focus and excel in one event, but I did not like this mindset. A lot of shooters abroad excel in all three events (10m Air Rifle, 50m Rifle Prone, 50m Three Positions) and proficiency in all three helps in a lot of ways. I wanted to break this stereotype. Nothing is impossible with hard work,” said Ayushi in an exclusive chat with indianshooting.com.

After months of training at home during the pandemic, Ayushi, who trains with her father at the Bullseye Shooting Academy in Kolkata, shot 397/400 to claim the gold in Women’s 10m Air Rifle, two points ahead of Commonwealth Games silver medallist Mehuli Ghosh.

Ayushi Podder

Ayushi was on target in the 50m Rifle Three Positions as she set a new meet record of 583 and won gold in seniors and juniors. She settled for silver in 50m Rifle Prone with 587 behind Chetna Rahi, also Podder’s student. However, Aysuhi was good enough to win gold among juniors.

Ayushi’s journey began in 2014 with 50m Rifle Prone, and the following years saw her learn the nuances of 10m Air Rifle and 50m Rifle Three Positions. The going was tough as neither did she have access to funds or the right equipment, experts were divided on whether focusing on three events was the correct route to take. Ayushi and Pankaj ignored the detractors and chose to focus on the journey while defying the odds. “Ayushi started 50m Rifle Three Positions (considered the toughest of the three events) with my rifle, which weighed 8kg, much beyond her frame could handle, since we could not afford a sports rifle which weighs 5.5 kg,” says Pankaj.

After a while, Pankaj customized another of his rifles to bring the weight down to 6.5kg and did a mix and match further on to reduce the weight by another 750 grams. The struggle instilled a fighting spirit in Ayushi, and when she finally got the rifle of her choice in 2019, there was a spurt in performance. The journey to success has come with a price. Pankaj still rides a bike that’s 26 years old and the age of the family car is well beyond the prescribed government norms, but when it is about procuring a rifle for Ayushi corners are not cut.

International shooter Ayushi Podder with her father & coach Pankaj Podder.

This, and Pankaj’s belief from his playing days that proficiency in all three events was critical in shaping Ayushi’s dreams. The father-daughter duo is in no hurry, and this has been the mindset since 2016. “Our focus has never been on medals at the junior level but glory in the senior ranks as over the years I have seen many promising juniors failing to make the transition and fading away,” says Pankaj.

The Nationals in May will be Ayushi’s last as a junior and she is well set for the big leap. In 50m Rifle Three Positions, she is ranked No.2 in seniors and No.1 in juniors. Another instance is of Ayushi shooting 1174 at the Olympic trials in Delhi a year back for a first in Indian shooting. Here too, Pankaj does not read too much in the numbers. “One’s rank can be anything but what matters is to get better than the previous day, and for that it is imperative to be a good human being,” says Pankaj.

Breeding ground for champions

The Bullseye Shooting Academy isn’t just about Ayushi’s rise. Pankaj’s astute coaching is shaping many more champions from disadvantaged sections who otherwise would not have had a chance to live a dream. Sayed Shajeed, who is a NCC shooter from 10 Bengal Battalion, Asansol, is one such case. Once a part of the Indian squad, the 20-year-old wasn’t planning to board the train to Asansol due to lack of funds till Pankaj made him change his mind. Sayed’s entry fee was paid by his coach and a rifle was made available along with 100 rounds of ammunition. Armed with some last-minute coaching tips from Pankaj, Sayed stationed himself for the 50 Rifle Prone event. He made the final and almost clinched gold with a score of 590/600 but lost out due to a lower last series. “The medal does not matter but what does is that he explored his best,” said Pankaj.

By Robin Bose

  
Rajeshwari Kumari

When the Indian trap shooters step on to the ranges in this month’s International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) Shotgun World Cup in Cairo, Egypt, it will be their last chance to grab an Olympic berth via individual quota place.

In the 2019 Olympic qualification period, trap shooters weren’t impressive and failed to grab Olympic quota place. Overall, India have so far won 15 quota places, including 13 in rifle and pistol, with the other two quotas going to skeet.

“It’s very tricky situation. Now the shooters will have to stay on target for podium finish to earn valuable world ranking points. The higher they rank the better the chances for individual quota,” said shotgun coach Mansher Singh.

“What is more demanding is the fact that the Egypt World Cup is the only event that offers ranking points for shotgun ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Shooters have to stay calm to have good results,” said the 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in trap. The Shotgun World Cup will be held from February 22 to March 5 in Cairo.

The New Delhi World Cup, to be held from March 18, will have ranking points only for rifle and pistol.

As per the ISSF policy, individual quota is allotted to shooters in a discipline in which India hasn’t got quota during the qualifying cycle. The individual quota is for the shooter and not for his country. The world governing body will announce on May 31 who all are eligible for individual quota.

The national preparatory camp will commence from February 15 at Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges. The men’s trap team comprises Jakarta Asian Games silver medallist Lakshay Sheoran, Kynan Chenai, and Prithviraj Tondaiman.

Shreyasi Singh, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion, Ria Rajeshwari Kumari, and Manisha Keer have been selected in the women’s group.

Talented youngster Gurjot Singh has been included in the men’s skeet team apart from Bajwa and Khan. Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaz Dhaliwal and Kartiki Singh are in the women’s skeet team. The skeet team will leave February 20 for Egypt while trap squad will leave five days later.

The Indian Team:

Women’s Trap: Shreyasi Singh, Rajeshwari Kumari, Manisha Keer.
Men’s Trap: Lakshya, Kynan Chenai, Prithviraj Tondaiman.
Women’s Skeet: Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat.
Men’s Skeet: Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Angadvir Singh Bajwa, Gurjoat Singh
Khangura.

  
2012 London Olympic gold medallist Leuris Pupo.

Cuba’s Leuris Pupo, the man who pipped India’s Vijay Kumar to win the gold medal in Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol at the 2012 London Olympics, is in the news again after a lengthy gap.

This time though the 43-year-old has made headlines for a different reason. The Olympic gold won by Pupo was recently sold at an online auction for $73,205, way above the prediction of $50,000.

The Boston-based RR Auction company which conducted the auction said the medal was bought by a United States-based collector.

Such was the level of interest that signs of wear out with time had little effect on the buyers. The medal has some trivial dents and scratches and some fading to gilt along the bottom edge, RR Auction reported. The original information card and black winner’s medal case also bear signs of scuffing.

“Any winner’s medals from more recent Olympic Games are extremely scarce and sought after, with this prodigious London Games prize serving as a truly magnificent example of Olympic grit and triumph,” RR Auction said in its catalogue.

London 2012 Olympic Gold medal.

The medal is an intricate piece of creation. Designed by British artist David Watkins, the front of the medal features text across the top, “XXX Olympiad London 2012,” above the winged Nike over Panathinaikos Stadium with the Acropolis in the background. The reverse features the emblem of the London Games against an abstract linear background. The event, “Shooting, Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol,” is engraved along the bottom edge of the medal. The purple ribbon is present but detached at the seam, with “London 2012” and the Olympic rings embroidered in white.

Pupo’s London gold was in his fourth consecutive Olympic appearance, having never finished higher than 7th on the earlier three occasions. With a total score of 34 in the final, Pupo equalled the final world record and set a new final Olympic record. Vijay, now a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Himachal Pradesh, shot a score of 30 for the silver. China’s Feng Ding got the bronze.

It was a dominating performance as Pupo, then 35, cruised into the final. After starting off with a three-hit series, Pupo hit four or five targets per series to leave the other finalists behind.

“I feel it is a real honour. I have been in the (Cuban) side since 2000 and I was inspired at the last Olympics (in Beijing). This is my fourth Olympics and I feel overwhelmed. My focus was the medal, which is something I will treasure for the rest of my life,” Pupo had said about the epochal moment.

A gold medallist at the 1998 Buenos Aires ISSF World Cup, Pupo also finished on top in multiple editions of the Pan American Games and Championship of the Americans (CAT).

  

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Shreyasi Singh

NRAI has announced the Indian team for the ISSF World Cup in Shotgun scheduled to be held in Cairo, Egypt, from February 22.

The 12-member squad includes the likes of Olympic quota winners Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angadvir Singh Bajwa, along with Commonwealth Games gold medallits Shreyasi Singh, Asian Games silver medallist Lakshay Sheoran and Olympian Kynan Chenai.

The Indian Team:

Women’s Trap: Shreyasi Singh, Rajeshwari Kumari, Manisha Keer.
Men’s Trap: Lakshya, Kynan Chenai, Prithviraj Tondaiman.
Women’s Skeet: Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat.
Men’s Skeet: Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Angadvir Singh Bajwa, Gurjoat Singh
Khangura.

  
Manish Narwal - Photo: indianshooting.com

Arjuna Awardee Manish Narwal stamped his class by winning the Men’s 10m Air Pistol (T1) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 18-year-old Manish of Haryana registered a score of 576 to win with a huge margin of 14 points. The 2nd spot was won by another Haryana shooter Singhraj with 562 while Sunny of Chandigarh took the 3rd spot with 559.

In the women’s event, Delhi’s Pooja Agarwal topped with 551. The 2nd spot was won by Sonia Sharma of Uttar Pradesh with 550 while Rajasthan’s Nisha Kanwar finished 3rd with 549.

The Results:

Men’s P1 – 10m Air Pistol: 1. Manish Narwal (Haryana) 576; 2. Singhraj (Haryana) 562; 3.Sunny (Chandigarh) 559.

Women’s P2- 10m Air Pistol: 1. Pooja Agarwal (Delhi) 551; 2.Sonia Sharma (Uttar Pradesh) 550; 3. Nisha Kanwar (Rajasthan) 549.

Men’s R1 – 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1: 1. Krishan Kumar (Haryana) 610.7; 2. Swaroop M Unhalkar (Maharashtra) 608.7; 3. Naresh Kumar Sharma (Delhi) 605.2.

Women’s R2 – 10m Air Rifle SH1: 1. Aakanksha Choudhry (Uttar Pradesh) 585.8; 2. Jyoti Sannakki (Karnataka) 565.8.

Men’s R4 – 10m Air Rifle Standing SH2: 1. Sriharsha R Devaraddi (Karnataka) 629.5; 2. Satya Sridhar Rayala (Telangana) 601.9; 3. Vishal Goyal (Uttarakhand) 601.2.

  
Bhavesh Shekhawat - Photo: indianshooting.com

Bhavesh Shekhawat of Rajasthan won the Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol (T2) in the selection trials that concluded in New Delhi on Monday.

The 24-year-old Bhavesh shot three successive perfect rounds of five hits, to beat Delhi’s Arpit Goel 32-27. Adarsh Singh occupied the third position with a score of 23.

Earlier in the qualification, Bhavesh tied with the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anish Bhanwala for the sixth and last spot for the final with 576 but progressed past Anish, on the basis of more number of inner-10s.

Olympian Gurpreet Singh of Army, who had won the first trial (T1), once again topped the qualification with 580 but finished 5th this time.

In the women’s event, Aakanksha Bansal of CISF topped with 548, four points better than Arunima Gaur of Uttar Pradesh. The winner of the first trial (T1), Niveditha Nair of Tamil Nadu, finished 12th with 503.

The Results:

Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: 1. Bhavesh Shekhawat (Rajasthan) 32 (576); 2. Arpit Goel (Delhi) 27 (577); 3. Adarsh Singh 23 (Haryana) (579).

Women’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: 1. Aakanksha Bansal (CISF) 548; 2. Arunima Gaur (Uttar Pradesh) 544; 3. Tejaswani (Maharashtra) 542.

  
Gurpreet Singh

Olympian Gurpreet Singh won the Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol (T1) at the ongoing selection trials being held in New Delhi.

Gurpreet of Army shot the best qualification score of 580 and then registered 21 to win the finals, a point ahead of another Armyman Neeraj Kumar.

Shivam Shukla of Air Force came 3rd with 17.

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anish Bhanwala was not at his best and was placed 9th with 569.

In the newly introduced women’s event, Niveditha Nair of Tamil Nadu topped with 540, beating Abhidnya Patil by one point. Olympian Annu Raj Singh was third after being tied on 533 with Neha.

NRAI is conducting the rapid fire pistol event for women, without any final, as it would be fielding a mixed team in the ISSF World Cups.

The Results:

Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: 1. Gurpreet Singh (Army) 21 (580); 2. Neeraj Kumar (Army) 20 (577); 3. Shivam Shukla (Air Force) 17 (571).

Women’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol: 1. Niveditha Nair (Tamil Nadu) 540; 2. Abhidnya Patil (Maharashtra) 539; 3. Annu Raj Singh (Air India) 533.

  

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Asian Games silver medallist Lakshay Sheoran continued his impressive run as he won the men’s trap (T2) title for the second time at the ongoing Selection Trials in New Delhi.

The 22-year-old Lakshay from Haryana, who had won the first trial (T1), shot the best qualification score of 122 and then registered 43 in the final to claim the title with a margin of 3 points ahead of Prithviraj Tondaiman of Tamil Nadu. Balabhadra Tarasia of Army came 3rd with 32.

The Results:

Men’s Trap (T2): 1. Lakshay Sheoran (Haryana) 43 (122); 2. Prithviraj Tondaiman (Tamil Nadu) 40 (118); 3. Balabhadra Tarasia (Army) 32 (118).

  

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Saurabh Chaudhary

Olympic quota winner Saurabh Chaudhary came up with a brilliant performance to stamp his class in Men’s 10m Air Pistol (T1) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 18-year-old Saurabh of Uttar Pradesh, who is touted as India’s biggest hope for a medal in shooting in Tokyo Olympics, shot a score of 590 in qualification and topped the finals with 246.9 which is 0.4 point more than the world record.

Amanpreet Singh of ONGC won the second spot with 244.5 while 14-year-old Shiva Narwal of Haryana took the third spot ahead of the second Olympic quota winner Abhishek Verma who finished 4th.

In the women’s event, Olympic quota winner Manu Bhaker of Haryana shot 239.3 to win the women’s 10m air pistol (T1) with a margin of 1.1 point ahead of Tamil Nadu’s Shri Nivetha. Neha of Uttar Pradesh took the 3rd spot with 217.4.

The second Olympic quota winner in the event, Yashaswini Singh Deswal shot 570 in qualification and did not shoot the final.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Saurabh Chaudhary (Uttar Pradesh) 246.9 (590); 2. Amanpreet Singh (Punjab) 244.5 (580); 3. Shiva Narwal (Haryana) 223.3 (579).

Women’s 10m Air Pistol: 1. Manu Bhaker (Haryana) 239.3 (580); 2. Shiri Nivetha (Tamil 238.2 (572); 3. Neha 217.4 (571).

  
Rahi Sarnobat

Asian Games champion Rahi Sarnobat continued her impressive run as she won the women’s 25m pistol (T2) title for the second day in a row at the ongoing Selection Trials in New Delhi.

Maharashtra’s Rahi shot a score of 38 in the finals, bettering her 36, shot a day earlier. Rahi’s fellow Olympic quota holder Chinky Yadavof Madhya Pradesh also bettered her finals score of 34 on Wednesday, to shoot 37, but still fell short of the seasoned Rahi.

Olympian Annu Raj Singh of Air India was third with 29.

Manu Bhaker of Haryana, who finished 3rd in the first trial (T1), topped the qualification with an impressive 590 but finished 4th with 25.

The Results:

Women’s 25m Pistol: 1. Rahi Sarnobat (Maharashtra) 38 (582); 2. Chiki Yadav (Madhya Pradesh) 37 (584); 3. Annu Raj Singh (Air India) 29 (575).

  
From left: Tejaswini Sawant, Nischal & Anjum Moudgil.

Nischal of Haryana outgunned two Olympic quota winners, Tejaswini Sawant and Anjum Moudgil for the top spot in women’s 50m rifle three positions (T2) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 16-year-old Nischal, who came 3rd in the first trial (T1), registered the best qualification score of 1170 and then shot 459.1 in the finals to win by 1 point.

Tejaswini of Maharashtra, who had won the first trial (T1), settled for the 2nd spot.

Anjum Moudgil of Punjab, who finished 2nd in the first trial (T1), took the 3rd spot with 447.8.

The Results:

Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: 1. Nischal (Haryana) 459.1 (1170); 2. Tejaswini Sawant (Maharashtra) 458.1 (1161); 3. Anjum Moudgil (Punjab) 447.8 (1165).

  
Screengrab of the 1st IOSC - Photo: indianshooting.com

Taking a cue from former India shooter Shimon Sharif’s initiative of ‘Online Shooting’, the Kuwait Shooting Federation will be organising the Asian Online Shooting Championship later this month.

Sharif has so far organised six editions of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) and a month-long Online Shooting league (OSL) during the coronavirus-forced lockdown which has attracted the attention of shooting federations from around the world.

The two-day competition, which is due to begin from January 29, is backed by the Asian Shooting Confederation (ASC).

Each country will be allowed three shooters in every discipline. Medals and certificates will be on offer apart from much-needed exposure.

“The competitions will be held according to the ISSF Rules and Regulations,” the letter from the organising body read. All the federations taking part will have to follow strict Covid-19 protocols as per ISSF guidelines.

  
Tejaswini Sawant - Photo: indianshooting.com

Former world champion Tejaswini Sawant topped women’s 50m rifle three positions (T1) both in final and qualification to assert her class at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 40-year-old Tejaswini shot 458.7 in the finals to beat her younger rival Anjum Moudgil by 0.9 point in a battle of two Olympic quota winners. She had emerged on top in the qualification earlier with a score of 1171, four points better than Anjum.

Nischal of Haryana climbed to the 3rd spot after making it to the finals in the 8th place.

The Results:

Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: 1. Tejaswini Sawant (Maharashtra) 458.7 (1171); 2. Anjum Moudgil (Punjab) 457.8 (1167); 3. Nischal (Haryana) 446.5 (1153).

  
Photo for representative purpose only - Photo: indianshooting.com

European Championship in 10m rifle and pistol events scheduled to be held from February 26th to March 6th in Lohja, Finland was on Monday cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Presidium of the European Shooting Confederation (ESC) will discuss the ability to postpone the Championship to a later date. In case it’s not possible, the Tokyo 2020 quota places not allocated at this Championship will be distributed according to the European ranking as of May 31st, 2020, under the Qualification System approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

  
Divyansh Singh Panwar

World No.1 Divyansh Singh Panwar stamped his class by winning the 10m air rifle (T2) at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

The 18-year-old Divyansh of Rajasthan, who shot 628.7 to make it to the finals on the 8th place, registered 250.9 to beat Rudrankksh Patil of Maharashtra by 0.8 point for the top spot.

Junior World Champion Hriday Hazarika of Assam, who had won the first trial (T1), was pushed to the 3rd place while qualification topper Arjun Babuta of Punjab (632.1) finished 7th.

In the women’s event, Kavi Rakshna of Tamil Nadu emerged on top with 251.4 in a quality field that included current World No.1 Elavenil Valarivan as well as Tokyo Olympic quota winners Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil, among others.

Just like in (T1) Nisha Kanwar of Rajasthan was once again the best in qualification with 630.7 but stood 2nd in the finals, 0.7 point behind Kavi. The winner of first trial (T1), Elavenil of Gujarat was placed 3rd.

Apurvi (624.5) and Anjum (624.2) were not at their best, and placed 15th and 16th respectively.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Divyansh Singh Panwar (Rajasthan) 250.9 (628.7); 2. Rudrankksh Patil (Maharashtra) 249.7 (629.7); 3. Hriday Hazarika (Assam) 229.5 (630.8).

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. C. Kavi Rakshna (Tamil Nadu) 251.4 (627.7); 2. Nisha Kanwar (Rajasthan) 250.7 (630.7); 3. Elavenil Valarivan (Gujarat) 229.1 (629.0).

  
Hriday Hazarika - Photo: indianshooting.com

Junior World Champion Hriday Hazarika and World No.1 Elavenil Valarivan won the men’s and women’s 10m air rifle (T1) respectively at the ongoing selection trials in New Delhi.

Assam’s Hazarika delivered a start to finish performance in the final to register a score of 253.2 which is 0.4 point more than the World Record.

Madhya Pradesh’s Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar finished 2nd with 251.5.

Punjab’s Arjun Babuta, who shot the best qualification of 629.6, finished 3rd with 230.0.

Two-time Olympian Sanjeev Rajput, who had won the 50m rifle three positions (T1) earlier, finished 4th.

In the women’s event, Gujarat’s Elavenil shot 251.7 to claim the top spot with a margin of 2 points ahead of Olympian Ayonika Paul of Railways.

Shriyanka Sadangi of Odisha, who shot the second best qualification score of 629.1, finished 3rd.

Rajasthan’s Nisha Kanwar topped the qualification with 631.8 but was eliminated on the 6th place in the finals.

The Results:

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Hriday Hazarika (Assam) 253.2 (628.4); 2. Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (Madhya Pradesh) 251.5 (629.4); 3. Arjun Babuta (Punjab) 230.0 (629.6).

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Elavenil Valarivan (Gujarat) 251.7 (628.3); 2. Ayonika Paul (Railways) 249.7 (626.2); 3. Shriyanka Sadangi (Odisha) 228.9 (629.1).

  
Hostel facility at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range - Photo: indianshooting.com

The iconic Dr. Karni Singh shooting range finally got its own accommodation facility with the inauguration of the 162-bed hostel by the Union Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju, on Thursday.

A scheme that was neglected when the range was renovated at a huge cost for the Commonwealth Games in 2010, the air-conditioned hostel was readied at a cost of Rs.12.26 crore by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

“Shooting is one of the premier sports at the moment. It is a priority for us, to take all necessary steps for the shooters. We have huge expectations from shooting and we have a huge reservoir of talent at the grassroot level. Our athletes represent the country in the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games. They must have a standard of living where we provide the basic facilities’’, said the Sports Minister.

In fact, the minister emphasised that the standard of accommodation and food should be a minimum of three-star standard in such hostels.

The shooters, assembling for the national camps, national and international competitions have invariably been staying in hotels, spending precious time commuting in the heavy traffic of Delhi. They will now be walking to their respective ranges of rifle, pistol and shotgun from their rooms.

The facility will be open for use not only for the core group of shooters, but also for the other development shooters and those coming through the Khelo India scheme.

The shooters generally have been restricting training one session in the morning, as it is virtually impossible to make two visits to the range.

“Now we can train in the morning and afternoon, thanks to the hostel’’, said the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anish Bhanwala.

  
Ganemat Sekhon

Punjab’s Ganemat Sekhon shot a creditable 74 (24,25,25) in women’s skeet T1 while Gurjoat Singh with 73 (24,24,25) was the best among men on the opening day of the selection trials at New Delhi.

Two more rounds of 25 shots each are scheduled for Day 2 before the top-six make it to the finals.

  
Photo for representative purpose. Photo: indianshooting.com

NRAI is in talks to sign a million-dollar sponsorship deal with an online gaming company.

It has been learnt that the deal would be worth $1 million a year extending until two Olympic cycles. The sponsorship talks between the NRAI and the online company have been going on for a few months now and the two are very close to coming to an agreement.

According to NRAI, the deal will be announced soon after the formalities are done.

  
Photo for representative purpose only - Photo: indianshooting.com

The core group of Indian shooters for the Tokyo Olympics will converge in New Delhi on Tuesday for selection trials in rifle, pistol and shotgun events, after which teams for the year’s first two ISSF World Cups will be picked. All the country’s top shooters are expected to be present at the trials.

The selection trails will be conducted by the NRAI at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhi.

While the trials for shotgun will begin from Tuesday, the ones for rifle and pistol will start a day later. The country’s top shooters are expected to be present at the trials.

“The performance of the shooters in the trials will be taken into consideration while selecting the teams for the first two World Cups, so it is very significant as the Tokyo Olympics are also scheduled this year,” an NRAI official said. The selection trials will end on January 18.

The first World Cup (shotgun) is scheduled in Cairo from February 22 to March 5, with the second one — Combined World Cup for rifle, pistol and shotgun — slated to be held in New Delhi from March 18 to 29.

  
Olympic-bound Manu Bhaker of India.

Olympic quota winner Manu Bhaker on Sunday left for Bhopal to continue her training at Madhya Pradesh State Shooting Academy during the time the capital’s Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range will be occupied with selection trials for rifle and shotgun shooters.

The 18-year-old Manu will train in Bhopal from January 4-10, before reporting for her selection trials in New Delhi on January 11.

“She has left for Bhopal as she cannot train at the shooting range in Delhi as the selection trials for rifle and shotgun shooters will be held there. And her trails will run from January 11-16, so she left in order to continue her practice,” said Manu’s father, Ram Kishan Bhaker.

The champion markswoman had been training without a break for months now and will be attending a camp in New Delhi after the conclusion of the trials.

The camp is expected to run from January 30 to February 26, after six days of quarantine in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the upcoming trials, Manu had been training non-stop in Delhi after attending a full-fledged camp at the same venue, which got over on December 17.

“If she has to succeed at the Tokyo Olympics, she knows she cannot afford to miss a single day’s practice, and so the non-stop training,” Ram Kishan said of her daughter who competes in 10m and 25m pistol.

Before the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) had resumed its camps after the coronavirus-forced hiatus, Manu had been competing in online shooting competitions organised by former India shooter Shimon Sharif.

Meanwhile, the core group of Indian shooters for the Tokyo Olympic Games will converge here on Tuesday for selection trials in rifle, pistol and shotgun events, after which teams for the year’s first two ISSF World Cups will be picked.

  
Screengrab of the 1st IOSC - Photo: indianshooting.com

After the innovative idea of staging online shooting competitions in times of the pandemic last year, indianshooting.com ushered in the New Year with another first by announcing the launch of its Online Shooting Ranking on January 1.

Based on the performance in six International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC) in 2020, shooters have been ranked and the rankings will be updated after every edition from now on.

As per the calculations, a top spot fetches 8 points while an 8th place gets 1 point.

Needless to say, Indian shooters dominate the charts with Yash Vardhan (19 points), Visnu Shivaraj Pandian (18 points) and Rudrankksh Patil (15 points) ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively in 10m air rifle.

Martin Strempfl’s prolific run in IOSCs reflects in his bagging the top spot among rifle shooters with 36 points. The Olympic quota winner for Austria won the 1st and 4th IOSCs, for which he was awarded 8 points each. 7 points each came his way for finishing runner-up at the 2nd and 6th IOSC, and 6 points for the third spot at the 5th IOSC.

France’s Etienne Germond follows Martin at the second spot with 25 points.

But for Sylvia Steiner, another Olympic quota winner from Austria, at third spot with 12 points courtesy a runner-up and 4th place finish, the 10m air pistol rankings are proof of India’s stature as a shooting powerhouse. Four Indians make up the top five, and leading the pack is quota winner Yashaswini Singh Deswal with 24 points. The 23-year-old Yashaswini bagged the top spot in three IOSCs for 8 points from every win. With a win and runner-up finish in two editions, Amanpreet Singh occupies the second place with 15 points. Another quota winner Manu Bhaker, who finished 3rd twice, is joint third with Sylvia. Shahzar Rizvi, a homegrown talent, is joint fourth with Scotland’s Emilia Faulkner with 11 points. A point behind the duo is Egypt’s Ahmed Esmat.

Friday’s announcement comes as a double joy for Martin and Yashaswini as they were named the Online Shooters of the Year on December 27.

  
Screengrab of the 1st IOSC - Photo: indianshooting.com

As the year winds down and we look back, what comes to mind in these times of the pandemic is the saying, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. From this was born the innovative idea of ‘Online Shooting’ by former India shooter Shimon Sharif after the lockdown due to COVID-19.

Nine months since the first International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) was held, the staging of online competitions is here to stay even when the effect of the virus wanes. The runaway success of six IOSCs and the Online Shooting League (OSL) between April and December is proof that this medium will continue to have takers even when competitions organised by ISSF commence.

With life at a standstill, organisation was a challenge, but the organisers braved the odds and went ahead. The first edition of IOSC only had qualifications and no finals, even then it was appreciated by the shooting fraternity across the world. The finals were introduced in the next edition after just 10 days of the first IOSC. Staging finals online was again a challenge as it involved the elimination format, but things went off smoothly. Word on the success of IOSC spread and the ensuing editions got bigger and better with sponsors like Steyr, Meyton and Capapie throwing their weight behind the initiative.

A screengrab of the 2nd IOSC – Photo: indianshooting.com

The year culminated with the sixth edition of IOSC which broke the charts in terms of representation of 20 countries. Such was the response that Sharif had to close registrations almost a week before the event after the cap was reached.

From an Indian perspective, the IOSC was able to re-engage the country’s four Olympic quota winners as they got to compete with quota winners from other parts of the world. As they gear up for the Tokyo Olympics next year, it was a great opportunity for Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, Sanjeev Rajput and Divyansh Singh Panwar to “awaken the competitive spirit” and experience the pressure that normally accompanies major tournaments like the ISSF World Cups.

Another feather in the cap was staging of OSL, the world’s first online league for an Olympic sport. The experience gained from IOSCs went a long way in making OSL a grand success in July. For four weeks, teams from six countries participated by logging on to the Zoom platform from their respective locations, and the specially designed ‘Race To 10’ format which was used for all the 10 matches was high on energy and viewer friendly.

A thread binding the IOSCs and OSL was the turnout of quality shooters right through. Apart from India’s four Olympic quota winners, there were six other quota winners, namely Martin Strempfl and Sylvia Steiner of Austria, Veronika Major of Hungary, Italy’s Lorenzo Bacci and Marco Suppini, and Vidya Rafika as the first Indonesian shooter to win a quota for her country.

Screengrab of the 3rd IOSC – Photo: indianshooting.com

Apart from this, Anish Bhanwala, the youngest Indian to win gold at the Commonwealth Games, two time European champion Bernhard Pickl of Austria, World No.27 Etienne Germond of France, former World No.1 Shahzar Rizvi of India and scores of Olympians and world-ranked shooters from 30 countries were a part of these novel initiatives.

  

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Shimon Sharif

International shooter Shimon Sharif continues to get plaudits for his ‘innovation’ — online shooting — and the latest to appreciate his efforts is the Ukrainian Army, which has lauded the Delhi-based marksman for his efforts at promoting the sport at a time when all sports activity came to a standstill globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The appreciation from the Ukrainian Army came soon after the sixth edition of International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) was completed and saw participation from 20 countries.

Posting the letter of appreciation from the Ukrainian Army, Sharif, who also organised the month-long Online Shooting League (OSL) in July, tweeted, “Appreciation is one of life’s greatest motivator and so it inspires us to continue doing even more. Thank you Ukrainian Army.”

Sharif with his initiative of online shooting has kept shooters from around the world engaged with the sport throughout the pandemic by organising competitions that saw several renowned names from across the world competing for honours.

“The 6th IOSC was the last one for this year and it broke all records with shooters from 20 countries,” said Sharif, who competed at the ISSF World Cup in 2003.

IOSC was streamed live on the Facebook page of indianshooting.com and got more than 10K views on match days. “I am happy that online shooting is becoming more and more popular among shooters and sport fans from around the world. This is the future of our sport,” added Sharif.

  
Martin Strempfl (Austria) & Yashaswini Singh Deswal (India) - Photo: indianshooting.com

Olympic quota winners Martin Strempfl of Austria and India’s Yashaswini Singh Deswal have been declared Online Shooters of the Year in 10m air rifle and air pistol respectively.

The two winners were chosen on the basis of six editions of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) organized by indianshooting.com during the year.

Set to turn out for his country at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, Martin was a regular face in the IOSCs. The World No.34 won the top spot by some distance with 11 points followed by Etienne Germond of France and India’s Yash Vardhan with five points each.

Martin tends to reserve his best for competitions in India. At the 2019 ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, the 36-year-old had finished 4th to win the Olympic quota. At the IOSCs too, Martin was in top form to win the 1st and 4th editions, for which he was awarded three points each. He was awarded two points each for finishing runner-up at the 2nd and 6th IOSC, and one point for claiming bronze at the 5th IOSC.

Martin termed the IOSCs as the “perfect training opportunity”.

Yashaswini has had a brilliant run of late with a gold at last year’s ISSF World Cup at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and as a junior at the 2017 World Championships in Suhl, Germany. The IOSCs were an extension of the good run for the country’s Olympic quota winner as she came on top with 9 points. Following her was another Indian Amanpreet Singh with 5 points.

The 23-year-old Yashaswini was virtually unstoppable in the three IOSCs she was a part of and walked away with the top honours and three points from each edition to make it a treble. A proof of the World No.4’s domination can be gauged from the 5th IOSC in which she registered the best qualification score and led the final from the start to make it a wire-to-wire win.

Hugely appreciative, Yashaswini said, “Online shooting is a good platform to train and compete, especially in this Covid-19 era. I would like to thank indianshooting.com for organizing the competitions.

Former India shooter and the architect of online shooting Shimon Sharif, said, “Both Martin and Yashaswini were very consistent throughout the year and we are happy that they along with other Olympic quota winners could use our innovation of online shooting to prepare for the Olympics next year”.

  

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From left: Martin Strempfl (Austria) & Etienne Germond (France) pose with their Steyr rifles.

As in previous editions, the 6th International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) attracted some of the best talent from across the globe. For Steyr, it was a validation of its reputation as a top brand. After its pistol shooters swept the opening day, rifle shooters Martin Strempfl and Etienne Germond put up an impressive performance in 10m air rifle.

It was a remarkable show of grit by Martin in the finals. The Olympic quota winner for Austria trailed in the initial stages but rallied well after the 20th shot to climb to second and stayed there. With this appearance, Martin maintained the record of turning out for all editions of the IOSC and the Online Shooting League (OSL), and the 36-year-old was full of praise for his Steyr rifle.

Tracing his association with the brand, Martin said, “I got a Steyr Challenge E air rifle four years ago on the recommendation of teammates Alexander S and Bernhard Pickl. The appointment at Steyr was quick and I took it away after a few adjustments. When I got home, I was thrilled as I never had a rifle that was so calm while firing and the trigger was perfect. The ammunition showed I could use almost any ammunition, but the biggest advantage is I haven’t had to readjust the trigger or anything else. Of course, you can do well with other rifles, but I am convinced that this is the right one for me and responsible for my many successes, and example being the win at my national championship.”

Another Steyr shooter and World No.27 Etienne qualified with the fourth-best qualification score of 629.0 at the 6th IOSC but could not take part in the final due to a prior commitment. The Frenchman turned to Steyr as “I was looking for a strong rifle with a solid concept and quality. I was also interested in Steyr for their electronic trigger and the fact that the recoil was low. I haven’t been disappointed as this rifle is easy to set up. To ensure an easy transition from my previous rifle, the Steyr support team provided me with all the necessary stuff to adapt. A fast transition was the key as we were only 3-4 weeks away from the New Delhi ISSF World Cup (which later got cancelled due to the pandemic) and I needed to get a great feeling fast. Now, whenever I have a question about my rifle or need advice to set it up, I know the Steyr team is there to provide a quick and fantastic response. This is a real advantage because as a high-level athlete every training is crucial for a top performance. So, the time saved with online support is really appreciated.”

The renowned Austrian gun manufacturer coming on board as the gun partner for the 5th IOSC in October and the 6th IOSC, which concluded last weekend, was an affirmation that IOSC is a big hit among the shooting fraternity and the stakeholders of the sport.

  

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India's Yash Vardhan who won the Gold in 10m Air Rifle at the 6th IOSC.

There could not have been a better ending to the 6th International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) and the year’s last online competition organised by indianshooting.com than a homegrown talent taking the top honours. The 17-year-old Yash Vardhan of India dominated from the beginning and despite a late challenge from Austria’s Martin Strempfl, won gold in the 10m air rifle on Sunday with a total of 251.9.

Not only was the victory margin of 1.2 points convincing, the gold capped a performance that was nothing but dominant from the start as Yash, who wears the Capapie kit, had also topped the qualification with a score of 633.0, just 0.5 short of the world record. Ukraine’s Oleksandr Halkin, who shot the second best qualification of 631.2, settled for bronze with a total of 229.3.

Sunday’s result continued Yash’s love affair with IOSC as he had won silver in the 3rd IOSC. More than this, the teenager proved he is a name to look out for after a couple of landmark wins last season. Ranked No.25 in the world, Yash had won the junior gold at the 2019 Asian Championships in Taoyuan, Taiwan and a silver at the ISSF Junior World Cup at Suhl, Germany.

Despite dominating qualification there was no let-up in intensity as Yash took the lead after the first 10 shots with a score of 105.8 and never looked back. The result is a vindication of the hard work, and Yash admitted to it as much. “I’ve waited for a year for this as I’ve finished second and third many times, and the key to today’s success has been the focus on process rather than scores. It is helpful to have competitions like IOSC during these times as it not only helped me gain exposure but also helped me grow into a better shooter. I am delighted with the result and will be looking forward to continuing it,” he said.

After the sweep by Steyr pistol shooters on Saturday, Sunday too had moments of celebration for the renowned Austrian gun manufacturer as Martin came up with a remarkable show of determination in the finals of 10m air rifle with his Steyr air rifle. The Olympic quota winner for Austria was trailing the Ukrainian duo of Oleksandr and Viktoriya Sukhorukova at different points but rallied well after the 20th shot to climb to second and stayed there. “I’m always fighting and that’s the key to the silver,” said the 36-year-old who was disappointed with his qualification score of 625.0. With Sunday’s appearance, Martin maintained the record of turning out for all editions of the IOSC and the Online Shooting League (OSL), and the rifle shooter, who also wears the Capapie kit, termed the IOSC as the “perfect training opportunity”.

Another Steyr shooter and World No.27 Etienne Germond of France qualified with the third-best score of 629.0 in qualification but could not take part in the final due to a previous commitment.

The Results:

10m Air Rifle: 1. Yash Vardhan (India) 251.9 (633.0); 2. Martin Strempfl (Austria) 250.7 (625.0); 3. Oleksandr Halkin (Ukraine) 229.3 (631.2).

  

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Ahmed Esmat of Egypt poses with his Steyr Air Pistol after winning the Gold - Photo: indianshooting.com

With each passing edition, the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) is getting better, and proof lies in the pulsating 10m air pistol final on Day 1 of the 6th edition of IOSC on Saturday. It was a see-saw battle which saw fortunes swing wildly. Indonesia’s 18-year-old sensation Kadek Rico led till the 18th shot but sent shockwaves by crashing out after the 20th shot to finish fourth.

At this stage, Olympic quota winner Sylvia Steiner of Austria was on the brink of elimination but bounced back strongly after the 20th shot. There was no looking back as she went on to run former African champion Ahmed Esmat of Egypt and was just 0.1 point behind before the last two shots but eventually finished second with a total of 238.8, a point behind Esmat. Hlib Kihitov of Ukraine was also impressive and finished third with 218.3. The 20-year-old Hlib, who had won a junior gold at this year’s European Championship in Wroclaw, Poland just before the pandemic, shot the best qualification score of 579.

The pedigree of the three medallists came to the fore and also the fact that Steyr air pistols played a key role in their success. It was a mixed day for Sylvia as she was upset with her show in the qualification but made up with the late rally in the final. Languishing way down after the 18th shot, Sylvia said focusing on technique over the next two crucial shots and shutting out everything else helped the 2017 ISSF World Cup gold medallist at Gabala, Azerbaijan claw back. Sylvia had finished 4th in the 5th IOSC.

Esmat, 32, who had finished 7th in the last IOSC, was in a different league on Saturday. “I started well but then had some crazy moments in the middle. I put my mind on the job and process again and finished well. It (form) is good and I hope it (IOSC) can be held regularly even if the World Cups are back after COVID-19 because it gives us the opportunity to test ourselves,” he said. Esmat claimed gold at the 2017 African Championship in Cairo, Egypt and also holds the national record of 583.

For the third-placed Hlib, the IOSC was valuable training as well. “I’m glad I could take part in the competition and the scores were good,” he said while acknowledging the contribution of Steyr. “It is because of them that I am the junior European champion.”

For the second edition running, Steyr Sport has associated itself with IOSC, and this is a validation of the growing stature of this online competition organised by indianshooting.com.

The renowned Austrian gun manufacturer first came on board for the 5th edition in October and the 6th IOSC again has the support of this iconic company with a rich history of producing champions across global competitions. Steyr has dominated pistol events at the Olympics since 1992. The company’s record at the sport’s biggest event is mindboggling. Starting from Barcelona 1992 to Rio de Janeiro 2016, athletes using Steyr air pistols have bagged 26 medals, nine of them gold.

Closer to time, the company is also proving its worth in rifle events with the success of top shooters like Martin Strempl, Bernhard Pickl and Etienne Germond. The three have been very impressive at the month-long Online Shooting League (OSL) and in the earlier five editions of IOSC.

Steyr’s presence is getting stronger as the IOSC gains popularity, and the sixth edition has the presence of 30 shooters who either use Steyr pistol or rifle.

When action shifts to the 10m air rifle on Sunday, there will be lots to look forward to as the Olympic quota winner Martin and compatriot Berhard Pickl will mount a serious challenge. Pickl is a two-time European Champion and had also won silver at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico. Frenchman and World No.27 Etienne will be another big name from the Steyr stable to take aim on Sunday.

The Results:

10m Air Pistol: 1. Ahmed Esmat (Egypt) 239.8 (572); 2. Sylvia Steiner (Austria) 238.8 (565); 3. Hlib Kihitov (Ukraine) 218.3 (579).

  

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Olympic-bound Sylvia Steiner of Austria with her Steyr EVO 10E - Photo: indianshooting.com

After the resounding success of five editions of the International Online Shooting Championships (IOSC) and a month-long Online Shooting League (OSL), indianshooting.com is back with an even bigger sixth version of IOSC with shooters from 20 countries to take part.

Such has been the response this time that former India shooter and organiser Shimon Sharif had to close the registrations on Monday, almost a week before the event after the cap was reached.

Sharif tweeted, “Due to overwhelming response from around 20 countries, we have closed the registrations for the 6th International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC). We hope to see you in the next edition soon.”

The Zoom platform, which is used for IOSC, has a limit of 100 participants, and to accommodate more numbers an addon is needed from the US-based video conferencing app. “We will look at this option for future editions,” said Sharif, but for the time being the organiser has his hands full.

The novelty of the IOSC is each edition has seen a steady increase in representation. The inaugural edition started with shooters from 7 countries and the fifth edition saw shooters from a record 15 countries take part.

Clearly, the IOSC has caught the imagination of shooters from around the world. Taking a clue from Sharif’s innovation of online shooting, many national shooting federations have come up with their own online competitions. This month itself there are three more competitions apart from the IOSC organised by different national federations.

The IOSC is also becoming popular among the stakeholders of the sport. The IOSC is supported by iconic Austrian gun manufacturer Steyr, which has to its credit the maximum Olympic medals, and India’s very own Capapie kits which are used by the best shooters of the world.

Sharif, who has represented India at the ISSF World Cup, said, “The concept has been noted and well appreciated by the shooting fraternity world over.”

The pistol shooters will be in action on Saturday followed by rifle shooters on Sunday. Like in the earlier editions, shooters will participate by logging on to the Zoom platform from their respective locations. Matches on both days will be streamed live on the Facebook page of indianshooting.com from 4 PM IST.

  

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Visnu Shivaraj Pandian - Photo: indianshooting.com

Former India shooter Shimon Sharif is a proud man these days. Not only is he getting accolades for his innovation of online shooting in these times of the pandemic; shooters of his academy too are making waves in international competitions across the world.

At the forefront is 16-year-old Visnu Shivaraj Pandian, who has been in terrific form of late. A shooter of the Delhi-based Topgun Shooting Academy, run by Shimon, Visnu got silver in junior men’s 10m air rifle at the Pyramids Open organised by the Egyptian Shooting Federation. Another shooter who trains at Shimon’s academy, 15-year-old Pratyush Aman Barik finished 4th.

The two teenagers were the only Indians to make the cut for the finals in the event.

Visnu finished 0.3 points behind gold medallist Tianrui Gai of Singapore’s score of 248.5, making it a neck-and-neck between the two. It was a valiant comeback by Visnu as he did not have a great start and lay sixth after 10 shots but burst into the top three after the 12th shot. Making steady progress, he was tied for the lead after the 14th shot with a score of 149.9. The lead kept changing hands after that as Visnu and Gai fought tooth and nail. The young Indian surged ahead after the 16th and 20th shots and even scored a near perfect 10.8 on his final shot but Gai was the better shooter on this day with a score of 248.5.

Pratyush Aman Barik – Photo: indianshooting.com

The 15-year-old Pratyush too had his chances and was in the lead after the 12th shot and figured among the top three till the 18th shot but a poor 8.8 on the 19th spoiled his chances of a podium finish. Like Visnu, he too shot a 10.8 to sign off but it was not good enough and he finished behind bronze medallist Hayk Babayan of Armenia.

Visnu’s performance did not come as a surprise as he had won bronze a week back at the Indonesian Open and gold at the 5th edition of the IOSC organised by indianshooting.com. Visnu and Pratyush will again be in action this weekend at the 6th edition of the IOSC.

Delighted at his good run, Visnu said, “I am happy that I was able to compete in back-to-back international online shooting competitions. It is always good to compete with shooters from different countries. I am happy with my performance in the final but could have shot a better qualification score today. I am looking forward to the IOSC on the weekend.”

It isn’t for nothing that the Noida-based Visnu is termed a prospect to watch out for in the coming years. In recent times at practice, Visnu has shot more than the world record on several occasions. He has improved steadily with the help of online competitions. Recently, he had outgunned big names like Martin Strempl and World No.27 Etienne Germond of France to win gold in 10m air rifle at the 5th IOSC.

Pratyush said, “I am glad as I got a chance to compete with such amazing shooters. I am happy with my score and would like to improve further. I am looking forward and gearing up for the IOSC this weekend.”

The Results:

Junior Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Tianrui Gai (Singapore) 248.5 (626.5); 2. Visnu Shivaraj Pandian (India) 248.2 (623.0); Hayk Babayan (Armenia) 226.1 (620.5); 4. Pratyush Aman Barik (India) 205.0 (621.9).

  

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Visnu Shivaraj Pandian - Photo: indianshooting.com

Displaying maturity way beyond his 16 years, India’s Visnu Shivaraj Pandian won the bronze medal and a prize money of $500 at the ‘Champion of Champions’ event of the President of Indonesia Open Tournament on Sunday.

Jasmine Ser of Singapore won the gold with a score of 249.8 while the silver was won by Korea’s Keum Jihyeon 0.1 point behind.

It was a proud moment for former India shooter and coach Shimon Sharif to watch his young shooter do the country proud in an international competition organized by the Indonesian Shooting Association. Visnu, who trains at the Delhi-based Topgun Shooting Academy, had earlier topped the qualification with a score of 629.7 in 10m air rifle on Thursday.

It isn’t for nothing that the 16-year-old shooter is termed a prospect to watch out for in the coming years. In recent times at training, Visnu has shot more than the world record on several occasions with a personal best of 637.0 (3.5 points more than the world record).

Visnu Shivaraj Pandian – Photo: indianshooting.com

Visnu held his ground in the final which boasted of stalwarts like World No.6 and Asian Games silver medallist Jung Eunhea, ISSF World Cup bronze medallist Keum Jihyeon, Olympian Cheon Min Ho, who won two gold at the ISSF World Cups in 2004, and World No.18 Nam Tae Yun, all from Korea, Olympian and World Cup bronze medallist Jasmine Ser of Singapore, reigning African champion Osama Elsaeid of Egypt and Indonesia’s Olympic quota winner Vidya Rafika Rahmatan.

Visnu had a shaky start on Sunday with identical 10.1s but bounced back with some good shots. He was placed fifth after the first 10 shots and even took the lead after the 14th and 16th shots. It was a neck-and-neck fight between Jasmine, Keum and Visnu before the Indian teenager got eliminated after the 22nd shot following scores of 10.3 and 10.4 off his final shots. In fact, the uncertainty in sport came to the fore as Visnu scored 10.6 and 10.2 for the best show among the top three in the 19th and 20th shots. Tied second with Jasmine at 208.4, the duo trailed Keum by 0.4 points.

Richer from the experience, an elated Visnu said, “I enjoyed participating in the competition with all the international shooters. This has been a valuable learning experience for me. I thank the organizers and fellow shooters for making this a memorable event. A special thanks to my coach Shimon Sharif for the excellent training”.

In order to prepare Visnu for the finals, Shimon enlisted the help of Austria’s Olympic quota winner, Martin Strempfl, and made the two compete in three back-to-back ‘Race to 10’ matches. Incidentally, Martin also happens to be the world’s most experienced shooter in online competitions, and the training with the best obviously helped Visnu on Sunday.

Despite the lockdown and competitions drying up worldwide due to the pandemic, Visnu has improved steadily with the help of online training and competitions. Recently, he had outgunned big names like Martin and World No.27 Etienne Germond of France to win gold in 10m air rifle at the 5th edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) organized by indianshooting.com.

The Results:

10m Air Rifle: 1. Jasmine Ser (Singapore) 249.8 (625.2); 2. Keum Jihyeon (Korea) 249.7 (628.4); 3. Visnu Shivaraj Pandian (India) 229.1 (629.7).

  
Visnu Shivaraj Pandian - Photo: indianshooting.com

Visnu Shivaraj Pandian will be the only Indian in action at the ‘Champion of Champions’ event of the ongoing President of Indonesia Open Tournament which concludes on Sunday.

Visnu, who trains at the Delhi-based Topgun Shooting Academy, made the cut for the $4500 prize money event after registering the best qualification score of 629.7 in the men’s 10m air rifle on Thursday.

The 16-year-old Visnu is the youngest among the eight shooters for the ‘Champion of Champions’ and will be up against a very strong field which comprises of World No.6 and Asian Games silver medallist Jung Eunhea, ISSF World Cup bronze medallist Keum Jihyeon, Olympian and World Cup gold medallist Cheon Min Ho and World No. 18 Nam Taeyun, all from Korea, Olympian and World Cup bronze medallist Jasmine Ser of Singapore, reigning African champion Osama Elsaeid of Egypt and Indonesia’s Olympic quota winner Vidya Rafika Rahmatan.

Visnu had recently outgunned big names like Austria’s Olympic quota winner Martin Strempfl and World No.27 Etienne Germond of France to win gold in 10m air rifle at the 5th edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) organized by indianshooting.com.

  

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Visnu Shivaraj Pandian - Photo: indianshooting.com

Visnu Shivaraj Pandian of India shot the best qualification score of 629.7 in 10m Air Rifle to qualify for the ‘Champion of Champions’ event at the ongoing President of Indonesia Open Tournament on Thursday.

The 16-year-old Visnu, who trains at the Delhi-based Topgun Shooting Academy, is the only Indian to qualify for the USD 4500 prize money event to be held on Sunday.

Visnu had recently outgunned big names like Austria’s Olympic quota winner Martin Strempfl and World No.27 Etienne Germond of France to win gold in 10m air rifle at the 5th edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) organized by indianshooting.com.

In women’s 10m air rifle, 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Mehuli Ghosh of India finished 9th after scoring 624.5 on Wednesday.

World No.6 in women’s 10m air rifle and 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Jung Eunhea of Korea registered the second best score of 629.5 while her compatriot Keum Jihyeon, who had won bronze at the 2019 ISSF World Cup in Beijing, shot the third best score of 628.4.

The ‘Champion of Champions’ will be held on the concluding day of the five-day competition being organised by the Indonesian Shooting Association.

  

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Divyansh Singh Panwar

World No.1 in men’s 10m air rifle Divyansh Singh Panwar has tested positive for the COVID-19, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) informed on Wednesday.

Divyansh, who has already earned an Olympic quota for India, is currently asymptomatic and is being home quarantined, SAI said in a statement.

Divyansh is part of the ongoing national camp at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhi.

“The shooters and support staff were on a one week Diwali break and reported to the camp on November 18. All campers were on a seven-day quarantine upon joining the camp, as per the Standard Operating Procedures.

“Upon all athletes being tested on the sixth day of quarantine, Panwar tested positive,” the SAI said.

“His condition is being monitored and all requisite support is being extended by SAI and NSF.”

A shooter training in the national capital’s Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range has tested positive for COVID-19, but the SAI maintained that it will not hamper the ongoing national camp.

Last month, SAI had approved a two-month long coaching camp for the Olympic core group shooters from October 15 to December 14.

SAI, though, refrained from naming the athlete.

The camp comprises 32 shooters (18 men and 14 women), 8 coaches, 3 foreign coaches and two support staff.

All 15 Olympic quota winners are part of the camp, which is taking place at a total cost of Rs. 1.43 crore.

Prior to the national camp, the shooters had been practicing at their home ranges amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  

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Olympic Champion Ginny Thrasher of USA.

The excitement was unmistakable despite the mask as America’s 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist in women’s 10m air rifle, Ginny Thrasher, tweeted a picture on November 16. Seen in the waiting lounge with passport in hand and against the backdrop of a runaway, the caption read, “You can’t see it under the mask but I’m SCREAMING WITH EXCITEMENT! I’m off to my first air rifle event in 9 months, can anyone guess where I’m going”.

Team USA, comprising Ginny and Olympian Lucas Kozeniesky, were off to Budapest for the November 20-22 Hungarian Open, and despite months of no competition the duo cornered glory for their country by bagging gold in their respective sections amidst a field that boasted some of the best in the business.

In the build-up to the event, Ginny kept posting updates, one of them with a caption, “Team USA has made it to Budapest! We are fighting off jet lag with a gorgeous walk around the city”.

On Sunday, the 23-year-old again tweeted a photo of the duo with their gold medals and captioned it, “It’s an American double in Budapest! I had a gritty finals performance to finish today strong! I feel a little rusty after 9 months with no competition, but I’m so grateful we’re back”.

The gold will go a long way in helping Ginny’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next year in July due to the pandemic.

Graduating from West Virginia University last year as a 12-time All-American on the rifle team, Ginny moved to Team USA’s training centre in Colorado Springs as a full-time professional preparing for the 2020 Olympics. The pandemic upset plans as the facilities shut down and the Games got postponed. To stay sharp, Ginny made a makeshift shooting range on the East Coast and kept training in the build-up to the Budapest event.

Being able to train was some consolation and Ginny acknowledged the positive. “Being able to train is something I’m honestly so grateful for because most people don’t have that opportunity,” she had said in interview to a TV channel in June. “Athletes around the world in every sport are struggling right now.”

On Saturday, Ginny showed she is not the Olympic champion for nothing. The final was not a smooth sail, but she recovered remarkably to seal the gold by 0.5 points. At Rio, Ginny, ranked 23rd in the world, had beaten the odds to win the Games’ first gold for USA by upsetting Olympic champions Du Li and Yi Siling of China. It was indeed an emotional moment for Ginny as the youngest Olympic champion in women’s 10m air rifle since 1992. “It’s an intense feeling of pride for my country…for my first Olympic experience just coming away with any medal is an absolutely phenomenal thing, and for me to come away with the very first gold in Rio for the United States of America, at 19 years old, is incredible!” she had said after the feat.

  
F

Reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher and Olympian Lucas Kozeniesky of USA won gold medals at the ongoing Hungarian Open being held in Budapest, Hungary.

Participating in an international competition after a long gap — of nine months due the ongoing pandemic — the two Americans were bang on target as they outgunned a very strong field of shooters.

The 23-year-old Ginny had a shaky start in the finals and was in the danger zone after the 12th and the 14th shot but with a perfect 10.9 in the next one and then nothing less than a 10.5 in the remaining shots helped her seal the gold with a margin of 0.5 points.

The silver was won by Hungary’s Eszter Denes while her compatriot Eszter Meszaros took the bronze.

It was a nail biting finish in the men’s final as Lucas and Istvan Peni of Hungary tied twice after the 20th and 22nd shots and were separated by a mere 0.1 point in favour of Istvan before the last shot but in the end it was Lucas who bagged the gold with a margin of 0.4 point.

Hungary’s Peter Somogyl took the bronze.

In the qualification, Ginny shot scores of 628.3 and 628.7 while Lucas shot 629.5 and 628.9 in the men’s 10m air rifle to qualify for the finals in their respective events. Istvan shot the best qualification scores on both days which included 633.5, a score equal to the World Record.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Ginny Thrasher (USA) 251.3; 2. Eszter Denes (HUN) 250.8; 3. Eszter Meszaros (HUN) 228.9.

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Lucas Kozeniesky (USA) 250.8; 2. Istvan Peni (HUN) 250.4; 3. Peter Somogyl (HUN) 229.2.

  
F

Reigning Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher and Olympian Lucas Kozeniesky of USA won gold medals at the ongoing Hungarian Open being held in Budapest, Hungary.

Participating in an international competition after a long gap — of nine months due the ongoing pandemic — the two Americans were bang on target as they outgunned a very strong field of shooters.

The 23-year-old Ginny had a shaky start in the finals and was in the danger zone after the 12th and the 14th shot but with a perfect 10.9 in the next one and then nothing less than a 10.5 in the remaining shots helped her seal the gold with a margin of 0.5 points.

The silver was won by Hungary’s Eszter Denes while her compatriot Eszter Meszaros took the bronze.

It was a nail biting finish in the men’s final as Lucas and Istvan Peni of Hungary tied twice after the 20th and 22nd shots and were separated by a mere 0.1 point in favour of Istvan before the last shot but in the end it was Lucas who bagged the gold with a margin of 0.4 point.

Hungary’s Peter Somogyl took the bronze.

In the qualification, Ginny shot scores of 628.3 and 628.7 while Lucas shot 629.5 and 628.9 in the men’s 10m air rifle to qualify for the finals in their respective events. Istvan shot the best qualification scores on both days which included 633.5, a score equal to the World Record.

The Results:

Women’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Ginny Thrasher (USA); 2. Eszter Denes (HUN); 3. Eszter Meszaros (HUN).

Men’s 10m Air Rifle: 1. Lucas Kozeniesky (USA); 2. Istvan Peni (HUN); 3. Peter Somogyl (HUN).

  

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ISSF celebrated with this post on their Facebook page - Photo: ISSF

Social networking site ‘Facebook’ finally restored the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) page on Wednesday a week after they had deleted it for unknown reasons, bringing a sigh of relief to close to a million followers from amateurs to top shooters.

After the ISSF had asked the entire sports shooting fraternity across the world to come together and show solidarity in its bid to get Facebook to reverse its decision, a large number of shooters had expressed their displeasure over the social networking site’s arbitrary decision.

Several shooters posted messages on various social networking sites, wanting to know the reason behind Facebook’s move.

In a message after the page was restored, ISSF thanked everyone for their support and also welcomed Facebook’s move. “Dear friends, we are glad to inform you that with your help we returned our page on Facebook! We would like to thank you for all your support which we have all these days.

“It’s very important for us. Because of this team work, all of us can continue using the ISSF official group on FB. And we would like to thank Facebook who unlocked it,” the ISSF said in a statement on its website.

It may be recalled that the shooting sports fraternity was caught off-guard last week after it found that the ISSF page on Facebook had been deleted. Shooters from across the world rely for latest updates from ISSF on its Facebook page which was created on 14th January 2010.

Reportedly, Facebook had deleted the page without giving any reason or warning to ISSF. The ISSF, which has its headquarters in Munich, had said in a statement on its website last Wednesday that: “An unpleasant situation happened yesterday, and Facebook has deleted the ISSF page from the social network without reason or warning. At the moment, we are looking into what happened and stay with you on the official website, Instagram and Twitter.”

ISSF had sought the support of the entire sports shooting community saying, “We kindly ask you to support us…please use the hashtag #unblock_ISSF_facebook for our support.”

Though it is not known why Facebook had deleted a verified ISSF account in the first place, one of the reasons could be because the social networking site has a very stringent policy on firearms, which as per their regulations, is against their community standards. Facebook also has a policy, which prohibits “advertisements promoting the brandishing of firearms”.

  

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Shreyasi Singh

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Shreyasi Singh on Tuesday made a successful election debut on a BJP ticket, winning the Jamui assembly seat from sitting RJD MLA Vijay Prakash, Election Commission sources said.

The 29-year-old Shreyasi defeated Prakash by a staggering margin of more than 41,000 votes, the sources said. She polled 79,156 votes, while Prakash, who has represented the seat more than once, bagged only 38,147.

Shreyasi Singh (right) with her mother Putul Kumari.

Shreyasi had won gold medal in the women’s double trap at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. In 2014, she won a silver in the same event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and followed it with a bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. In 2018, Shreyasi was honoured with the Arjuna Award.

Shreyasi’s father Digvijay Singh, a former union minister, and grandfather Kumar Surendra Singh, both served as presidents of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

  

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Photo for representation purpose only - Photo: indianshooting.com

The shooting sports fraternity went into a tizzy on Wednesday after it found that the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) page on social networking site ‘Facebook’ had been deleted.

Shooters from across the world rely for updates from ISSF on its Facebook page which was created on 14th January 2010.

Reportedly, Facebook has deleted the ISSF page without giving any reason or warning to the world shooting body.

The ISSF, which has its headquarters in Munich, said in a statement on its website: “An unpleasant situation happened yesterday, and Facebook has deleted the ISSF page from the social network without reason or warning. At the moment, we are looking into what happened and stay with you on the official website, Instagram and Twitter”.

The ISSF had a verified page and had followers running into tens of thousands. The international shooting body has asked for the entire shooting fraternity to come together and show solidarity in its bid to get Facebook to reverse its decision.

“We kindly ask you to support us…please use the hashtag #unblock_ISSF_facebook for our support,” the ISSF said in a statement.

Though it is not known why Facebook has deleted a verified ISSF account, one of the reasons could be because the social networking site has a very stringent policy on firearms, which as per their regulations, is against their community standards. Facebook also has a policy, which prohibits “advertisements promoting the brandishing of firearms”.

  

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Photo for representative purpose only.

The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), in its governing body meeting last week, has decided that all state shooting championships should be conducted before February-end next year.

The dates for Zonal and National Championships will be announced after NRAI gets a schedule of the state championships from its affiliated units.

A letter posted on the NRAI website on October 23 stated, “The Governing Body of the NRAI, in its emergent meeting held on 22 October 2020 has decided that: (1) All affiliated units will submit schedule to hold their state championships to NRAI and are required to conduct championships latest by 28 February 2021 and (2) On receipt of the schedule of State Championships, the NRAI shall schedule the dates for conduct of Zonal Championship/NSCC.”

The letter further stated: “The 30 AIGVMSC in R/P and shotgun will not be conducted prior to 64 NSCC.”

Usually the Nationals happen in December but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NRAI has postponed its Nationals to next year. The decision comes as a big relief especially for the new shooters who are looking forward to making the cut for their first Nationals.

  

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Rifles and pistols which got submerged in rain water at Gagan Narang's shooting academy.

Heavy rains in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad left Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang’s shooting academy, Gun for Glory, completely waterlogged. Narang claimed equipment worth Rs 1.3 crore, including 80 rifles and pistols were “adversely affected” in the deluge.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Gagan said, “It’s been a torrid 24 hours for us at Gun For Glory Hyderabad. We had water seeping into our ranges, our equipment, machines, all inundated. Equipment worth 1.3 cr, which included 80 brand new rifles and pistols for our new range and nine years of hard work by the GFG team, has been adversely affected, washed away by the deluge.

“First Covid and then floods have put us in a great spot of bother. All of this was meant to produce champions of tomorrow, champions for change. We have put in hours of planning, preparation to get this infrastructure going. Not easy to prepare a world-class venue like this. This place also has some very dear and personal memories. It was here that I would train along with shooters like Dhanush (Srikanth) and Esha (Singh), even current World Number 1. Elavenil (Valarivan). So special in very many ways. We are gutted and at (our) wits’ end after this massive damage caused by the deluge.

“These guns were to be used for our Telangana range project. Rain in the last two days dealt a heavy blow to our plans as this equipment worth 1.3cr procured for making champs was under 8 ft water. Our effort to produce shooting champs from Telangana washed away by rains,” he tweeted.

Apart from 80 new rifles and pistols, Gagan said 20 old rifles, four electronic and 10 manual targets too were damaged.

Gagan added he was planning to reopen the academy at the beginning of next year. However, that is likely to be delayed further.

  
Manu Bhaker during an International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC).

It has now been eight months that shooting competitions across the world have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic. Such has been the impact of COVID-19 that the Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled in July, had to be put off by a year as well.

At this time, the five editions of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) organized by indianshooting.com have been a boon for shooters, especially India’s four Olympic quota winners — Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal, Sanjeev Rajput and Divyansh Singh Panwar.

With shooting ranges shut and no training camps for the Olympic-bound shooters, the IOSCs, the brainchild of former India shooter Shimon Sharif, helped the quartet stay sharp and in competition mode as they got to compete with quota winners from other countries. The opportunity has been able to “awaken the competitive spirit” in the top shooters and put them under pressure too, the kind that normally accompanies major tournaments like the ISSF World Cups.

The four Indian Olympic-bound shooters have made the most of the chance as Yashaswini and Divyansh participated in three editions, while Manu and Sanjeev took part in two. All of them came out raving about the innovative format and slick organization.

“It’s a great initiative because at least we are together, we are united. Sport is again uniting us across the world. We are shooting in different time zones, but we are still together,” said Manu after the opening edition in April in which she finished third in 10m air pistol.

“It was lovely being a part of this competition and I will be joining in a few more online competitions”, added the Youth Olympics and Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

Today’s Online Shooting competition match was Good (586/600). Great move by Organising Committee @indianshooting”, tweeted Manu after her second IOSC.

Manu vouched for the IOSC to help Olympic-bound elite shooters of the country “get much-needed competition”.

“The online shooting championship will definitely help the Olympic-bound elite shooters. I had participated in two competitions during the lockdown. It gave us competition and valuable practice,” said Manu.

A two-time Olympian, Sanjeev, tweeted after the 1st IOSC, “Improvisation in difficult times, with an online shooting competition! Good to be a part of this. Was difficult being in competition mode after a month in isolation. But much needed.” In the 2nd edition, Sanjeev had topped the podium in 10m air rifle.

Yashaswini made her online debut in the third IOSC and was straight away in top form with gold in 10m air pistol. A gold medallist at the 2019 ISSF World Cup in Rio de Janeiro which got her the Olympic quota, the 23-year-old was again on top as she won gold in the 4th IOSC. The World No. 4 made it a hattrick of titles in the 5th edition, which was the biggest in terms of participation with shooters from 15 countries taking part.

She was quick to list the gains. “Online shooting is a good platform to train and compete, especially in this Covid-19 era. I would like to thank indianshooting.com for organizing this competition.”

World No. 1 in men’s 10m air rifle, Divyansh, could not finish on the podium but found the IOSC very innovative and confessed that the match pressure was similar to the one in a world level competition.

All the editions of IOSC were streamed live on the Facebook page of indianshooting.com and got tremendous response from a global audience.

  

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Olympic-bound Sylvia Steiner of Austria with her Steyr EVO 10E - Photo: indianshooting.com

Austria’s Olympic quota winner in 10m air pistol, Sylvia Steiner, might be 38, but there has been no let-up in intensity even after all these years. The ISSF World Cup gold medallist, Sylvia took to the sport in 1992 at age 10, and the desire to keep getting better is evident. At a juncture when most shooters her age either stop competing or contemplate moving on, Sylvia is training diligently for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games in July.

A key component in her success since she began has been the association with Steyr Sport. At the 5th edition of the International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC), which also happened to be her debut in this version of competition, Sylvia shot the second best qualification score of 576, a point behind India’s Olympic quota winner Yashaswini Singh Deswal. The final wasn’t up to Sylvia’s high standards and the fourth-place finish left her disappointed.

Truly, Sylvia and Steyr have evolved together, and the journey has seen the two bring glory for Austria. From the CO2, which was the earliest model Sylvia used, to the LP 10 and now the latest EVO 10E, the duo has become the unmistakable face of Austrian pistol shooting. The silver at the 2002 European Championship as a junior, to gold in her maiden ISSF World Cup final three years ago and next year’s Olympics Games, the bond has only got stronger. The reason for the strong bond is that Steyr’s quality matches Sylvia’s work ethics. “I have grown with the Steyr air pistol, the service is good, and I will shoot with one forever, now more so because the electronic trigger works so well and we don’t have to do much,” said the World No. 32.

Combine the potent weapon with Sylvia’s solid temperament, and Austria can look at a possible medal in Tokyo. Her longevity in the sport is because of dedicated training but the able guidance of father Franz as coach is also a factor. “If you train properly, you can do well even at this age,” said Sylvia. Proof lies in the gold at the 2017 ISSF World Cup in Gabala, Azerbaijan when Sylvia surprised the world and even herself by beating a world-class field that included the reigning Olympic silver medallist Vitalina Batsarashkina of Russia. “It was a special day as I did not expect that I can be so good,” she said.

At a time when most shooting ranges around the world are shut due to the pandemic, Sylvia is training unhindered in her hometown St Johann Pg wi, and it could prove to be decisive in the build-up to the Olympics.

On the key behind his daughter’s motivation, Franz said “It was about technique and working together. And having a father as coach and daughter as a student is always an advantage”.

  

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Shreyasi Singh

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Shreyasi Singh, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday, will fight the Bihar state assembly elections.

Shreyasi’s name was included in a list of 27 candidates that the BJP released on Tuesday for the first phase of polling in Bihar on October 28.

This will be 29-year-old Shreyasi’s debut in politics, though she had campaigned for her mother Putul Kumari who contested as an independent candidate in the last Lok Sabha elections.

Shreyasi Singh (right) with her mother Putul Kumari.

Shreyasi Singh had won gold medal in the women’s double trap at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. In 2014, she won a silver in the same event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and followed it with a bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. In 2018, Shreyasi was honoured with the Arjuna Award.

Shreyasi’s father Digvijay Singh, a former union minister, and grandfather Kumar Surendra Singh, both served as presidents of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

  
Yashaswini Singh Deswal. Photo: indianshooting.com

Olympic quota winner Yashaswini Singh Deswal shot her