Millennium Post

Hitting bull's eye

A student of a dental college in Patiala has become a popular face in international shooting following her record feat at Munich World Cup in November 2013. Despite the tag of being a luxury sport, shooting is growing in popularity, especially after the recent liberalisation of arms and ammunition import laws.

Twenty-five-year-old Heena Sidhu of Patiala is the first Indian shooter to appear on the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) magazine’s cover page for the first time ever since the National Rifle Association of India was formed on Apr 17, 1951. Above all, she is now officially declared as the final world record holder by the ISSF. With this she becomes the first Indian Woman shooter ever to become the final world record holder.

The success story of the 10 metre air pistol shooter portrays a happy picture of the emergence of shooting as popular sport in India, especially after Beijing-2008 and London 2012 success. With arrival of more and more shooting academies, inclusion of the game in CBSE curriculum, liberalisation in arm and ammunition import laws and improvement in basic sports infrastructure, young shooters are joining the game.

Sport became affordable?

Popularity of any game depends on the fact how affordable the game is. Any game becomes affordable when more youngsters aspire to play it.  More people get associated with it.  With Olympic success of Abhinav Bindra in Beijing 2008 followed by Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang’s Olympic glory, shooting has certainly become a popular sport. Gone are the days when only Royal families used to play the game unlike Polo. Reach of this game has expanded manifolds.

Delhi-based Shimon Sharif represented India at the Shooting World Cup in 2003 at Korea and floated India’s first shooting website Answering the same question he added, ‘ When I started shooting in 1995, it was a tough time for the game. With tough weapon laws and dearth of basic infrastructure only few names were there in Indian shooting and they too hailed either from well-of families or from Army. Now acceptability for the sport has gone high. We Indians have an inherited skill for shooting as you must have witnessed the gatherings at any air pistol stall in local melas. They pay for hitting the balloons. Similarly, kids demand a toy guns. So it’s our own game and with access to more state-of-the-art and private academies at schools and colleges, we are going in the right direction.’

Fine-tuning talent

Another man who has been working with Indian shooting since it was nothing, Italian shotgun expert (trap) Marcello Dradi tells, ‘A lot has changed. We started from a scratch and now we are managing Olympic success. India used to face tough time searching for national shooters, now camps are flooded with young boys and girls with their impressive performances at lower levels.’

Adding to the same, secretary general of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) DV Seetharama Rao said, ‘One can go and see the rise in participation from all across India to national events. In recently concluded competition (In December 2013) at Karni Singh Shooting Range in the capital, more than 3000 boys and girls participated in different game events. And the credit must go to the Olympic success, change in government’s attitude, improving infrastructure and reasonably better functioning of Sports Authority of India.

Foreign hands are also playing a vital role in leading the India shooters to learning the international level of the game.’  Shimon also added that with inclusion of shooting in Central Board of School Education (CBSE) curriculum, the game is creating ground and producing talent at a beginning stage. C B S E has added Rifle Shooting as a competitive sport in its Sports Calendar for its affiliated schools all across the globe.

It has more than 9000 schools affiliated to it all over the country and abroad with strength of more than 12 million students. It is a great boost to shooting as a competitive sport to be included in the annual sports calendar thus bringing more budding talents to its ambit.

Liberalisation of laws

Having seen the rise in interest level in the game and results comparatively it has become easy to get air rifles and pistols from abroad. ‘Earlier it was a tough task to import arms and ammunitions used in the game.

In 1995, only top eight national players were entitled to import required arms. Then after few years, 25 were given the privilege and later on all national level shooter were entitled to get the foreign weapons. But it has become much easier now with every shooter, who is member of any state-run or private-owned shooting academy affiliated to Nation Rifle Association of India, can import weapons for the game, informed Shimon.

With an easy access to the required weapons, shooting has also become a distinguished feature and a status symbol for several schools and colleges all across India. Delhi University colleges are seeking shooters as their students. Despite hitting headlines for good reasons, shooters have not got what other sportspersons are having, complains Shimon.

‘Even after Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang have become household names after their Olympic success, they are invisible when it comes to watch them in advertisements and other branding events. Corporate houses must come forward to help the growing sport and encash the popularity of the game. Shooters need appreciation and financial help as badminton star Saina Nehwal is getting.’

Expanding horizon

CBSE has added Rifle Shooting as a competitive sport in its Sports Calendar for its affiliated schools all across the globe. It has more than 9000 schools affiliated to it all over the country and abroad with strength of more than 12 million students

Stars-run schools

Known shooters including Abhinav Bindra (Punjab), Gagan Narang (Pune), Anjali Bhagwat (Pune), Heena Sidhu-Ronak Pandit (Mumbai), Shimon Sharif (Delhi) have opened their shooting academies to nurture the young talent, while some others planing to open

Easy to import

Anyone can now import the required weapons (Air rifle/pistol) to learn and pursue the game of shooting. All you need is a membership of any private or government-run shooting academy affiliated to National Rifle Association of India (NRAI)

On a roll

Young Rajasthan markswoman Apurvi Chandela bagged four medals in the recently concluded 37th edition of the three-day Intershoot Championship at the Hague, Netherland, held from February 6-8. Chandela was participating in the Air Rifle Women's Category. As many as 28 countries had participated in this prestigious shooting event. One day (6 February) one, she bagged individual Gold in the first match (414.6+208.9) while in the second she won individual bronze (414.2+185.4) and a Team Gold medal (1232.5) along with veteran Suma Shirur and Neha Chaphekar. On the third day (8 February), Apurvi won a Silver medal(414.3+204.2). Apurvi, who was the National Champion in 2012, said that it was a tough competition as many Olympians had participated as a preparation for Olympics in 2016.

Shot in the arm

In what came as a major boost to India’s medal prospects in shooting, SAI have sanctioned more than Rs two crore for specialised training to four elite marksmen with an eye on Commonwealth Games and Asian Games later this year. The news has come as music to the ears of Ronjan Sodhi (two silver medals at 2010 CWG and a gold at 2010 Asian Games), Shagun Chaudhary (first Indian woman to qualify for the Olympic trap shooting event in London Games 2012), Heena Sidhu (gold medal in 2013 ISSF World Cup Finals in Germany), and Manavjit Singh Sandhu (gold at 1998 CWG, four silver medals at 1998, 2002, 2006 Asian Games), who have been provided with special funding by the SAI. All four shooters have received over Rs 50 lakh each for specialised training.
Next Story
Share it