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NRAI asserts shooters should stay an arm’s length from parents

While parents will be allowed to travel, the NRAI will not book their tickets nor pay for their accommodation.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi |
Updated: April 29, 2018 7:12:21 pm
Abhinav Bindra. Abhinav Bindra, Abhinav Bindra interview, International Olympic Association, jitu rai, india shooting, shooting news, shooting, sports news, sports The Abhinav Bindra-led panel feels shooters’ parents are often a distraction.

Blaming them for being a ‘distraction’ for the shooters and to ensure they don’t try to influence coaches during a competition or get accreditation cards, the National Rifle Association of India has decided to impose restrictions on parents of Indian athletes travelling with them.

While parents will be allowed to travel, the NRAI will not book their tickets nor pay for their accommodation (which would be later reimbursed) – the current practice. Even if they book their own hotel rooms, parents will be advised from staying at the same venue as the shooters and won’t have access to the team bus.

The NRAI has now acted on the basis of the report submitted by the Abhinav Bindra-led panel following India’s disastrous performance at the Rio Olympics last year. One of the points the committee had stressed on was the continuous presence of the ‘kith and kin’ of the shooters at the ranges.

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The report also stated that parents would at times travel with official accreditation even if they lacked technical knowledge and even entered the field of play. At times, shooters listened to the ‘tips’ given by their parents, which undermined the role of a coach.

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“It has been brought to the notice of this committee that there have been numerous occasions where parents have accompanied their children on tours. Parents also try and influence the national coaches to get them to give personalised attention to their children over others. This has to end,” the report read.

Consequently, the NRAI recently informed the parents that they can no longer be with their children on tour. The NRAI president Raninder Singh said it was impossible for them to stop parents away from travelling to a particular country but they will limit the access the shooters have. “We have told them not to travel with the shooters. We won’t allow them to stay in the official hotel and their access to the team will be limited,” Raninder told The Indian Express.

“We have been liberal in the past, especially with the juniors. But during one competition, there was a case of a parent making paronthas. In principle, it’s something we won’t encourage,” he added.

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Parents, mainly mothers, of almost every athlete accompanied them to international tournaments across the world. The practice has been going on for quite a few years but was highlighted only after the Olympics in the report. The decision has drawn mixed response from the parents. Ani Koshy, mother of rifle shooter Elizabeth, said the presence of parents would give the shooters psychological relief during competition.

“Shooting is an individual sport so you need proper support around you to perform well. I have been travelling to every competition with Elizabeth. The new rule is disappointing,” Koshy said. “You need to take your mind off shooting once you leave the range. If the parents are there, the shooters feel comfortable.”

It’s a view echoed by several parents who accompany their children abroad. But Bharti Ghatkar, mother of World Cup bronze medalist Pooja, said that the step to restrict the assess of parents would make the shooters mentally stronger. Bharti recalled an instance where she was the only parent of the rifle team who did not travel. “During that tournament, Pooja instinctively turned behind to look at me when she hit a poor shot. When she did not see me there, her eyes swelled,” Bharti said. She feels if parents are not around, the shooters will become more independent. “But that incident made her stronger. I feel if parents are not around, the shooters will become independent and take more responsibility. After all, at the Olympics they have to fight alone,” she observed.

Selection experiment

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Raninder said the NRAI has implemented almost 95 percent of the recommendations made by the panel. Among the other suggestions implemented by the NRAI include the modifications in the selection policy. Previously, the federation used to send the shooters with three best scores domestically for international tournaments irrespective of their form.

It was recommended that the coach have a say in the team selection instead of going purely by the score.

The NRAI didn’t cozy up to the idea fearing there would be allegations of favoritism but decided to experiment with it with the skeet event. And it seems to be have worked well. As per the NRAI’s rankings, Sheeraz Sheikh was sixth in the country in his event.

Mairaj Khan, Amrinder Singh Cheema and Angad Veer Singh are currently the top-three, in that order. India’s skeet coach Ennio Falco decided to replace Cheema with Sheikh, going by his instinct and performance in training. And Sheikh repaid the Italian’s trust by qualifying for the skeet final on Thursday in the most competitive field at the World Cup.

Sheikh came up with his career-best performance, shooting 121 in the qualifying round to make the cut for the final in a field that comprised the Olympic champion and former world champions. He eventually finished sixth.

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“We can’t do away with merit completely because we don’t want favoritism. So we decided to give the coach a choice for one athlete outside the merit list. Our first example (Sheikh) seems to be the right choice. But we have to be absolutely convinced before sacrificing merit. Not every coach has a make-up like Falco,” Raninder said.

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First published on: 03-03-2017 at 01:16:38 am
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