Thursday, January 27, 2022

For Indian shooters, another ‘misserable’ day at Rio 2016 Olympics

Gagan Narang finishes 13th in 50m rifle prone to join medal-less list, India remain medal-less at the end of first week.

Written by Shivani Naik |
August 13, 2016 5:35:01 am
gagan narang, gagan narang india, gagan narang india, narang, india shooting, india olympics, india rio 2016 olympics, india olympics results, sports Gagan Narang had also failed to medal at the men’s 50m air rifle event. (Source: PTI)

For once, the winds weren’t ominous. He’s a little more phlegmatic than Rahul Dravid – if that’s possible – but Gagan Narang would’ve woken up to the rainy, windy dawn outside his Games Village window and smiled a little, like Dravid might have, staring down a bouncy pitch, with the ball moving like spitfires.

Windy was challenging, but windy was good. Windy was what Gagan Narang had grown up mastering, windy was right up his stormy alley, windy meant he could summon his considerable experience and technical prowess.

Considered India’s most talented shooter who read conditions on the range like gentle beasts sniffed out infrasonic hertz, Gagan Narang was prepared for the winds.

But he didn’t regain his rhythm for the last five shots and crashed out on 623.1. He’d seen the comfortable perch of 4th, but things never really settle in shooting until the last shot and he would hang on desperately to the top-8 and then drop down, with a resurgence never kicking in, as it ought to have for the pro.

It was tired triggering towards the end of the sixth series, and India couldn’t qualify for yet another final. The wait for the medal wasn’t going to end at Narang’s door.

Gagan Narang loves his craft, understands guns, and reads conditions better than most. Those little red flags you see fluttering – Narang’s shooting has an in-built anemometer, a sort of a shooter’s sixth sense when competing on the outdoor 50 m range.

Not that indoor ranges are easy to tame, but outdoor ones simply throw in challenges that demand added experience. Gagan Narang wasn’t short on experience having medalled in recent years in 50m prone. His advantage was that he could adjust to the unhelpful conditions.

But a routine break in the last series saw him return to start with a 9.5. This wasn’t a dramatic meltdown from the up-and-down winds – just flat, low-intense shooting that didn’t get the job done.

Lanes 15 to 35 would record marginally better scores; Narang was in No 52, and though it demanded absolute focus and improvisation, and Narang had his chances, he couldn’t finish the work.

There were other big names that went out too – Yifei Cao, Peter Sidi, Oleh Sarkov, Warren Potent.
The left elbow that steadies the gun, could be said to have let him down, as the triggering (finding the exact time to shoot figuring in conditions and alignment) failed this day, ending India’s medal hopes in prone.

Narang who medalled in 10 m air rifle to kickstart medals at London, couldn’t work the same magic or crack the level of efficiency this time around.

In its first week, India remains medal-less and miserable.

Mental preparedness

While serious medal hopes – Abhinav Bindra and Jitu Rai have maxed out reaching finals, archers have gone out despite a month-long prep stay in Rio and almost driving them out into isolation. Yet, doubts remain on their mental preparedness for the precision events, as well as peak physical fitness for both shooters and archers. A strong body aids concentration, keeps mental fatigue at bay, and as such not all Indians have been known to be in top shape going into Rio.

India’s other big man, discus dude, Vikas Gowda also ended with a whimper, and Shiva Thapa – considered a big medal hope, before the draw pit him against the Cuban champ, went down with much of a fightback. Men’s doubles pairing of Leander Paes – Rohan Bopanna couldn’t do much, and it meant it’s down to Yogeshwar Dutt and Saina Nehwal among the former medallists to step up.

While introspections will resume in India among the two federations of shooting and archery, what is immediately evident is that Indians aren’t responding in the best manners possible to pressure situations. And the solutions are as much psychological as they are technical.

There is urgent need for top-grade international coaches to help the markspeople to deal with various situations, and Indians ought to start preparing in earnest for cold climes and the assorted challenges that brings in.

The mood in Rio for the Indian contingent has been quite gloomy, and it’s not just the overcast conditions and clouds drooping low over SugarLoaf and the hills that hulk over the city. Shooting has been India’s form sport for three Olympics now, and India’s staring at a rout.

Archery, riding on Deepika Kumari, raises hopes, but hasn’t struck the medal in two straight Games now. Boxing is in a mess at a time when rule changes have altered the sport at Olympics, and wrestling and tennis have gone through such bruising lead-ups that noone’s gotten down to scrunching the medal figures.

The last time India returned without a single medal was 1992. Leander Paes played his 7th Olympics, but sadly there’s no medals for longevity alone. There are winds, there’s no change though.

Mairaj on 10th after round 1

Mairaj Khan shot impressive rounds of 24, 25 and 23 to finish first day of qualifying in skeet at 10th position. Mairaj is the first Indian shooter to participate in the skeet event at the Olympics. The score of 23 in the third series pegged him back a bit but he firmly remains in contention for the semifinals if he marginally improves on his scores during the second qualifying round on Saturday. The semifinals and medal rounds too will be held on Saturday.

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