Falling out of the trap

INDIA - APRIL 23: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, an Indian shooter who won the first individual silver medal for the country in 2004 Summer Olympics, at his Polo Road house, New Delhi. (Photo by Qamar Sibtain/The The India Today Group via Getty Images)

Not a single Indian has qualified for the trap shooting category in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Patriot tries to finds out why

Kynan Chenai reached the final of the men’s trap event at the Asian Championships at the start of November, it appeared as if India’s search for an Olympic quota in the shotgun events for Tokyo Games is finally over. After all, all he had to do was finish fifth out of six finalists. But as fate would have it, he finished sixth and missed out.

In all likelihood, no trap shooter will be competing for India at the Tokyo Olympics. That is after no one made it to the final at any of the World Cups this year. Chenai came close twice but missed out on both occasions. The women were no different

Shotgun shooting in India has seen relative success. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver medal in double trap at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Manavjit Singh Sandhu became world champion and world number one in the trap. Ronjan Singh Sodhi is a former world number one in the double trap. Despite not winning a medal at Beijing or London Olympics, India managed to win medals at World Cups and even get direct qualification for the Olympic Games.

When it came to qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, the trap event was always more likely to get a quota than skeet. This time, however, skeet has two quotas. Double trap is not a part of Olympics any more

It’s not just the qualifying, things have not looked up for trap shooters over the last couple of years

The Abhinav Bindra-led committee which was formed to review India’s medal-less run in the Rio Olympics was also critical of trap shooters. In its review of Sandhu it wrote, “The inflexible attitude of Sandhu is disappointing. There was no inclination to take the right path.”

“We need a course correction right now to make the system more competitive,” Mansher Singh, the coach for the national shotgun team said in an interview. “The problem is bench strength. We need more shooters to contest in juniors and women.

“Shooters want to do well,” he stated. “Sometimes you are caught in that feeling. We have an old guard in Trap like Sandu, Mansher, Randhir Singh. It will take a little time to overcome this.”

To be a shotgun shooter in India is tricky. The shotgun has to be imported and only an established and competitive shooter can import it. Rifles and pistols, however, can be bought in India.

Apart from the cost of the gun, the cost of cartridges is also high. Add the clay target to it and both combine for around Rs 100 per target. A daily session of 100 targets would cost around Rs 3 lakh per month.

Trap is considered to be a marquee sport in shooting. Shooters cannot guess the direction of the target as it comes out of a computer-controlled machine. Out of the 25 targets, 10 are going right, 10 are going left and five go straight but in random order.

Singh said that India failed to bring in more juniors in trap shooting which led to the slowdown.

“We were a little short-sighted in not following the junior program as followed by rifle and pistol teams,” he said. “We were going with the old program until last year. We would pick top 18 shooters for the senior trials and that was spreading ourselves very thin.”

Kynan Chennai, India’s best chance at an Olympic spot for trap shooting, failed to qualify for the 2021 event in Tokyo

The new rules of shooting qualification post pandemic

The New Delhi World Cup in March next year was  dubbed as “decisive” by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) for qualification to the Tokyo Olympics. Originally scheduled to be held in July-August this year in the Japanese capital, the 2020 Olympic Games was pushed back by a year due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

The competition in Delhi, to be held from 19-28 March, will be a combined tournament. “The 2021 ISSF World Cup Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun in New Delhi will be decisive for Tokyo 2020 Qualification regarding the World Ranking,” the world shooting body said on its website. The ISSF further stated, “This decision of the Executive Committee is compliant with the general approach to maintain the original Qualification System approved in 2017 as much as possible”. It will be possible to obtain the Olympic MQS (Minimum Qualification Score) at all 2021 ISSF Championships scheduled to take place before the end of the Qualification period (June 6th, 2021). According to the ISSF calendar, South Korea (Changwon), Azerbaijan (Baku), Egypt (Cairo) and Italy (Lonato) will be hosting the remaining World Cups in 2021.

The Indian capital was supposed to host a combined World Cup in March this year, which was first postponed to May-June and then cancelled due to the pandemic. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has received a request from the chief coaches in rifle, pistol and shotgun disciplines to organise a national camp for the Olympic core group to ensure better preparation. The NRAI had postponed the compulsory training camp for its core group planned from August 1 after taking into account the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 15 Indian shooters have secured quota places for the postponed Tokyo Games. The ISSF Executive Committee recently approved rule changes and a new ranking system. The technical changes, mostly in team events, will be included in the ISSF Championships program from next year. The ranking system will also be implemented from next year.

(Cover: Rajyawardhan Rathore won a silver medal in trap in 2004 Photos: Getty Images)

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