We expect medal tally to increase substantially at the Olympics:Shri Raninder Singh President NRAI

Singh says the fact that India has done well at the Commonwealth Games indicates that the country has depth and quality. Photo: The India Today Group.

 

Glasgow: The president of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Raninder Singh, is one of the few heads of a national sports federation who have been active sportsmen, having represented India at numerous international events. Singh, 46, son of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Preneet Kaur, a former minister of state for external affairs, studied at Doon School in Dehradun and St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and graduated in business management from Buckingham university in the UK. He has headed the NRAI since 2010. Indian shooters have been prolific medal winners at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. On the bigger stage of the Olympic Games, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the silver medal in men’s double trap in Athens in 2004 and Abhinav Bindra the gold in the 10m air rifle event in Beijing in 2008. Vijay Kumar took the silver medal in the individual 25m rapid fire pistol event at the 2012 Olympics in London. Excerpts from an interview with Singh:

What are the broad reasons for the significant growth in shooting and the success it has seen in the past decade or so?

We have a clear-cut plan and the roles of our coaches and officials are defined and selections purely on merit. All results are on a website and there is total transparency. Regardless of your past record or name, only merit at the trials and current form count for selection. The shooters know that and so they are focused on the sport. For instance, Jitu Rai is World No. 1 in the 10m air pistol, but he lost the trials to Prakash Nanjappa and Om Prakash, so they are here. And notice how the depth has increased as Prakash won the silver. Meanwhile, Jitu has qualified for the 50m air pistol along with Gurpal Singh. I am sure both will be among the medals (Jitu Rai and Gurpal Singh won gold and silver on Monday). In the past, most of our shooters came from the army, but now the sport is much more broad-based. We have civilian shooters from various walks of life and we are also encouraging talented shooters from backgrounds from where it may not be easy to take up a sport like shooting, which is expensive. So we use the grants and funds we get from the government on all this.

What kind of support has there been from government agencies?

Ensuring adequate funding for the shooters is our top priority. The government has been very supportive. We had a budget of Rs.20 crore last time and I asked for Rs.28 crore this time, but we got Rs.22.8 crore. I am sure future results will get us more funds. We have apportioned 50% of that for juniors, which is why we send more and more shooters for international junior competitions.

The team is full of young shooters, so can you tell us a bit about the composition of the team?

The average age of the Indian shooting team is very young. A good number of these shooters range from 16 years (Malaika Goel, the women’s 10m air pistol silver medallist is 16) to about 24-25 years. Around one-third of our team of about 30 shooters are 25 or under (12 of the 30 shooters are under 25) and a few more are under 30. At the same time, with merit being the criterion for selection, age is no barrier. Many over-35 (shooters) have made the team. For instance, Mansher Singh, our trap shooter, is the seniormost at 48 and is competing in his seventh CWG (Commonwealth Games). He is here because he shot better scores than others at the trials. Same is the case for Manavjit Sandhu, former world champion in trap, who is about 37. Vijay Kumar, Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang are among the other seniors.

How has the interaction between seniors and youngsters helped?

We have created an environment where the youngsters learn the ropes from the seniors. The seniors as well as the coaches are there to provide support and fine-tune techniques; work on match play situations, mental preparation and so on. They stay and train like a family. At most competitions, the shooting venues are far from other venues, so the shooters are bonded closely like a family. I have been a shooter myself, actually I still am—I have qualified for the national trap final most times in last five or six year—so I understand the value of learning from experienced hands.

Is there any specific way for the transition from junior to senior ranks?

We have been trying to get more and more exposure and training stints for shooters. We have constantly been working with the Sports Authority (of India) to get ammunition at cheaper rates because that is the most important aspect of training. We will have more than 100 shooters in seniors and juniors at the World Championships in Spain in September. I feel it is very important for juniors to see and compete alongside seniors... They are able to watch senior competitions, and when they move to seniors, they are not awed by big names and good scores. It is part of the growing-up for all shooters.

What do you foresee for the Olympics?

Before the Olympics in Rio, we have World Championships this year in Spain and also the Asian Games in Korea. Those will help us get quota spots. We have had medals at the Olympics every time since 2004, but by 2016 and 2020, we expect the numbers to increase substantially. I would not like to give precise numbers, but even five or six medals, maybe even more, are possible. Even in London, we won two and came close in some other events. The fact that we have done well at the Commonwealth Games is an indicator that we have the depth and the quality. We have also had a few No. 1s in various events, so all those are good indicators. If you look at the number of events where we won gold and silver, and the pairs had still been around, this tally would have been huge. But we are still very happy and on top of the medals tally for shooting.

 

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