'An example is mixed pair test event over here in air pistol (which Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu won). So we have the best chance of picking up an extra medal in the two air events. That's why I believe it is in our interest, this change. I am not worried about it'
Terming pistol and rifle events as "strength areas" for Indian shooters, NRAI president Raninder Singh said the country will be at an advantageous position if the International Olympic Committee ratifies the ISSF recommendations on mixed gender shooting events for 2020 Tokyo Olympics programme.
In line with the IOC's aim to achieve gender equality in its Tokyo Olympics programme, the International Shooting Sport Federation last week forwarded to IOC its ad-hoc committee's recommendations, which when implemented, will see the double trap men's event being replaced by trap mixed gender team event, 50m rifle prone with a 10m air rifle mixed gender event and 50m pistol with 10m air pistol mixed gender team event.
"I am a shotgun shooter and if I look at it dispassionately, not emotionally or haphazardly, what are my strengths -- air rifle and air pistol. My deepest bench strength is in air rifle and air pistol. And it will remain so, given the dynamics of Indian shooting. So where do I have the maximum chances of doing well, think about it," Raninder told reporters on the sidelines of the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.
"An example is mixed pair test event over here in air pistol (which Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu won). So we have the best chance of picking up an extra medal in the two air events. That's why I believe it is in our interest, this change. I am not worried about it," he said.
He added, "My duty as an executive board member is to look at shooting as a sport in Olympic movement, that is my primary responsibility. I am not there as a representative of India. I was elected by 452 people and there are only two votes from India. So we have responsibility to international shooting first.
"When we see how it suits us as a country. I am very happy, I think I am going to gain. You get extra chances for quota, you get extra chances for medal in our strength areas."
The nine-member ad-hoc committee was headed by Abhinav Bindra, who has come in for criticism from some shooters, and Raninder said it was the duty of the Indian Olympic champion to "project" the recommendations of his body to the ISSF executive board.
"My only request is ‘lay off Abhinav Bindra’. He had nothing to do with this, he has done his job. He has debated it very professionally. If his body decides something he is duty bound to project it in the executive board," said Raninder.
"The ISSF athletes committee is one vote out of 13 on the executive board. He is not the only one making the recommendation. The ISSF executive board set up an ad hoc committee in which the athletes committee chairman was one member out of nine.
"So even if he has made some suggestions it is not incumbent on the executive board to mandatorily listen to what Abhinav Bindra and the athletes committee has to say. Many times we reject (their suggestions). It is the greater wisdom of the shooting governing executive faced with what we were given in terms of the demands made by the IOC -- shape up or go away."
The IOC Programme Commission will evaluate the proposal and the IOC Executive Board will decide the 2020 Olympic shooting events programme later this summer.
"So earlier we had 15 events, now we would have had 12 (if we had not taken this step), so why blame Abhinav Bindra for it. You have to understand that the athletes' commission has one vote out of 13. Nothing the athletes commission says is mandatory for the ISSF executive to follow. It can recommend strongly or otherwise, we may or may not accept it," the NRAI chief said.
"In case of gender equality in 2020, they had their own internal vote on the subject. This is not something that has come out of the blue. In Lonato, one year ago, all 13 members of the executive board and the entire council discussed this issue."
Raninder said the ISSF had received an evaluation report from IOC on the popularity of Olympic shooting events, and they were not very positive about the three events facing the axe.
"The IOC has given us a very detailed study of which one of our 15 sports is (behind) in ranking, growth, television viewership, and the worst performer has been double trap followed by 50m and prone. So what they have done is (replace) the bottom three. There is logic to it, there is no likes or dislikes. It's the bottom three which the executive committee has chosen to replace. His body had unanimous vote on two -- double trap and 50m. On prone, there was no unanimity.
"In our case we have to see what is in benefit of, firstly, international shooting as an Olympic sport. So do we now have 12 events and be happy, come down from 15 or do we salvage the situation and bring in 15 and meet the gender equality norms that are there."
The NRAI president, meanwhile, said the Indian junior skeet team will have a new coach in Pietro Jenga.