All eyes on Bindra, Sodhi as shooters aim for bull's eye
A clutch of young archers and a host of experienced marksmen would aim to boost the meager medal haul that India has reaped from the Olympic arena when competitions in these two disciplines gather pace on Saturday.
The focus of millions of Indian sports followers would be trained on the country's top woman archer and world no.1 Deepika Kumari who will spearhead the challenge in the medal rounds of the recurve event on Sunday along with squad mates Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro.
The trio booked the quota places, upsetting defending champions Korea to make their maiden entry into the World Championship final, but only to lose to the Italians in the gold medal clash at Turin last year.
Image: Competitors take aim during the Archery Ranking Round on Olympics Opening Day as part of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Lord's Cricket Ground
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Deepika key to India's chances
The country's tally has stood at nine gold medals (comprising eight in men's hockey and rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra), 1 silver (trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore) and five bronze medals before the Games.
The only woman medallist from India in over eight decades of Olympic appearance has been weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, 12 years ago at Sydney.
The 18-year-old Jharkhand girl and her teammates could follow in the Andhra woman's footsteps if they climb the podium here on Sunday in the team championship.
However, the former world junior champion and gold medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and her teammates would have to bear the burden of huge expectations in order to achieve their Olympic dream.
For only the second time since the 2004 Athens Games that Indian archers have been able to earn the maximum of six quota places for the Olympics and the team will also look forward to strong challenge from the corresponding men's team whose medal round is scheduled on Saturday.
Image: Deepika Kumari
Photographs: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Shooters aiming for bull's eye
Shooters also commence their strong bid to the medal chest with Beijing Games gold medal winner Bindra leading the campaign along with fellow-rifle expert Gagan Narang and trap marksman Ronjan Sodhi.High on confidence the shooters are to begin their Olympic campaign at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
Though records and current form have raised hopes of a good number of medals from the shooting arena, it is still a tough ask for the Indians to ensure that their medal quest bears fruit.
The spotlight would largely be on the star men's trio of shooters, all of whom are being touted as serious medal contenders though the other shooters are also quite talented and can pull off a surprise or two on their day.
For the first time ever, India have fielded 11 shooters unlike the eight participants in the Beijing Games, which only reflects the improved show by the marksmen in recent years.
Image: An Olympic shooting athlete trains for the 10-meter air rifle event, at the Royal Artillery Barracks
Photographs: Rebecca Blackwell/AP
The huge hype surrounding the shooters will also put more pressure on the likes of Sodhi, Bindra and Narang as they are well aware that there is no room for errors at this stage.
While Bindra trained in Germany and appears to have regained his form, Narang is also in his zone after having performed consistently in recent times under coach Stanislav Lapidus.
Narang will be seen in action in three events in London but 10m Air rifle is his main event where he will challenge Bindra and China's Zhu Qinan.
"They have been training hard for long periods and have taken part in a lot of competitions. The effort is to bring them to peak form by the time we go into the Olympics. That is what matters and not what we have done in the past. Previous outings don't matter," India's coach Sunny Thomas said.
Image: Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Heena Sidhu to feature in 10-metre Air Pistol
Vijay Kumar, triple gold medallist in CWG, will start India's campaign when he takes to the range for the 10-metre Air Pistol event.
Heena Sidhu and Annuraj Singh will be seen in action the next day in the women's 10-metre Air Pistol event.
July 30 could turn out to be a big day for India as Bindra and Narang will be representing the country in their pet event, 10-metre Air Rifle.
Two days later, Sodhi will look to hit the bull's eye in the double trap event.
Then there are also Sanjeev Rajput, Joydeep Karmakar and Rahi Sarnobat -- all capable of producing scores good enough to get medals.
Image: Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj Singh
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters