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Will these teenage shooting sensations pass the Asiad test?

Source: PTI
August 18, 2018 11:50 IST
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In the absence of greats like Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang, will another star emerge in the rifle events?

With a gold, silver and seven bronze, India finished eighth in the shooting event at Incheon, South Korea, four years.

Anish Bhanwala

IMAGE: Anish Banwala, 15, stormed into the limelight after winning gold in the 25m rapid fire pistol at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photograph: Eddie Safarik/Reuters

Teenage prodigies Anish Bhanwala, Manu Bhaker and Elavenil Valarivan will carry India's medal hopes in shooting at the Asian Games, beginning in Palembang on Sunday. Standing in their way are the mighty Chinese and South Koreans.

Bhanwala and Bhaker, 15 and 16 years of age respectively, stormed into the limelight with a gold in the 25m rapid fire pistol and 10m air pistol respectively at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

 

The competition though at the Commonwealth Games is much easier than the Asian Games and it remains to be seen how they perform under pressure.

While India won seven gold medals at Gold Coast, the country has the same number of gold medals in the history of the Asian Games. Only four shooters -- Jaspal Rana, Ronjan Sodhi, Randhir Singh and Jitu Rai -- have won an Asiad gold.

Rana, now a coach and with the Indian team at the Asiad, has already talked about the unnecessary attention on the youngsters though does not rule out their medal chances.

Bhaker will be in action on the opening day alongside Abhishek Verma in the pistol mixed team event.

Her maturity belies her tender age as she has already tasted success at the highest level, winning two gold medals at the Guadalajara World Cup in March before stepping on top of the podium at Gold Coast.

Bhanwala, however, is yet to make a mark at the senior level after bagging a double gold at the Junior World Championships. The Asian Games will be a big test for him.

The focus was on Bhaker and Bhanwala in the lead-up to the Games but there is another exceptional shooter who has quietly gone about her business. She is 19-year-old Valarivan.

She created a flutter by winning 10m rifle gold at the Sydney Junior World Cup earlier this year with a World record score.

Manu Bhaker

IMAGE: Manu Bhaker, 16, won two gold medals at the Guadalajara World Cup in March before stepping atop the podium at the Commonwealth Games. Photograph: ISSF/Twitter

The seasoned Sanjeev Rajput, who will aim for gold in the 50m rifle three positions after winning in Gold Coast, too has high expectations from Valarivan.

"She has been shooting really well. Unlike in the past, the youngsters are doing really well for India. There is a sizeable pool (both in rifle and pistol) which has been doing well. It was not the case earlier," Rajput told said.

Indian team has been hit hard due to the absence of team events. Rajput himself won three team medals from 2006 to 2014 and is now determined to add an individual medal to his kitty.

Akhil Sheoran is the other Indian shooter in the 50m rifle three positions.

In the absence of greats like Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang, there is the possibility of another star emerging in the rifle events.

Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar will open India's rifle campaign in the mixed team event at the Jakabaring Shooting Range on Sunday. They have a sniff at the medal, having finished fourth at the World Cup in March.

There is a lot of young blood in the squad but seniors like Heena Sidhu (pistol), Manavjit Singh Sandhu (trap) and Shreyasi Singh (trap) too will be itching to perform.

With a gold, silver and seven bronze, India finished eighth in the shooting event at Incheon, South Korea, four years.

China topped the table with 50 medals, including 27 gold, and are expected to dominate again.

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