DEEPIKA KUMARI DURING THE ARCHERY TEAM EVENT IN LONDON
ence to empower its stars.
They don’t have to look any further than Narang for evidence. The manner in which he handled pressure in the final of the 10m air rifle event was a clear sign of how he has moved on from his disappointment of missing out on the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award two years ago, when he had threatened to quit. It was only after being persuaded by friends, media and officials that he competed in the 2010 Delhi CWG, where he won four golds, and at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, where he won two silvers.
Narang’s self- belief on July 30 was evident as he shot inner 10s with each of his first 26 shots. “I have medals from all the top tournaments in my showcase. The one missing was an Olympics medal. That pressure is off my chest now,” he said. “I always knew Gagan had it in him to win an Olympics medal,” said Abhinav Bindra, gold medallist at Beijing. He failed to make it to the final, but showed enormous grace in praising his teammate.
Rajyavardhan Rathore’s silver at Athens in 2004, Bindra’s gold in Beijing and Narang’s bronze in London have been a shot in the arm of the National Rifle Association of India ( NRAI). “This is the beginning,” says NRAI President Raninder Singh, while national coach Sunny Thomas points out that there is a system in place. “People complain that we conduct too many trials before each Games, but the fact is that we pick shooters on form,” he says.
The Great Indian Hotshot Dream has been fuelled by the sports ministry as well, spending as it did close to Rs 24 crore from Operation Excellence, on the shooters’ training for the Games. “India has foreign coaches in rifle, pistol and shotgun events. We have good shooting ranges in Tughlakabad, Hyderabad and Pune,” says Moraad Ali Khan, Arjuna Award winner and a government observer. “Unless you spend big bucks, medals will not come.”
There have been other good performances as well, not in the least shuttler Parupalli Kashyap’s victory over Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne at the Wembley Arena to become the first Indian man in history to reach the badminton quarter- finals of the Olympic Games. Boxers Vijender Singh, Jai Bhagwan, Devendro Singh and Manoj Kumar showed good form to win their opening bouts. The Indian men’s hockey team were beaten 1- 3 by New Zealand, two days after losing to the Netherlands.
It might well be that India will manage to improve on its Beijing tally, with one bronze in the bag already. But the Great Indian Question remains: Where will the gold come from? And will it come at all?