India Today - - NA TION -

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?


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