From the likes of star Indian marksmen like Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Jitu Rai, the mantle has now been passed to the new generation of Indian shooters like Saurabh Chaudhary, Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker and Abhishek Verma.
However, Bindra remains the sole Individual gold medallist for India at the Olympics, when he won the 10m Air Rifle event in 2008 at Beijing. Former India shooter Joydeep Karmakar believes that the upcoming crop of shooters are capable of emulating his feat and ensure he is not alone in that club of Olympic gold medallists from India.
Chaudhary, 17, made a name for himself as he bagged a gold medal in the 10m Air Pistol event at the 2018 Asian Games. One of the futures for Indian shooting, Chaudhary, already has six gold medals from ISSF World Cups.
Sarnobat was the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in the 25 metre Air Pistol event in 2012. Although she missed out on the Rio 2016 Olympic qualification, the veteran booked her spot for Tokyo Olympics at the ISSF Munich World Cup.
Making a name for herself as a prodigy, Manu Bhaker booked her spot for the 10m Air Pistol event in Tokyo Olympics after finishing fourth at the ISSF World Cup in Munich.
Abhishek Verma has begun the season on a bright note as he bagged two gold medals from ISSF World Cup and a bronze medal from Asian Championship. He then booked his spot in the 10m Air Pistol category for Tokyo Olympics with a gold medal at ISSF World Cup in Beijing.
I think possibilities are changing (of winning an Olympic gold medal) from ‘chance to surety’! If you follow the current trend in the shooting team now, the ‘single favorite’ mentality is slowly vanishing, and that's the beauty of the game now. The bench strength in Indian shooting is phenomenal. If you see, in most of the events, the ‘top’ shooters are often toppled by new talents, and hence the ‘insecurity at the top’ gives rise to a great level of competition, a healthy and a welcome one! - Joydeep Karmakar to the Olympic Channel
While a lot will be at stake for the next generation of Indian shooters at the Tokyo Olympics, it will also be a learning curve, for a few youngsters.
Karmakar, a World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championships and Olympics rifle shooter, has put his weight behind the next generation of Indian shooters have benefitted from systematic coaching programmes put in place. And he feels that is their biggest strength and termed them potential ‘history makers’.
"They are a fearless breed, and I love their positive attitude. Shooters, who are perhaps considered to be the coolest guys around with some highest achievements, yet manage to keep their feet at the ground, filled with humility, while sticking to their ‘job’ in the most professional manner. This perhaps is the biggest strength and demands respect," Karmakar said.
"The new generation shooters are trained in a more systematic manner, and they are on a steady rise, where they don't take accolades too seriously! They are ‘no frill’ people, and they know their job. I think these talents are potential history makers in the offing," he added
One of the biggest achievements for Karmakar, in his career, came at the London 2012 Olympics - where he finished fourth behind the bronze medal winner, Rajmond Debevec of Slovenia - in the Men's 50m Rifle Prone event.
He believes while Indian shooters are nailed on to win at least a couple of medals from Tokyo, the Coronavirus pandemic has actually sowed a few seeds of doubt.
"Honestly speaking, things have become a little tricky and unpredictable now. The Tokyo Olympics would surely have been a blockbuster event for Indian shooters. However, the pandemic made things a little hazy. Having said that, I really don't mean the performance will go down! Rather it's unclear now, how shooters will fare after a long pause.
"But being positive about the fearless young brigade, I'm sure the shooters are training hard to make up whatever time they have lost in the last 7-8 months ( if at all )! Even being very skeptical, I can see 2 medals at the very least," he added.
Abhinav (Bindra) has always expressed his loneliness at the top. I’m sure he will find a few athletes with him pretty soon, and the best part would be to have some company from his sports event (shooting).