Present at the very first modern Olympics, shooting is now a route to success for India.
A sport that demands supreme precision and paramount concentration, shooting has been an ever-present discipline at the Olympic Games and was one of the original nine that featured in Athens 1896.
In recent times, India has been fairly successful in shooting at the Olympic Games. Indian marksmen won medals at three consecutive Olympic Games between 2004 and 2012, with Abhinav Bindra becoming the nation’s first individual gold medal winner at Beijing 2008.
Here, we explore the rich history of shooting at the Olympic Games, its rules, the various events and also take a look at India’s brightest prospects in the sport.
Shooting at the Olympic Games features three types of guns — Rifle, pistol and shotgun.
The rifle is single-loaded in 5.6-millimetre calibre (the inner diameter of a gun barrel), which is used across all events.
The pistol used in the 10m Air Pistol event is a single-loaded pistol in 4.5-millimetre calibre, whereas the ones used in the 25m events is a Rapid Fire Pistol in 5.6 calibre with a five-shot magazine.
The shotgun is a 12 gauge (gauge is a unit of measurement for firearms. The gauge of a shotgun is determined by the number of equally-weighing spherical balls made from a pound of lead, that can be fit inside the gun barrel) having a calibre of 18.5-millimetres.
Shooters use special jackets to assist them while performing.
The surface of these special jackets is non-slippery and thus, ensure a better grip, especially for rifle shooters. The extra-padding inside these jackets negates the effects of recoil, helping shooters improve their precision. The padding on the elbows provides a firm base, which is crucial for rifle shooters in the prone position. They also use blinders to improve focus and block objects from distracting their vision.
Shooting at Athens 1896 consisted of only five events, but the discipline has since grown in stature at the Olympic Games, and will feature 15 rifle, pistol and shotgun events at Tokyo 2020.
In rifle shooting, athletes fire at a target with 10 concentric circles at a fixed distance. The event is further divided into two subcategories — 50m rifle three positions and 10m air rifle.
In the 50m rifle event, athletes will shoot at the target from three different positions — kneeling, prone and standing. Each participant will fire 40 shots in each of the three aforementioned positions within a timeframe of two hours and 45 minutes. The eight highest-scoring shooters move on to the medal round.
In the 10m air rifle event, athletes fire 60 shots at the target within a timeframe of one hour and 15 minutes, following which, the eight highest-scoring shooters battle it out for the medals.
In addition to the men’s and women’s categories, the 10m air rifle also features a mixed team event consisting of one male athlete and one female athlete. Each team member fires 40 shots at the target within 50 minutes in the qualification round, after which five teams qualify for the final round.
Pistol shooting features three subcategories – 25m Rapid Fire Pistol, 25m Pistol and 10m Air Pistol.
The 25m Rapid Fire Pistol is a men’s only event. The qualification round features two rounds of 30 shots each. Eight shooters with the best score qualify for the medal round. The 25m Pistol is a women’s-only event, and like the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event, features two qualifying rounds of 30 shots each.
The rules for the 10m Air Pistol event are a replica of the 10m Air Rifle event. It features a men’s, women’s and mixed team category. Athletes in the solo categories fire 60 shots within a timeframe of one hour and 15 minutes before the top-eight move on to the medal round. In the mixed team event, each team member fires 40 shots and the five top-scoring teams slug it out for the overall honours.
Skeet and trap are two shotgun events where athletes fire at a flying object called ‘clay’. While both events feature the men’s and women’s category, Trap also has a mixed team event.
In Skeet, both male and female athletes fire at clays from eight different spots, each known as a ‘station’. The clays fly in from two spots, one on the left and another on the right end of the shooting range. These spots are each called a ‘house’.
The left house is called the ‘high house’ and the clays flying in from it are known as ‘mark’. The house on the right is called ‘low house’ and the clays are called ‘pull’. Athletes take 25 shots each in five rounds over three days and the six best shooters move on to the medal round.
In Trap, athletes fire at clays thrown in front of them from five different positions. The preliminary round of the men’s and women’s event is similar to that of Skeet. In the Trap mixed team event featuring one male and female competitor, every shooter fires 75 shots in three rounds of 25 shots each. The top six teams then battle it out in the medal round.
Of India’s 17 individual medals, four have been won in shooting. The first of those came in Athens 2004, when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won silver in the Men’s Double Trap event, making him the first Indian individual silver medal winner since Norman Pritchard in Paris 1900.
Beijing 2008 was a landmark moment for India in the Olympics as Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal, doing so in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle event.
India’s streak of three straight Olympic Games with a medal in shooting ended in Rio 2016. However, the performances of Indian shooters over the past two years has renewed optimism of fetching more silverware in shooting.
Teenage sensations Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary have each won six gold medals at the ISSF World Cup. Both will be making their Olympic Games debut at Tokyo 2020, and a lot will be expected of the duo who have already won four golds together in 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team at the ISSF World Cup events.
Apurvi Chandela, a 10m Air Rifle shooter, has also been highly successful in the past two years and has four medals - including three golds - at the ISSF World Cup events in 2019.
Abhishek Verma, Anjum Mougdil and Elavenil Valarivan have also won multiple golds at the ISSF World Cup events, and irrespective of who earns the opportunity to represent the nation at Tokyo 2020, India will boast one of the strongest shooting contingents at the Olympic Games.