The postponement of the Games by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic means that the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) find themselves in a tricky spot as far as selecting the perfect team for the Tokyo Olympics goes.
The NRAI will likely have to decide to either announce the team based on the trials conducted over the past 15 months or continuing with trials for another year before deciding who their best shooters are ahead of the Olympics.
Two-time gold medal winner from the ISSF World Cups in 2019, Apurvi Chandela, who won her Tokyo quota in 2018, believes that delaying the announcement of the Olympic shooting team will welcome a lot of pressure on them.
"I feel if the team is announced now, the shooters can focus on the Olympics and train with only positive pressure," she told the Times of India. "I agree that current form is important, and to make sure the selected shooters are in form ahead of the Games.”
“The federation can check shooters' performance in say, December or January, if they don't find any shooter's performance satisfactory, they can replace him/her with the next in ranking. They will still have time," Apurvi Chandela added.
Former world no. 1 and bronze medal winner from the 2012 London Games Gagan Narang, meanwhile, stressed the need for a pool of reserve shooters to be on standby.
“The key challenge is to always be able to select the best in-form shooter one year from now hoping that he or she will peak at the right moment,” Gagan Narang opined.
“We can only hope that the system gives a fair chance to the best shooter to be selected. A developmental group with reserve shooters should be formed,” he stressed.
Abhinav Bindra urges NRAI to reconsider finalising Olympic team
India’s only individual Olympic gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra, however, insisted that the NRAI finalising the team for Tokyo Olympics should be put on hold.
“It may not help to announce the team, and hope that they all would be in prime form when the Olympics comes around. A year is a long time, especially in a sport like shooting,” the former World champion told Sportstar.
“Tune the policy quickly to ensure the best team represents the country in the Olympics,” Abhinav Bindra urged the NRAI. “There may be a rejig in the team, even though the process had been completed and the team was to be announced.”
He also asked for more clarity on the situation at the earliest to allow shooters ample time for them to put their plans into place.
“The core group can be widened a bit... Form the Olympic group, and back the shooters,” Abhinav Bindra said.