Joydeep Karmakar has been one of the biggest ambassadors of rifle shooting in India. The West Bengal-born shooter has now set up a shooting academy in Kolkata where he is grooming the next generation.
Having seen the profile of the sport rise steadily in the country, Karmakar feels a strong grassroots network and a very supportive administration means the future is extremely bright for shooting in India.
Karmakar, in an illustrious career, has bagged several laurels. He has represented India at World Cups, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championships and the Olympics.
One of his major achievements 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. The Kolkata-born shooter attained his career-best World Ranking 4th and was the No.1 in Asia between 2010 to 2012.
He is still the only silver medalist in the World Cup in Prone event from India which he achieved in Sydney in 2010.
Karmakar believes there has been a transformation in rifle shooting in India as the basic awareness, quality of training and expertise has grown. The 41-year-old said that it has come due to better coaching as former shooters like himself are actively seeking to contribute to the development of the sport.
Surely a sea change! From basic awareness to facilities, from quality training to expertise, everything seems to climb up the curve. But I like the way shooting sport has spread itself among the common mass. Though a lot more is to be done, I can emphatically say that the awareness due to the exposure through media in tandem with the shooters’ brilliant performance in the international arena has been the best part for the sport. - Joydeep Karmakar to the Olympic Channel
Alongside Karmakar, legends like Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang have all formed academies, with a common goal of nurturing talents across the country. He also credited the role played out by National Rifle Association of India (NRAI)
"Previously successful shooters are now giving back to the sport in a more dynamic manner, and it's showing its results too. I would also mention the small academies and clubs ( and even part-time trainers) which are mushrooming throughout India. This perhaps is one big reason that the supply chain to the elite club of Indian Shooting team has never stopped. Last but not the least, the NRAI is working overtime to see that once the shooters reach a level, they are taken care of properly," he added.
Karmakar looks at this as a bright side as hundreds of new academies have been formed in rural areas and cities, allowing aspiring shooters to work towards their goals. The great work being done at the grassroots level will ensure shooting continues to grow in India, feels Karmakar.
"It's definitely a great thing to see hundreds of new academies and clubs coming up not only in big cities but even in suburban and rural areas. I would consider them to be the ‘backbone’ of Indian Shooting now because, without them, the supply chain wouldn’t have been the same. I think the basic push starts from local clubs and academies only, the basic facilities they provide are perhaps good enough to encourage young talent to dream for more," he said.
He went on to highlight the examples of upcoming Indian stars like Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary. The 18-year-old Saurabh became the youngest Indian shooter to win a gold medal at the Asian Games in 2018 while Manu is the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup.
"Talents like Manu (Bhaker) and Saurabh (Chaudhary) also started from humble facilities, training with lesser-known trainers, but that helped them to thrive for more and today we have some world beaters, while earlier many hidden talents were probably lost, just because they didn't have a shooting facility or their parents never heard of any academy around them or for that matter, never heard of the sport shooting.”
He lavished even more praise on the existing structure in India and the work being put in by the NRAI. In a country that is dominated by cricket as far as the sporting scenario is concerned, shooting will be a major part of it soon enough, says Karmakar.
"With this amazing structure, mixed with an organized and unorganized training system throughout India, a federation which is perhaps one of the best in the country, athletes and coaches this talented, I think it's just a matter of time that shooting sport will be the next big thing in Indian sports.
“With a record 7000+ participants in one single National Championships, one wouldn't be surprised to see a very popular League coming up soon to explore the exciting side of this highly addictive sport," he added.