India's sports minister Kiren Rijiju has thrown his weight behind India's shooting contingent ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
The Union Minister of Sports was speaking after inaugurating a residential hostel at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range that will host athletes during national camps and other competitive events.
"Shooting is one of the premier sports at the moment. We have huge expectations from shooting and India has a huge reservoir of talent at grassroots level. We have maximum qualification in Tokyo Olympics from shooting," said Rijiju at the inauguration ceremony.
It has cost INR 12.26 crores to build the 162-bedded air-conditioned hostel facility. The dining space will also have weather control mechanisms and athletes can have their tailor-made diet routines.
All hostels will be of at least 3-star standard in terms of food, lodging and cleanliness. An expert agency has been roped in to manage the facility. There are also plans to build separate boys and girls hostels in the future.
India have 15 medal hopefuls in shooting till now for the Olympics and the number can increase on the basis of world rankings in the upcoming months. Rijiju stated that shooting is now a priority sport for the government.
"Our athletes represent the country at the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games. They must have a standard of living where basic facilities are provided. Shooting being a priority sport, we have to take all the necessary steps for the shooters," said Rijiju.
Previously, athletes had to stay outside the premises as there was no accommodation facility but with the new hostel in place, it will be a short walk to their rifle, pistol and shotgun ranges.
2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anish Bhanwala praised this development and said, "We have always had a very good shooting range but we were lacking a hostel as a result of which we had to stay outside the premises. We can now train in the morning and afternoon session with the hostel being there."
Currently, the national selection trials are going on which began on January 5. The participants include Divyansh Singh Panwar, the top-ranked shooter in the men’s 10m Air Rifle, and Saurabh Chaudhary, ranked world No. 4 in the 10m Air Pistol.
However, the core group of Indian shooters for the Tokyo Olympics will practice together again at a national camp organised by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) in late January.
The NRAI, the governing body of Indian shooting, announced that a national camp for the core group will be held from January 26 to February 7 at the same shooting range.