Asian Games: Abhinav Bindra, Jitu Rai Lead India's Challenge in Shooting

Shooters from 34 countries are in fray at the Ongnyeon International Range till September 30, competing for a total of 44 medals in the individual and team competitions. In fact, the opening gold medal of the 17th Games will decided in shooting.

Updated: September 19, 2014 17:15 IST
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Abhinav Bindra Glasgow
Abhinav Bindra was the first Indian shooter to win a medal in the Glasgow Games--- a gold in the 10m Air Rifle event.


Incheon: They were mostly off the mark in the recent World Championships but Indian shooters will nonetheless be expected to deliver a bagful of medals when the event kickstarts at the Asian Games on Saturday.

Shooters from 34 countries are in fray at the Ongnyeon International Range till September 30, competing for a total of 44 medals in the individual and team competitions. In fact, the opening gold medal of the 17th Games will decided in shooting.

The events will commence with the women's 10m air pistol and men's 50m pistol in which four titles would be decided tomorrow.

India culled one gold medal through Ronjan Sodhi in men's double trap, three silver medals and four bronze in the last Games at Guangzhou.

But it would be a big surprise if they can better this haul or even equal it, in the backdrop of their generally poor form going into the 17th Asian Games.

Sodhi is unable to defend his title having failed to qualify through the shooting trials and the burden of keeping the Indian flag high has fallen on man-in-form Jitu Rai, world number one in 10m air pistol and a gold medal winner in 50m free pistol at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Armyman Rai starts as perhaps India's biggest medal hope in the Games, even ahead of the renowned 2008 Beijing Olympics gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra and another rifle-shooting ace Gagan Narang.

He is set to provide a strong challenge to the Chinese and Korean rivals in these two pistol events.

Bindra, who was reportedly upset over the change in his travel plans into this city because of the delayed receipt of his accreditation, has checked into the Asian Games athletes village two days ago.

Narang has moved in on Thursday, according to Adille Sumariwalla, chef de mission of the huge Indian Games contingent.

Rai has had a splendid run going into these Games where Chinese shooters are expected to demolish the field as a clear favourite to win the gold in the 10m event though he finished a lowly 10th in this event in the world championships, a step behind Prakash Nanjappa.

He's also going to be a big force to contend in the 50metre free pistol, to be decided tomorrow, in which he took the silver in the Granada World Championship to gain a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

But Rai will definitely face tough questions tomorrow from the likes of Chinese world number six and defending champion Pu Qifeng and South Korea's double Olympic champion Jin Jong-oh, who won the gold ahead of Rai in the World Championship.

Om Prakash and Omkar Singh will be shooting alongside Bindra for the team championship medals.

Bindra, currently world no. 49 after winning the CWG gold in Glasgow, has a big task on hand to be among the medals here as there are three Chinese -- led by world no. 2 Yang Xaoran -- in the top 10.

The Chandigarh rifle ace has not been an Asian Games champion ever or even been among the individual medals, one feat missing from his well-adorned chest, and he would be eager to do so here. He has just got back in form which bodes well for himself and India.

Another major contender among men is Narang who just missed out on a quota place for Rio when he finished sixth in the Granada worlds in the rifle prone event. He won an individual and team silver with Bindra in Guangzhou four years ago.

But he too, like Bindra, is set to face an arduous task in rifle prone and 3-position headed by world no 2s -- Lan Xing and Cao Yifei -- respectively.

There are other men contenders like Nanjappa who got silver in Glasgow CWG in 10metre air pistol.

Manavjit Singh Sandhu, who is 10th in world rankings, is among those to look forward to for a medal in the men's trap tomorrow when the first day's qualification will be held, along with fellow-veteran Mansher Singh and Darius Chenai.

Among the women taking part is veteran rifle shooter Anjali Bhagwat, a former CWG champion, and youngsters like Heena Sidhu, who will take part in the 10m air pistol event that starts and ends tomorrow along with Shweta Chaudhry and 16-year-old Malaika Goel who won silver in the Glasgow CWG.

There are also pistol medal hopes CWG gold medallist Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed, and young shooters CWG gold medallist Apurvi Chandela, silver medallist Ayonika Paul and seasoned Lajja Goswami to look out for.

But the women did not perform well in Granada. In the last Games only the 10m air pistol team of Sonia Rai, Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj Singh ascended the podium.

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