Because the heyday of girls with golden guns in India was synonymous with Anjali Bhagwat,Suma Shirur and Deepali Deshpande who shot to fame with their international scores,the present overview of women’s shooting,which is seeing unprecedented success in pistol,still seems a tad incomplete without the roaring success of the rifle girls. Laszlo Szucsak’s possible return as coach might seem almost messianic,given the pressing need of finishing expertise that the women rifle shooters find themselves in,with the results coming in from the World Cup in Korea being stark reminders of that missing link.
Rahi Sarnobat won a first-ever gold for 25m pistol this weekend. It is consistent with India’s general success in the shorter barrel event of late. At the 2012 Olympics,Rahi was one of the three women pistol shooters,along with Annuraj Singh and Heena Sidhu. In sharp contrast,women’s rifle had no representation in London.
Absence of high-end coaching is one part of the story of rifle’s slump among women shooters,but that spark of exceptional talent too seems to have gone missing since the time the high-achieving trio lined up at firing ranges. Experts preach patience with the likes of young Pooja Ghatkar and Ayonika Paul,who do brilliantly nationally but are yet to replicate those scores internationally where the Germans,Russians and Chinese are producing rifle champs on a conveyor belt. India’s legacy,though not wasted,isn’t pointing to a dazzling immediate future.
In Maharashtra,where the first wave of rifle talent came from,pistol’s steadily gained in popularity among fresh starters because it’s less cumbersome in its gear. Solid numbers of girls stopping by at the Worli range for quick-fire rounds of pistol in Mumbai,unlike rifle,which takes 45 minutes to just strap on the gear,are very high. There’s optimism with Shirur getting down to grooming talent at Panvel and Bhagwat in Pune,but as of now pistol seems to be booming louder amongst the girls. Szucsak’s third stint will also be looked forward to by the likes of Tejaswini Sawant,wondering what’s bottlenecking her once-promising performance.
Shivani is special correspondent based in Mumbai