For all their success internationally, the consistently encouraging buzz that follows them on the circuit, and the gold glut at the Commonwealth Games this last week, the cold fact — as cold as the chill that swamped Glasgow’s Barry Buddon ranges in a thunderstorm this weekend — is that, no Indian woman shooter has ever won an Olympic medal.
It is a sobering thought when Indian marks women seem to have hit a purple patch at Glasgow, with five medallists on the podium across pistol, rifle, and clay-pigeon, including two gold by women under 25.
Purple patches in these parts of the world also carry a hint of illusion of an endless spread — like the heather meadows on both sides of the road leading up to the shooting venue of Dundee.
The Highland heather beds though are also known to stand contemplative and sturdy, and India’s golden girls from Glasgow would want to back themselves to stay the course and aim for the big one at Rio in two years’ time and not get carried away by this Scottish sweep.
For Shreyasi Singh, who picked an unexpected silver in women’s double trap on Sunday, it was a good tune-up to the trap, an Olympic event, on Monday.
“I love double trap which is my preferred event, but trap’s where the real contest is,” she said, adding that going into the final all competitors were a little unsure of where they stood because double trap’s not shot too often.
Dedicating her first medal to her late father who started her out in shotguns, Shreyasi stressed that though it was an important moment in her career, the big challenge lay ahead and the mistakes that led her to missing four shots — 2 awful doubles botched — meant she had some way to go before she could feel punch pleased.
As such, Shreyasi had bungled in her first major final at Delhi four years ago shooting unsteadily and with her nerves dancing, and did well to get on the podium this time. But she insisted that the last round on Sunday had taken off some sheen from her maiden medal after she had lined up behind English Charlotte Kerwood (94) with 92 in the penultimate round. “I’m not happy missing that double, but I’ll try my best in trap tomorrow,” she promised.
While the emergence of young shooters means that India can boast of a commendable bench strength, and stays on top of the shooting table, a firm sight needs to be set on the upcoming World Championships.
Rahi Sarnobat did well to shrug off her injury — she fractured her shooting wrist after a fall not too long ago — and pick gold here in 25m air pistol winning a 8-2 shoot-off against compatriot Aneesa Sayed.
And while she leaves nothing to nitpick when liquid steel courses through her steady nerves and she marks down final shoot-offs quite easily, a little caution won’t hurt ahead of the ready reckoners — the World Championships in Granada, Spain, September 6-20.
“This is just practice for the Worlds,” said Rahi, and it’s a mature perspective from a youngster who first came to prominence at the Delhi Games and has kept a steady head despite the felicitations and all the camera-posing. The injury was a downer, but she’s returned from it seamlessly.
Pundits will preach patience with the young bunch, and especially the air-rifle pair of Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul, who were in good form in the lead-up to Glasgow and have struck medals in their first multi-discipline Games. It was be ginning to get worrying when air-rifle barrel was running dry a couple of years ago, but the two have stepped up to the challenge.
The Asian Games though, will be the litmus, and how India’s young shooters handle this success ahead of the two biggies in coming months and make the most of the 64 quota places up for grabs, will determine if they are Rio-ready.