July 18, 2021 6:51:34 pm
Five years after the unmitigated disaster in Rio de Janeiro, Olympic medallist Gagan Narang feels the “strong” group of Indian shooters are primed for success in the Tokyo Games, provided they are able to remain focussed.
A bit of luck could play a part too, according to the ace rifleman-turned-mentor, who has been there and done that, the most remarkable of which was his bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
“In our time, in our early days, we would first think about making the finals, then playing in the next Games, but this squad is thinking of winning medals. This is a strong team and I am very hopeful of a good outing from our shooters,” Narang told PTI during a chat.
“Most of them have gained a fair amount of experience having participated and won at various levels including the ISSF World Cups,” he added while mentioning about the change in mindset of the current shooters.
The multiple ISSF World Cup gold-medallist emphasised on focus and said the reality is that the Olympics is the toughest challenge in an athlete’s career and one has to face it.
Through regular video calls and messages, Narang imparted training tips to his most successful protege, Elavenil Valarivan, before her maiden appearance at the Olympics.
During the course of her long training-cum-competition stint in Croatia with the Indian shooting team for the Tokyo Games, Narang tried to pass on useful tips to the 21-year-old supremely talented shooter, who will participate alongside Apurvi Chandela in the women’s 10m air rifle event.
“Yes, we have been in touch through video calls and I have been speaking to Ela (as she is called by those who know her well) about preparations and all other important aspects for the Games,” the champion shooter added.
The Olympics are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8, with the shooting events starting a day after the opening ceremony and covering the first 10 days of the extravaganza, which will be held without spectators owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coming back to the challenges of competing in the world’s biggest sporting event and the advice he has given to Elavenil, Narang said, “Look, there is no doubt that the Olympics is very tough. The difficulty is real, and my job was to prepare her to face the reality.”
Regarded as one of the country’s finest rifle shooters, Narang is looking forward to how the upcoming Games pan out for the Indian shooters.
Specifically asked about Elavenil, he pointed out that the shooter from Ahmedabad completed seven years of training under him on July 14.
Nothing would give him greater joy than to see her on the podium six days later, the first competition day at the Games.
She has been world number one in her pet event since December 2019, though there have not been many competitions since then, owing to the pandemic.
Introduced to the sport aged 12, Elavenil won her first gold medal at 13, before winning the nationals.
Then she came under Narang’s wings and won gold medals at the ISSF Junior World Cups at Suhl and Sydney.
In 2019, she burst on to the senior shooting scene, winning the gold at the Putian and Rio de Janeiro ISSF World Cups. Since then, there has been no looking back for this rifle shooter.
Narang, who is also hopeful of the Indian finishing on the podium in the mixed events, said a lot will “depend on how everything falls in place on the given day”.
In Tokyo, India will be represented by a record 15 shooters, all capable of winning a medal at sport’s biggest stage after an exceptional run of form in recent years.
The country’s shooting team drew a blank at the Rio Games in 2016, after winning four medals in the preceding three Olympics.