Olympic bronze-medallist Gagan Narang says shooting’s “ecosystem” will take a “hit” if the ISSF Athletes Committee’s recommendation for mixed-gender team events for future Olympics, starting with the 2020 edition in Tokyo, is ratified by the world body.
In a decision that evoked mixed response, the ISSF Athletes Committee, headed by India’s lone individual Olympic gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra, recommended mixed-gender team events for the Olympic Games.
The panel has sought to replace the double-trap men’s event with a mixed-gender trap event, convert the 50m prone men’s event into a mixed-gender air rifle event and the 50m pistol men’s event into a mixed-gender air pistol event.
Speaking to PTI, Narang, one of India’s most versatile shooters, said, “The ecosystem of shooting sport will take a hit with these three events going out of the Olympic program.”
The ace shooter, though, promptly added, “But like many others, I will also cross the bridge when we get to it.”
Unlike some of India’s top pistol shooters, Narang is not “deeply saddened” but ready to embrace it.
When asked to elaborate on his statement that ecosystem of shooting will take a hit, Narang said, “Prone is very popular across the world and suppose it is dropped, so many shooters who are shooting prone only will be out.”
He felt the equipment manufacturing units will also be affected.
“Weapon manufactures will stop producing weapons, equipment required for 50m prone and 50m pistol events.”
Citing another example, he said a 50m range that caters to three events now will cater to two only, if 50m prone and pistol are dropped.
The move follows the International Olympic Committee’s objective of international sport federations working towards a 50 per cent female representation at the Games. Currently, shooting has nine men’s and six women’s events at the Olympics.
The 33-year-old Narang is currently not part of his pet event — 10m air rifle — in which he won the bronze medal at 2012 London Olympics, but he is determined to regain peak form.
“It has been my bread and butter event ever since I started shooting. Several injuries had set me back. I have had an issue with my heel during the Rio Olympic Games. That came in the way of shooting my best scores. But I have recovered now, changed my equipment, found out the flaws and been able to plug the loopholes. Hopefully, I shall be back to my best in the next few months,” Narang said.
From only prone at the moment, he plans to gradually get back to shooting in other events. Narang will look to get his act right when the year’s first ISSF World Cup begins in the capital on February 22, where there will be no dearth of crowd support.
“I am preparing to give my best shot for the World Cup. That said, I shall only be shooting one event — 50m prone position. This will be a good chance for me to win a medal in front of the home crowd,” Narang said.
“I will be competing in one event for now — prone — at the moment and slowly it will shift to 10m air rifle. We do not know yet whether prone will continue to be a part of Olympics 2020. So my focus will be on air gun and three position post the ISSF World Cup.”
A winner of innumerable medals at global events such as the World Championships, World Cups, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and, of course the Olympics, Narang was in for disappointment at the Rio Games last year.
“I would say that the high in London was a result of the processes that were put in place during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, two years ago.
“A talent pool was recognised and the government, together with various other agencies worked towards helping them get the best. No such thing happened before Rio. Neither were the National camps regular. Also accountability was not there. A lot of those things will now hopefully be fixed,” he said.
A busy schedule awaits the shooters and Narang is looking ahead with optimism.
“I think I will take one step at a time. The preparation for any of these tournaments won’t be drastically different. They will be a part of the process I have put in place. Yes Tokyo will be a big one but it is important to peak during some of the key tournaments as well.”
Radical change is not needed in Indian shooting if it is run by good people with administrative know-how.
“I think it is headed in the right direction. Though I must mention that it needs good people who have worked at the ground level to administer and channelise talent in right direction.
“There is no dearth of talent or opportunity but we have to work hard to ensure that talent meets opportunity at the right time to have the right results. And we are here to help in every way to see India bring home more medals during Olympics 2020,” he said.
Asked what he would like to give back to the sport once he retires from competitive shooting, Narang said, “I am already giving back to shooting sports through Gun For Glory. We are sixth year in the running.
“What better way of giving back to sports than providing training and infrastructure to kids who want to become champions of tomorrow. I am helping them to dream big. I am helping them to overcome obstacles that I faced as a young shooter.”