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Saturday, April 10, 2021

ISSF World Cup: Skeet shooters face problems with stock in trade

The process to change stock is expensive and time-consuming – it can take up to two weeks and costs more than Rs 1 lakh, almost one-fifth of the cost of a shotgun.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi |
Updated: March 22, 2021 8:19:11 am
Angad Vir Bajwa finished 19th out of 23 shooters in the qualification round of the ISSF World Cup. (File)

In his typical uncluttered manner, Angad Vir Bajwa talks about guns, body fat and milliseconds: seemingly unrelated subjects but ones that magically come together on the firing stations of the shotgun range in front of him.

The joint holder of the world record score in skeet shooting, Bajwa is back competing at his home range for the first time in more than a year. It isn’t an event to remember – the Tokyo-bound marksman finished 19th out of 23 shooters in the qualification round of the World Cup.

But it isn’t only about winning; not least because he shot with a gun that wasn’t perfect. Bajwa, though, refuses to make an excuse. He, instead, talks about the bigger picture. “If you shoot too good too early, it’s a danger sometimes,” Bajwa says. “It’s about peaking at the right time and that, for me, is the Olympics. Till then, it’s about the process.”

The “process” began last March when lockdowns were imposed in different parts of the world and competitions got cancelled. During this period, Bajwa reduced his body fat by one per cent – from 13 to 12 – and bulked up his upper chest. “We are shooting with a gun that weighs 3.5kg. So muscles help,” he says.

But that has had an inadvertent ripple effect on another aspect of his shooting – the stock of his shotgun, a heavily customised part of the weapon to which the barrel and other firing mechanisms are attached.

That is just a part of the problem for Bajwa. The stock can be changed only in Italy. But he hasn’t been able to go there because of the pandemic-forced travel restrictions. Not just Bajwa, Mairaj Khan – who also holds an Olympic quota – too is facing a problem with the stock of his shotgun.

“You lose weight, put on weight; gain muscles, lose muscles… it’s natural but when that happens to a shooter, it impacts the equipment he uses,” India’s shotgun coach Mansher Singh says. “Moreover, there is wear and tear over a period of time. Shooting is a precision sport. Your equipment lags, then you suffer.”

Bajwa adds: “Mine is a very ergonomic stock. It’s maxed out and can’t go any further. With a gun, you shoot where you look but because my stock is not aligned, it gets tough to shoot precisely and at the firing station you do not have enough time to adjust your sight. If there is even a 1mm change in the stock, it can have a difference of up to 3 feet in the sighting of a target.”

In skeet, a shooter has 0.6 seconds to gun down two clay targets that whoosh out of a high house and low house placed at firing stations 1 and 8. In those milliseconds, the shooter has to mount a gun, set it in motion, aim at the flying targets and shoot them down.

For Bajwa, the challenge was to aim precisely despite a faulty stock. It reflected in his scores, especially in the last two of the five-series qualification round when he managed 22 and 23 out of 25 respectively; it is rare for a shooter of Bajwa’s quality to miss three targets in one round and eight overall.

The process to change stock is expensive and time-consuming – it can take up to two weeks and costs more than Rs 1 lakh, almost one-fifth of the cost of a shotgun.

Since December, the skeet shooting team – the only shotgun shooters who have earned quotas for the Olympics – have been requesting the government and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to clear their trip to Italy for replacing the stock and get some training-cum-tournament exposure as well.

Mansher says the plan leading up to the Olympics has been chalked down as well. “We want to finish all issues related to the equipment by April, get some practice under the belt in May and June, take some rest and then go for the Olympics,” he says.

Ganemat wins India’s maiden women’s skeet WC medal

Young Indian shooter Ganemat Sekhon won India’s maiden World Cup medal in women’s skeet – a bronze – on Sunday. The 20-year-old, ranked 82 in the world, shot 40 in the final to finish on the podium. The other Indian in the six-women final, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat, settled for fourth position.

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