Rated as one of the more exciting shooting disciplines, the 25m men’s rapid fire event at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing offers three Olympic quota places, instead of the customary two. This special provision for the China event is because of the Pakistan rapid fire shooters being denied visas for the February New Delhi World Cup and the world body withdrawing the ‘Olympic qualification’ status from the event. On Thursday, along with the Pakistan shooters – Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, ranked 12th in the world, and Muhammad Khalil Akhtar – a strong field will line up for the qualification round of the event.
The Big Names
Among those expected to line up in Beijing are six podium finishers from the four World Cups last year, seven of the top-10 world-ranked shooters, and all three medallists from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Only four shooters have qualified so far for the Tokyo 2020 Games in the rapid fire discipline. Of them, Frenchman Jean Quiquampoix and World Championship gold medallist Junmin Lin of China have turned out again to compete.
There’s also Germany’s Christian Reitz, the Rio Games gold medallist and winner of the New Delhi World Cup in February, and finals record holder (38) Junhong Kim of South Korea.
Among Indian contenders, Anish Bhanwala – the world no 10, leads the way.
Just 16, but India’s no 1
At this time last year, the teenager from Karnal was a senior national champion. He trumped a a field that included 2016 Olympian Gurpreet Singh and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar. Bhanwala scored a world record-breaking 37 – though not ratified since it was a domestic tournament – in the final of the selection trials for the Commonwealth Games. Later, he went on to became the country’s youngest gold medallist at the quadrennial event in Gold Coast.
The talented youngster took to shooting once he started practising the discipline as a part of his main sport – modern pentathlon. It was there that he realised that shooting was his forte, and that he was better off specialising in the event.
The junior world record holder is rated to be a strong shooter in the finals, but is not as good in the qualification round. However, at the New Delhi World Cup, the teenager shot his best ever qualification score at the senior level, 588, to eventually finish a commendable fifth. Now the world no 10 is spearheading India’s contingent in the rapid fire event, a discipline that India has a strong history in.
Other Indians in the draw
At 18, Adarsh Singh competed in his first senior international event at the New Delhi World Cup, and came up with his best-ever performance in the qualification round, scoring 581. Having taken up shooting only after a back injury forced him to forgo any aspirations he had in cricket and badminton, Singh is part of a group of teenage shooters that has steadily been dominating the sport in India.
Along with the two teenagers is Arpit Goel, a 27-year-old from Ghaziabad. A late bloomer, Goel made it to the Indian squad for the first time in February for the New Delhi World Cup. In Beijing, he will compete in only his second international tournament.
Rated as one of the more spectator-friendly, exciting and quick-paced events in shooting, rapid fire essentially involves shooting five different targets within a specified time. In the qualification round, contestants have to compete over two stages, with each stage needing participants to shoot 10 shots each in an eight-second, six-second and four-second frame. Shots are fired in series of five.
Only six contestants make it to the final. They shoot in series of five shots, with only shots that would count for a score of 9.7 or above being counted as a ‘hit.’
India has a decent history in the event. Of the four shooting medals India has won at the Olympics, one came in the rapid fire event at the 2012 London Olympics, courtesy Vijay Kumar.