Months after his inexplicable meltdown at the Olympic Games, ace pistol shooter Jitu Rai says he is capable of not repeating history at the world’s biggest spectacle, provided he is part of the next edition in Tokyo 2020.
Rai had been tipped for a medal at Rio and was one of India’s biggest prospects in the precision sport, but the script unfolded in a manner that shocked the shooting fraternity and left the unassuming 29-year-old numb.
The Rio failure is now behind, as he looks ahead to the season with renewed interest after being bestowed with the ‘Champion of Champions’ title for pistol in 2016 by the International Shooting Sport Federation.
“Rio was one bad outing, bad luck. But that is history now and like always, I am trying to work hard so that I can bring home more medals,” Jitu said.
A silver-medallist at the World Championships, gold medal winner at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games and winner of many a medals at the ISSF World Cups, Jitu said his dream of bagging an Olympic medal is very much alive. “This was my first Olympics and I went there with a lot of hopes. Things did not turn out the way I would have liked but then I can’t do anything about the past now.
“I went to Rio well prepared (after winning a record seven international medals in one calender year). The Sports Ministry, NRAI, my employers and SAI all did their best so you can’t say that there was no effort. It just didn’t click for me in Rio that day.
“However, my dream to win an Olympic medal is very much alive and I can say that I will again try my best to realise my goal and I am capable of doing that,” Jitu said.
India is bracing up to host its first-ever ISSF World Cup from February 23 and Jitu said the mega event will help in popularising shooting in India. “I think this is very significant for India we are hosting a shooting tournament of such significance for the first time. This will draw in a lot of crowd from the city and the country and help in popularising shooting,” Jitu mentioned after a training session at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges.
The Army shooter’s coach Pavel Smirnov came under a lot of criticism after his poor performance in the Rio Olympics, but Jitu said he has always been helpful. “He has always helped us with his advice and it is good that we have his services,” the shooter said.
Smirnov, the man credited with helping Vijay Kumar win a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012, was seen encouraging his wards as they trained inside the 50m range. Smirnov, back in India and having resumed duty with the Indian pistol team till 2018 after a six-month hiatus, backed Jitu. “Jitu was only in his first Olympics, so many shooters have managed to win one after representing in so many Olympics, but still everyone was talking about Jitu.
“I have faith in his abilities as a shooter and I am sure he can win (in Olympics). My only objective is to perform and win medals,” Smirnov said.
He said India has a good bench strength. Indian shooters’ dismal show at Rio prompted the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to form a review committee headed by Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, and the panel recommended a slew of measures to overhaul the sport.