Rajyavardhan Singh Rathores silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004 not only helped Indian shooters break their mental shackles and run into a world of immense possibility, but in a way instilled a sense of pride and confidence in Indian sportspersons as whole. The results were there to be seen in the coming years, as the Indians started making their presence felt consistently at the international level, including the World Championships and four yearslater Abhinav Bindra reached the zenith of success in Beijing when he bagged the first individual gold medal forthe country in the Olympics.A few sports in which the Indians have been able to match the very best in business, shooting is one discipline which is being looked upon as a potential medal winner at the London Olympics as well. With as many as 11shooters (highest ever in Olympic history) making the grade for the mega tournament, all eyes are set on the marksmen to bring the Olympic glory to the country once again. The shooters on their part are leaving no stone unturned and are hopeful of securing more than a medal for their country this time in London. “We all are set for the mega event. For me it’s more responsibility than pressure. It makes me feel that I am more responsible towards my country. When people believe in me and my ability than it’s my duty to give people what they want. I am hoping the shooting contingent to bring 2-3 medals at least,” said World Champion Ronjan Sodhi, adding that all the 11 shooters who have got the quota place are good enough to win a medal. “Everyone has one a big medal in some or the other tournament. No one has qualified by coming sixth or seventh in the tournament. Everyone has won a medal on their own,” said Ronjan. Gagan Narang, the first Indian shooter to make the grade to London, too had been advocating the same words and has been showingimmense confidence in the shooting contingent. “I feel the performance in London will be better than Beijing. We are a better prepared contingent this time. I am expecting a few medals from the shooting contingent. But a clearer picture will emerge closer to the Games,” he had said in an interview to Indian Sports News, adding that what separates a medal winner from the rest is their ability to absorb pressure. “I feel I do have that ability when it comes to big matches. But I also take one thing at a time. Hopefully all goes well when time comes around.” Meanwhile, life hasn’t been the same for Shagun Chowdhary ever since she became the first Indian woman to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics in trap shooting after finishing 4th in the World Championships in Belgrade. “My life has just become more intense than it ever has been. When one makes it to the Olympics, he/she has to have a certain amount of caliber. I will never say I can’t win an Olympic gold; else I would not have qualified in the first place. I will go to the Olympics with all the hope in the world and also all the training under my belt,” said the shooter.Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, whose Olympic silver medal was sort of a precursor for shooting revolution in India, is also hopeful of a good show from the Indian shooting contingent. “Our shooters are doing extremely well. They are matching the international standard. You want me to say that we will win at least 2-3 medals but what I intend to say that our performance will be good,” he said. The young lots too seem to be confident about their seniors’ performance and are of the view that Indian marksmen will better their records at the Olympics. 17-year-old Vishal Mulchandani, who was participating in the 55th National Championship in New Delhi, said, “India will win many medals this time. I personally want Ronjan Sodhi to win as he is my favourite player,” he said.
Talking about the growing stature of the game in the country and India winning 11 Olympic quota places , some give the credit to the government, some credit it to the happening of the Commonwealth Games, while others attribute it to the consistent performance of the shooters at international level. “The credit should go to the government. Lots of money has been invested in this sport recently. The government has put everything to improve the stature of this sport. Another main reason was the Commonwealth Games. The shooting team performed really well in the Games and gained a lot of confidence which helped us to get the quota place. I would say the Commonwealth Games were a blessing in disguise for us,” said Ronjan Sodhi.Col Rathore too supported his compatriot’s view. “The reason is that we learn from each other and when one of us does well, we try to learn from him or her. So I would say that it is a cumulative effort ,” Rathore said, adding that Commonwealth Games was a great thing that happened in Indian Shooting. “Our shooters won a lot of medals during the Games and winning does help a player in growing. It made us more confident and proved that we can do well on big stage,” he said. But for youngsters like Vishal, it’s their seniors’ performance which helped them to take on to this sport. “According to me shooting came into lime light after the Athens Olympics when Rathore sir won the silvermedal. After that Indian shooters have always performed well and that encouraged me to enter the sport,” said Vishal.