Asian Games: All that glitters is not gold for Indian shooting teams
India won four gold medals at the Asian Games in shooting team events which are not part of the Olympics.
China’s stature in the world of sports…Think Himalayas! So if India can come forward and challenge the mighty dragon in any sport, it is nothing short of commendable. Shooting, a stronghold for India, is once again dominated by the Chinese at the global level, with them winning four golds in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At the Asian Games this year, they have 14 gold medals in their kitty, while India has come close with seven. Considering only two golds from the 2018 edition, this is certainly a big jump, and the one which should fill every Indian with pride.
Our overall medal count in the sport reached 22, eight better than the previous best, that we had achieved in Doha 2006. All these numbers stack up a great story for Indian shooting, but does it really paint a true picture? Are these medals a true reflection of what’s going to come in the Paris 2024 Olympics? Perhaps not. Are we tempted to believe that the Asian Games success story would translate into Olympics success in shooting for India? Perhaps.
Gold in Team Events Not Enough
But the reality is far from it. This time around at the Asiad, the organisers brought back the team event medals in every discipline of shooting which catapulted India’s rise in the medals table. While such was not the case in 2018, we ended up bagging 10 medals, including four golds in these team events this year, which are never a part of the Olympics. In fact, in most team events, where India got gold medals, our shooters did face a fair share of struggle.
In the men’s 10m air pistol event, the Indian team of Sarabjot Singh, Arjun Singh Cheema, and Shiva Narwal won the gold medal, but none of them finished in the medals in the individual event. Then the 10m air rifle men’s team event saw Divyansh Singh Panwar, Rudrankksh Patil, and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar clinch a gold, but when it came to the individual event, only the latter managed a bronze narrowly.
When the 50m 3 rifle positions team event came, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Akhil Sheoran, and Swapnil Kusale took home the gold medals, but in the individual event only Tomar went ahead at won the silver. Kusale faltered in the last shot by scoring a poor 7.6, to slip from the gold medal position to fourth. Then on Sunday, the men’s trap team of Kynan Chenai, Prithviraj Tondaiman, and Zoravar Singh Sandhu broke the 29-year-old Asian Games record to win the gold medal, but we ended up with only one bronze in the individual event.
One last team shooting gold came in the women’s 25m pistol event where Rhythm Sangwan, Manu Bhaker, and Esha Singh shone the brightest. Come the individual final, Bhaker bowed out without a medal owing to a pistol malfunction, with Esha Singh settling for a silver. These team gold medals, as sweet as it may sound, are of no real value as they are not a part of the Olympics, and can only make a shooter, in this case, a group of shooters, complacent. The Olympics always have 15 categories in shooting, as compared to 33 in this year’s Asian Games.
Individual Medals Matter
Back in the early 2000s, something similar used to happen in weightlifting too. At the 2002 Manchester CWG and some events prior to it, as many as 46 medals were given in the sport, which had separate winners for clean & jerk, snatch, and combined. At the end of the competition, India had as many as 11 gold medals, followed by a big naught in the 2004 Olympics. Fortunately, 2002 was the last time that the medals were handed out that easily to the athletes, but the drama continues to unfold in shooting, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say, that we fall prey to it.
This, in no way, is an attempt to undermine the achievements of our shooters but a try, to give a fair account of their performance at the Asian Games. All the other individual and mixed-team shooting medalists, color notwithstanding, deserve all the accolades. Instead of reading India’s shooting tally at this year’s Asian Games as 22 (7 golds, 9 silvers, and 5 bronzes), it would hold us in good stead if we read it as 11 (2 golds, 5 silvers, and 4 bronzes).