After a disappointing showing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Tokyo 2020 is likely to play a critical role in determining the future of the Olympic movement in India, and unsurprisingly, a lot of Indian hopes are pinned on the sport of shooting.

India had a mind-blowing 2019 in shooting, topping the medals tally at all the four rifle/pistol World Cups with a total of 22 medals including as many as 16 gold. Such performances were unheard of in Indian shooting and rightly raised a lot of hopes.

Tokyo 2020, Indian shooting preview: A talent-filled squad capable of some special results

This hope was perhaps best reflected in the women’s 10m air rifle event, with the trio of Elavenil Valarivan, Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela simultaneously occupying the top three positions in the world rankings.

However, with the pandemic stopping everything for about a year, things have changed quite a bit in 2021.

The tabulation at the end of this article shows the performances in the 10m air rifle event across seven world tournaments since the start of the Olympic qualification period. Besides the World Championships in 2018, there were four World Cups in 2019 (all offering Olympic quotas) and two World Cups in 2021 (which provide an indicator of recent form) which have been included in the table, in an attempt to determine the top contenders and medal favourites going into Tokyo. In the interest of uniformity, restricted events like continental championships and the World Cup Final (which is an invitational event) have not been included.

The women’s 10m air rifle event will see one of the largest fields in Tokyo, with a total of 49 shooters representing 37 countries. Most of these shooters have been included in the table, while some who haven’t shot in world events and a few others who had relatively poor scores have been excluded. In addition, some shooters who had high scores but still missed the flight to Tokyo have been included for comparative purposes.

One of the first things that stands out from the numbers is the abundance of Chinese shooters at the top. But more on that later.

Event Qualification Final(s) Indian athletes
10m air rifle women July 24, 5 am July 24, 7.15 am Elavenil Valarivan

Apurvi Chandela

Indian shooters in contention

For India, it is interesting to note that Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil are the only shooters in the entire list to have made the finals in four out of the seven events. After them, there is Laura-Georgeta Ilie (ROU) who has made three finals whereas everybody else has made a maximum of only two finals. Chandela, in particular, also performed excellently in the finals winning two gold (including a gold at the most competitive Munich World Cup) and finishing twice in 4th place.

In fact, if only the pre-pandemic events are considered, Chandela actually had the highest qualification average of 629.7 among all shooters, and she competed in all five events. She also had one of the highest per shot average in finals of 10.440, despite having shot in as many as four finals. In 2019, she was arguably the best shooter in the world, but her performance has unfortunately fallen off a cliff in 2021, resulting in poor scores of 622.8 and 624.2 at the Delhi and Osijek World Cups respectively. In addition, even at the four domestic trials conducted by NRAI in Jan/Feb, 2021, Chandela shot scores of 625.9-624.5-621.3-623.1 and failed to reach a single final.

Across all sports, probably no Indian athlete has had as much of a dip in performance on account of the pandemic as Apurvi Chandela. However, her past exploits have meant that NRAI has shown faith in her and selected her for Tokyo, though she did lose out on her spot in the Mixed team event (as it stands). There have been reports that her issues in 2021 were caused due to a non-ideal kit, but it remains to be seen whether she can re-ascend her past heights. However, if she does manage to find her lost form, there might be no stopping her and she still goes into Tokyo as one of the shooters to watch out for.

Looking at Anjum Moudgil, she still actually has an incredibly high average of 628.0 across all the 7 events, which has placed her very high in the table, but like Chandela, her performance suffered in 2021. Also, while she has made four finals (and very narrowly missed out on another two), she has been unable to medal in the individual event since her silver-winning effort at the 2018 World Championships.

The result has been that despite a 629.6 in Delhi 2021, scores of 623.1-624.2-625.2-624.6 at the domestic trials meant losing her spot to Elavenil Valarivan, though she has kept her mixed team spot ahead of Apurvi Chandela for now. It has, however, been reported that since the announcement of the Indian team, she struggled with a 622.3 at Osijek and her mixed team spot could now be in jeopardy.

On the other hand, Elavenil Valarivan features last among all the Indian shooters in the table, below Chandela, Moudgil and even Mehuli Ghosh (who largely shot in the MQS category in 2019). Her issue has largely been consistency. As a 19 year old then, she really started making her mark only from the Munich World Cup in 2019, and as such her average is lower on account of the earlier events in Delhi and Beijing.

However, she followed her fourth place in Munich with gold in Rio and then gold also at 2019 World Cup Final. She also has the highest per-shot finals average of 10.455 in the table among all Tokyo-bound shooters. However, she has had a patchy 2021, shooting scores of 628.3-629.0-631.6-632.1 and winning three gold and a bronze at the domestic trials conducted by NRAI, but faltering at the World Cups with 626.7 and 621.2 (which included a two-point penalty). Basically, if she shows up in the best of shape, she will be tough to beat but it remains to be seen whether she can rise to the challenge on the big day in Tokyo.

Competition in the event

Zhao Ruozhu (CHN) shot a total of four out of the seven events under consideration in the above table, and had an average qualification score of 629.7, the highest among all shooters.

But hang on. Zhao is not going to Tokyo. This is because after extensive internal trials, China has selected Wang Luyao and Yang Qian to represent them (given every country can field a maximum of only two shooters per event at the Olympics).

Wang Luyao also sits high in the above table with an extremely impressive average of 628.2 across four events, and with a silver at the Munich World Cup, which was the most strongly contested competition across all tournaments with a total of 149 shooters competing for medals (by contrast, even the World Championships had fewer, with 113 competitors).

The youngster Yang Qian, however, shot only at the Rio World Cup in 2019 and had a relatively poor performance with 626.5. But, considering that she has been selected above the likes of Zhao Ruozhu, Xu Hong and Zhu Yingjie based on recent form and a rigorous selection process, she would have to be considered one of the top contenders going into Tokyo. And, Yang did have a taste of gold at the 2019 Asian Championship, so inexperience may not be a major factor.

Then there are the Koreans. At the 2018 World Championships, it was India and Korea who went toe-to-toe, sweeping the top four spots and all the Olympic quotas on offer, with all the Chinese shooters having failed to reach the final. However, since those World Championships, the Koreans have struggled a bit. The reigning World Champion Im Hana shot only one more event at the Beijing World Cup and returned a poor 621.1 while the Worlds bronze Medalist Eunhea Jung shot scores of 626.0 and 626.2 in Delhi and Rio.

Thus, it is not too surprising that both failed to make the cut for Tokyo, with Korea opting for Kwon Eunji and Park Heemoon. Both the Koreans are relatively inexperienced with 18-yr old Kwon winning the Silver at Beijing in 2019, while Park Heemoon had a terrible time at the only world cup she participated in (at Rio), shooting a lowly 621.7. Still, they should not be underestimated.

The Iranian Fatemeh Karamzadeh also features very high in the table at second spot, but her high placing is primarily on account of one performance of a scarcely believable 633.6. However, this performance came at the recently held Osijek World Cup and meant her edging out quota holder Najmeh Khedmati for the Tokyo ticket. Thus, if current form is any indicator, Karamzadeh is one of the top contenders going into Tokyo. She will be joined by countrywoman Armina Sadeghian who has had a solid but unspectacular build-up to Tokyo.

Another shooter to watch out for is Romanian Laura-Georgeta Ilie (also known as Laura-Georgeta Coman). She competed in all the seven events considered in the table and has an excellent qualification average of 628.2, but has come up short in finals, finishing in the bottom half of all the 3 finals she has appeared in. Unsurprisingly, her per shot average in finals in one of the lowest in the entire field at 10.341.

The Russians will be pinning their hopes on Beijing World Cup Champion Yulia Karimova who has not been too active but has shown she is ready for Tokyo with a finals appearance in Osijek. There is also the trio of medalists at the same Osijek World Cup - Eszter Meszaros (HUN), Ziva Dvorsak (SLO) and Sofia Ceccarello (ITA) – none of whom have high averages to show but come into Tokyo on the back of some recent form and confidence. And finally, there is the American pair of Mary Tucker and Alison Weisz, whose inconsistency have resulted in low averages but who caused a flutter at Delhi 2021 taking both the gold and silver with incredible shooting in both the qualification and the final, also side-lining reigning Olympic Champion Virginia Thrasher in the process.

All in all, after an incredible 2019 by the Indians followed by a steep dip in form combined with the Chinese and the Koreans staying away from world events in 2021, has meant that this is now a very open event. Not a single shooter has been able to maintain consistency throughout the qualification cycle, and thus there is no clear favourite, with a good 12-14 shooters strongly fancying their chances. And of course, by the very nature of shooting sport, there is always the possibility of someone largely unheralded having the day of their life and stunning everyone else, like Thrasher did in Rio 2016.

The Rifle Mixed Team Event

In addition to the individual event, most of the shooters mentioned in the table will also be shooting in the mixed team event. Besides the Indian and the Chinese who will be considered favourites, the top contenders in this event are likely to be the Hungarian team of Eszter Meszaros and Istvan Peni, and the Russians, who will field two strong teams composed of Yulia Karimova, Anastasiia Galashina, Sergey Kamenskiy and Vladimir Maslennikov. Romania could have also had a strong team in Laura-Georgeta Ilie and London 2012 Champion Alin George Moldoveanu but Moldoveanu failed to secure a quota. The Koreans can also make a mark but seem to be a little weak on the men’s side.

(Scroll horizontally or swipe on your screens to view all columns on the table)

10m air rifle women performances

Rank Name Country Going to Tokyo? AVG SCORE
Final (24-shot)
World C'ships WC Del 19 WC Bei 19 WC Mun 19 WC Rio 19 WC Del 21 WC Osj 21
1 ZHAO Ruozhu CHN NO 629.7 251.8 10.494 10.492   S          
2 KARAMZADEH Fatemeh IRI YES 629.4 246.0 10.490 10.250             4th
3 KWON Eunji KOR YES 629.0 250.2 10.483 10.425     S        
4 XU Hong CHN NO 629.0 250.8 10.483 10.450   B   B      
5 ZHU Yingjie CHN NO 628.7 248.0 10.479 10.335   4th          
6 ILIE Laura-Georgeta ROU YES 628.2 248.2 10.470 10.341       F F   F
7 WANG Luyao CHN YES 628.2 248.7 10.469 10.364     F S      
8 MOUDGIL Anjum IND NO 628.0 249.0 10.467 10.373 S   F   F F  
9 KARIMOVA Yulia RUS YES 627.9 249.1 10.466 10.378     G       F
10 GHOSH Mehuli IND NO 627.9 - 10.465 -              
11 CHANDELA Apurvi IND YES 627.9 250.6 10.465 10.440 4th G 4th G      
12 DE LA CRUZ Eglys Yahima CUB YES 627.9 - 10.465 -              
13 KHEDMATI Najmeh IRI NO 627.7 248.8 10.461 10.367     F        
14 JUNG Eunhea KOR NO 627.6 248.7 10.461 10.364 B            
15 KEUM Jihyeon KOR NO 627.5 248.8 10.458 10.367     B   F    
16 VALARIVAN Elavenil IND YES 627.0 250.9 10.451 10.455       4th G    
17 MCINTOSH Seonaid GBR YES 626.6 250.6 10.443 10.442         S    
18 YANG Qian CHN YES 626.5 - 10.442 -              
19 SADEGHIAN Armina IRI YES 626.4 250.2 10.441 10.425         4th    
20 DUESTAD Jeanette Hegg NOR YES 626.4 245.8 10.441 10.242   F          
21 BEER Jolyn GER YES 626.4 - 10.440 -              
22 STENE Jenny NOR YES 626.2 243.2 10.437 10.133       F      
23 MESZAROS Eszter HUN YES 626.1 248.0 10.435 10.335       F     G
24 IM Hana KOR NO 626.0 251.1 10.433 10.463 G            
25 CECCARELLO Sofia ITA YES 626.0 247.2 10.433 10.300             B
26 OYUNBAT Esugen MGL YES 625.7 - 10.428 -              
27 MULLER Oceanne Marianne FRA YES 625.6 - 10.427 -              
28 STANKIEWICZ Aneta POL YES 625.5 248.3 10.424 10.344           F  
29 DVORSAK Ziva SLO YES 625.3 249.8 10.422 10.408             S
30 NIELSEN Anna DEN YES 625.3 246.3 10.421 10.264     F        
31 ARSOVIC Andrea SRB YES 625.2 - 10.420 -              
32 GALASHINA Anastasiia RUS YES 625.2 - 10.420 -              
33 THRASHER Virginia USA NO 625.2 - 10.420 -              
34 KAPS Jessie BEL YES 625.1 - 10.418 -              
35 TAN Qian Xiu Adele SGP YES 625.1 245.7 10.418 10.239 F            
36 TOYYIBA Vidya Rafika INA YES 624.9 - 10.415 -              
37 TUCKER Mary Carolynn USA YES 624.8 250.7 10.414 10.444         F G  
38 LIN Ying-Shin TPE YES 624.7 248.4 10.411 10.350 F       B    
39 IBSEN Rikke Maeng DEN YES 624.6 250.7 10.410 10.445           4th  
40 WEISZ Alison Marie USA YES 624.6 250.4 10.409 10.433           S  
41 CHRISTEN Nina SUI YES 623.8 - 10.397 -              
42 MARTYNOVA Maria BLR YES 623.5 - 10.392 -              
43 VUKASINOVIC Sanja SRB YES 623.1 - 10.384 -              
44 HIRATA Shiori JPN YES 622.6 247.9 10.377 10.329   F          
45 PARK Heemoon KOR YES 621.7 - 10.362 -              
G: Gold, S: Silver, Bronze: B, F: Qualified for Final