Shooting, seen as one of India’s biggest medal hopes at the Tokyo Olympics, will begin with the women’s 10m air rifle and men’s 10m air pistol events on Saturday.

Of the record 15-member Indian shooting contingent, four will be in action with two finals and two very good shots at a medal to open the campaign.

The competition begins early in the morning (5.00 AM IST) with the women’s 10m air rifle qualification round, where world record holder Apurvi Chandela and world No 1 Elavenil Valarivan are in contention. They will be looking to make it to the top eight finals field from among 49-shooters in the qualification fray. The finals are scheduled for 7.15 am IST.

Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma then take the field with the same intention in the men’s 10m air pistol with qualifications beginning at 9.30am IST for the 36-man field. The finals then follow from 12 noon.

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Coaches of both the rifle and pistol camps were upbeat after completion of pre-event training, a day before the competitions at the Asaka Shooting Range on Friday.

National Rifle coach Deepali Deshpande said, “The girls are all raring to go and training today has been as planned. We are confident of a good showing tomorrow.”

Also sharing his thoughts from Tokyo was pistol coach Ronak Pandit saying, “The boys trained for an hour today as did other members of the squad and they are all shaping up well. We are all looking forward to the start of competitions and are focused on the job ahead.”

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Competition details

Women’s 10m air rifle

A total of 60-shots are fired in the qualification round in an allotted time of 75minutes from a 0.177 inches caliber air rifle, and scoring is in decimals of 10 with a 10.9 being the perfect shot.

While the Indian athletes will be contenders, ROC athlete Yulia Karimova, the reigning world champion in the 50m Rifle 3 Positions and Chinese Taipei’s world No 4 Lin Ying-Shin will pose the most formidable threats in the field.

In form shooters like Carolyne Mary Tucker of the US, Ziva Dvorsak of Slovenia, Sofia Ceccarilo of Italy, and Eszter Mezaros of Hungary will also pose a strong challenge along with the Chinese duo of Wang Luyao and Yang Qian and strong Korean shooter Eunji Kwon.

Generally a score of 630 out of a maximum possible 654 ensures qualification into the finals at this level. The Indian duo has recorded world competition bests of 633 (Chandela) and 632.7 (Elavenil) respectively. Chandela also holds the finals world record in the event with a score of 252.9 to her name.

The finals are a 24-shot affair with eighth place being decided after 12-shots and one shooter being eliminated after every two shots thereafter, till the winner is decided after the 23rdand 24thsingle shots.

The field is without the Rio Olympics medallists and therefore will have a new Olympic champion.

Men’s 10m air pistol

Chaudhary and Verma have been by far, the two best air pistol shooters in the world over the past three years, but the much narrower 36-man field in Tokyo is fraught with danger given the competition level, led by pistol shooting legends led by the biggest of them all, the inimitable Korean Jongoh Jin.

The four-time Olympic champion (including once in this event), is also the reigning world champion and will have for company, Beijing Olympic champion Pang Wei of China, the Rio rapid fire pistol champion Christian Reitz of Germany and the Rio defending champion Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam.

The Indian duo will also have to contend with the challenges of ROC athlete Artem Chernousov (world number three), in-form Iranian Javad Foroughi (world No 4 and winner of the last two World Cups before the Olympics), seasoned Serbian Damir Mikec, recently crowned European champion Juraj Tuzinsky of Slovakia and top-class Ukrainian shooters Oleh Omelchuk and Pavlo Korostylov among others.

The qualification round here is scored in full rings as opposed to decimals in the air rifle competition, and a score of 580 is considered bare minimum to reach the finals of World class competitions

The finals revert to decimal scoring and follow the exact same format as the air rifle competition, explained earlier.