Raninder Singh, the president of the National Rifle Association of India, said that the performances of the Indian shooting contingent was below expectations so far at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics and said he would look into an overhaul of the coaching staff to better prepare the players for big events.
He was talking after the pair of Indian pair of Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker crashed out in the second qualification stage of the 10m air pistol mixed team, which had been one of India’s strongest medal contender at the ongoing Games.
The 19-year-olds topped the first qualification but were let down by a poor score in the second, bowing out in an event they have five World Cup gold medals and a silver in.
“Definitely the performances have not been on expected lines and I have spoken of an overhaul of coaching and support staff as I feel something is lacking in getting our shooters prepared for these big occasions... Clearly the talent is there and we have seen it here as well,” he was quoted as saying in a release.
“Having said that we still have starts left and the team is fighting so let’s continue to back the team and I am sure we’ll get results. Post-mortems can wait till after the Games,” he added.
Earlier in the day, he was quoted as saying that he would complete overhaul of the Indian coaching staff by journalists in Tokyo.
“At the end of the day, the only thing I have to say is I can’t excuse non-performance. But I can only say this, remember that most of them are 19-year-olds. These are not adults. Some of them have fallen to the infamous Olympic pressure. There is nothing else I can say. If you see today’s performance, there was an Olympic record qualification score. It is not a joke. But then, 10 minutes later, in Stage 2, one of them does rather poorly, it’s really inexplicable in a way,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.
Raninder also mentioned that the federation has done whatever they could to prepare the shooters for Tokyo after the Rio Olympics debacle, following the suggestions of the review committee set up then. The squad had been training together in Croatia for the last two months in order to be free of lockdown and pandemic restrictions in India.
“We have done whatever that is humanly possible in the build-up and the preparation. We followed the recommendation of that committee to the tee. It was a deep analysis after Rio,” he added.
India drew a blank in all individual 10m events, with Chaudhary being the only shooter to reach a final as all the highly-rated players bowed out in qualification. There are events still to go but the 10m air pistol and rifle events were seen as India’s best chances based on track record.
The India Today report also quoted Raninder shedding light on the controversial issue of Bhaker parting ways with national junior pistol coach Jaspal Rana. She has been working with Ronak Pandit in the last few months and there was a lot of talk about the reason for their split.
“I think in Delhi, there was a lot of internal factionalism among the pistol coaches. That was addressed in an 8-page letter by me.... It’s for reasons best known to him and the athletes concerned, they are unable to work together.... Both of them didn’t get on. The other side was also not willing to work with him.... I tried twice, this was once during the World Cup and once after,” Raninder explained, adding that he cannot force people to work together.
He further said that bringing in Pandit, who has coached pistol shooter Heena Sidhu in the past, was the second-best thing he could do after being unable to get Bhaker and Rana to work together again.
The NRAI chief mentioned that the split may have played a part in Bhaker’s performance but the coach cannot be blamed for it. “This is not Jaspal’s fault. Our performance here is not Jaspal’s fault. I can’t hold him responsible at all. I can certainly say it might have had an impact on Manu to some extent,” India Today quoted him as saying.
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