India’s highly-rated shooting contingent fired a blank for the second straight Olympics Games, wrapping up their campaign at Tokyo 2020 with just one final appearance from 15 shooters.

Yes, India reached just one final across ten events at Tokyo Olympics.

Just like Rio 2016, India didn’t have a single medal in a discipline that has generally seen success for India at the international stage, and even the three straight Olympics. But Tokyo 2020 felt like a step back from Rio.

Five years back, there had been two finalists from a 12-member shooting squad, the then-record for most Indian shooters at a Games – Jitu Rai in 10m air pistol and Abhinav Bindra in 10m air rifle. Beijing champion Bindra had agonisingly finished fourth in 10m air rifle while Rai was the first to be eliminated in the eight-shooter final.

Follow’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games coverage here.

This time around, no one was anywhere close to a medal with the best finish being a seventh place (out of eight) by Saurabh Chaudhary in 10m air pistol. Crucially, not one shooter bar Chaudhary even came close to the final in Tokyo. In qualification, no other shooter finished in the top 10 or was in contention for a place in the finals. Manu Bhaker did come close in the 10m air pistol but fell agonisingly short on a day she had to contend with weapon issues.

But overall, it was a generally underwhelming performance from every quarter.

Here’s a quick glance at how India’s shooters finished at Tokyo, and what the difference was between their final score and that of the last qualifier.

Athlete Event Qualification score Qualification
Last finalist cut-off 
(Top 8)
Saurabh Chaudhary 10 m air pistol 586 1st  (qualified, placed 7th) 
Abhishek Verma 10 m air pistol 575 17 578
Manu Bhaker 10 m air pistol 575 12 577
Yashaswini Deswal 10 m air pistol 574 13 577
Deepak Kumar 10 m air rifle 624.7 26 629.2
Divyansh Singh Panwar 10 m air rifle 622.8 32 629.2
Apurvi Chandela          10 m air rifle 621.9 36 628.5
Elavenil Valarivan 10 m air rifle 626.5 16 628.5
Sanjeev Rajput 50 m rifle 3 positions 1157 32 1176
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar 50 m rifle 3 positions 1167 21                                  1176
Rahi Sarnobat                      25 m pistol 573 32 584
Manu Bhaker      25 m pistol 582 15                                     584
Tejaswini Sawant             50 m rifle 3 positions 1154 33 1171
Anjum Moudgil 50 m rifle 3 positions 1167 15                                  1171
Mairaj Ahmad Khan Skeet 117 25 122
Angad Vir Singh Bajwa Skeet 120 18                                     122
Deepak Kumar & Anjum Moudgil 10 m air rifle team mixed team 623.8                                      18 627.9
Divyansh Singh Panwar & Elavenil Valarivan 10 m air rifle team mixed team 626.5 12              627.9
Saurabh Chaudhary & Manu Bhaker 10 m air pistol team mixed team  582 Qualified first in stage 1, out in stage 2 (7/8)                                  575
Abhishek Verma & Yashaswini Deswal 10 m air pistol team mixed team  564 17                                    575

The general picture is that of a mediocre showing.

In a sport like shooting, there is a story in the margins too. A look at the difference in points between the Indian and the last quailed shooter shows many of the misses were a matter of a few good points.

Bhaker, as mentioned above, came the closest in 10m air pistol, finishing 12th (575 points) and technically just two points behind the last shooter. But in the final standings, two shooters had 577 points, which was the last qualification mark, and three had 576, with everyone having higher inner 10s (tiebreaker). So had she finished with even a couple of points more, there would be a slim chance.

In this case alone, perhaps the blame can’t be laid on the shooter alone as she suffered a weapon malfunction and lost 20 minutes of time during her qualification match, according to coach Ronak Pandit. It was her first event and things didn’t get better for her.

Tokyo 2020, shooting: Explaining the unfortunate pistol issue that India’s Manu Bhaker faced

In the 10m air pistol mixed match with Chaudhary, the pair was let down by her shooting in the second stage of qualification after topping the first stage. The difference in their totals were stark but the two events with Chaudhary were the only two events Indian shooters came close in.

Bhaker-Chaudhary in Q1 (topped)

Total  195 194 193 582 -26x
BHAKER Manu 97 94 95 286
SAURABH Chaudhary 98 100 98 296

Bhaker-Chaudhary in Q2 (7th of 8)

Total 188 192 380 -11x
BHAKER Manu F 92 94 186
SAURABH Chaudhary M 96 98 194

Even in women’s 25m pistol qualification, Bhaker was placed fifth after the first round (precision) but slipped in the second.

This inconsistency over various stages was a troubling pattern for India throughout in events with multiple stages of qualification. Both in the men’s and women’s 50m rifle 3 positions, an Indian shooter had a chance after the kneeling (Tomar, 397/400) and prone (Moudgil, 395/400) but that lead couldn’t be maintained in the next round.

The most troubling pattern though was how far from their personal best the shooters were. The Indian shooting contingent was by no means a below par one, with world No 1 and world record holding shooters and multiple World Cup and World Championship medallists in their midst. Almost all of them have shot the big numbers that are needed for the final, but couldn’t find it when needed.

There is time for post-mortem and changes, to see who had the most disappointing result and whose performance can give hope for the future. Perhaps another deep-diving assessment like after Rio will be needed to analyse what exactly what wrong for the second straight Olympics. Pressure, nerves, the loss of momentum due to sports shutdown... there could be many reasons.

But on paper, the biggest setback for India is that all of India’s shooters underperformed from the level they have otherwise set in the Olympic cycle. The numbers from Tokyo 2020 make that clear.