Delhi: The consistent rise of young Indian shooters has been well documented over the last few months. But even as the medals and the records have come in, it is their consistency in scores that has been the bigger takeaway for the sport.

With the competition only getting tougher and the Asian Games, World Championship and Olympic qualifications up next, it is a crucial time for the young guns.

But Suma Shirur, who was appointed the High Performance Coach for the junior Indian rifle team this year, insists that the focus is on maintaining this consistency with the correct training and technique.

“For juniors, it is more important to stay consistent with scores. The learning curve has to go up, the shooting curve will naturally come up,” Shirur told The Field on the sidelines of the 18th KSS Memorial Shooting Championship and Selection Trails 5 at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in Delhi.

“With juniors, they are youthful and are free in the mind so in the initial years it is easier. But eventually everyone needs to come down to the basics,” added the 44-year-old former 10m air rifle joint-world record holder.

This is in fact her biggest focus in her new role. “I have just started this year so it is going to be a slow task. The main goal would be to create youngsters with good basic techniques. Equip them with the right basics to be part of the senior team as well. As long as they are juniors, we want to see more and more medals won at international competitions,” said Shirur, who is also the technical coach of the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy.

On their part, India’s juniors have not disappointed. After the young guns-propelled rich haul at the season’s first ISSF World Cup in Mexico, the Commonwealth Games saw teenagers Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh and Anish Bhanwala win big. At the Junior Shooting World Cup in Sydney in May, India claimed nine gold to finish second behind China in the medal tally. And the scores of all these shooters have been consistently high through the trials and competitions in both seniors and juniors.

Not counting the ongoing selection trials 5, Bhanwala currently tops the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol scores in men and juniors and is second in the 25m standard pistol while Ghosh and junior world-record holder Elavenil Vararivan are in the top 5 in the 10m air rifle senior women. Bhaker is in the top two of both 25m and 10m air pistol. In fact, the top 10 in almost all the disciplines have juniors in the senior category.

At the ongoing competition in Delhi, several teens have participated in as many as three finals in a day – juniors, youth and seniors.

“The number of finals these kids have to shoot now, it gets physically demanding. The need of the hour is an all-round development at the national level,” she explained.

Game spreading across the country

Talking about the catalyst for this upsurge of youngsters, she credits both the National Rifle Association of India and the former shooters for their investment in the juniors.

“We have a strong junior core group and the levels have increased over the years I have to give credit to NRAI for their vision in investing in the junior program, in the last couple of years.

A lot of our ex shooters have taken it upon themselves by starting shooting ranges, coaching and giving back to the sport they are passionate about. Each of us who has been there is somehow trying their best to give it back. Now with our positions we are able to give back. These shooters have created small ranges in the country which has given people the opportunity, the chance to gain access to a sport like shooting,” the former Olympic finalist, who founded the Lakshya Shooting Club in 2006, said.

Another important aspect is the increase in infrastructure which has been a direct result of the number of events held in India.

“With the Commonwealth Games in 2010, we have a good range here and the Youth Commonwealth Games were hosted in Pune, where we have a very good range in Balewadi and in Jaipur for the Asian Airgun Championships. Hosting these competitions helps create good infrastructure for youngsters to access,” she added.