Tokyo Olympics 2020: Shooting oneself in the foot | Tokyo Olympics News

When India’s biggest hopes for a medal at Tokyo – Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary – failed to enter the 10m air pistol mixed final on Tuesday, social media went into a tizzy, calling the Tokyo Games a repeat of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The meltdown in Tokyo is somewhat similar to Rio, however, unlike last time when the shooters copped most of the blame, this time it is more of an administrative failure – on part of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) – that has led to this poor performance. In the pistol shooters’ case, it was the poor handling of coach-shooter tussles by NRAI. On Tuesday, the NRAI chief Raninder Singh agreed that Manu and pistol coach Jaspal Rana had their differences and blamed Rana for spreading negativity in the Indian camp.
However, it was never about only one shooter or a single coach. In 2018, after the Youth Olympic Games, shooter Saurabh Chaudhary had written a mail to NRAI saying he did not want to continue training under the junior team national coach Jaspal Rana.
The NRAI replied saying Saurabh had to train under Rana if he wished to participate in the junior category. Saurabh then decided to participate only in the senior tournaments, despite being eligible to shoot in junior age-group for three more years.
Later that year, another junior, 25m rapid fire specialist Anish Bhanwala, went to NRAI with the same request. The NRAI maintained its stand that these requests did not warrant an investigation.

In 2021, during the New Delhi World Cup, just three months before the Olympics, Rana went for Manu Bhaker’s 25m pistol match wearing a white t-shirt with a hand-written personal message sent by Manu to him. He proudly strutted around the range when Manu lost the gold to Chinki Yadav, a shooter Rana had been training at the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy in Bhopal in personal capacity. The shooting body yet again failed to take disciplinary action against Rana; rather, the NRAI president asked Manu, her parents and Rana to meet him.

However, the patch-up didn’t happen. When the team was sent to Zagreb for pre-Olympics training, three pistol coaches —Ronak Pandit, Jaspal Rana and Samaresh Jung —refused to attend the camp. Pandit and Jung later agreed to join the team after 15 days, while Rana took more than a month to reach Croatia.
It has been learned that he missed two appointments for visa.
Meanwhile, Abhishek Verma, who was training under Rana, preferred to train alone, despite help being offered by Pandit and Jung. Rana went to Zagreb and trained Abhishek only for a week. Another issue that NRAI failed to deal with was conflict of interest of national coaches and handling the personal coaches in case of rifle shooters. Not a single shooter preferred to train under foreign rifle coach Oleg Mikhailov and pistol coach Pavel Smirnov.

While they were there at the national camps, they had absolutely no role to play in preparing the shooters ahead of the Games. The federation renewed Pavel’s contract after the 2016 Games failure, despite the review committee suggesting otherwise. There are many national coaches who are on the Sports Authority of India’s payrolls, get paid by the NRAI and take private coaching at their academies as well as at the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy.

NRAI never objected to these coaches spending more time with their ’personal’ shooters at the national camps, nor did they stop them from training shooters at other academies. The federation instead paid these coaches in full. The situation in the shotgun camp is no different.
While Mairaj Khan trained under Ennio Falco and Angad Bajwa took training from his personal coach Tore Brovold remotely, the NRAI sent trap coach Mansher Singh to Italy with them. The national federation may have been active in getting facilities arranged for its shooters, but when it came to cleaning its own mess, it failed miserably. The meltdown in Tokyo is just a reflection of the system that was not ready for a stage like the Olympics.

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