Russian hand in shooters’ golden showOctober 10th, 2010 - 7:26 pm ICT by IANS
By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Indian Army shooters setting the Karni Singh Shooting Range on fire in the Commonwealth Games to bag gold medals have a Russian connection. Their coach is a soft-spoken Moscow man, Pavel Smirnov.
Gold-winning Army pistol shooters Vijay Kumar, Imran Hasan Khan and Gurpreet Singh give all credit to Smirnov for their international successes.
Smirnov has been with the Army Marksman Unit in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, since 2007.
Vijay Kumar, Imran Hasan Khan and Gurpreet Singh are among the nine Army shooters in the 28-member Indian squad for the Commonwealth Games.
The affable Smirnov remains modest and says the Army shooters have the potential to win an Olympic medal, though they still have a long way to go.
“We have a talented bunch of 30 shooters in Mhow. This year, 14 of them have been a part of the national team in different international competitions,” Smirnov told IANS at the Karni Singh Shooting Range.
“They all have the potential to win medals at major international competitions and they are proving it,” he added.
World No.10 Vijay Kumar and Gurpreet Singh won the gold and the bronze in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event respectively.
The two had won the gold in the pairs’ event Thursday.
Vijay Kumar and Gurpreet Singh said that much of the credit for the success of the Indian shooters should go to Smirnov.
“In the last three years, Indian Army shooters have done extremely well at international competitions. There is a healthy contest among the shooters and this time even Pemba Tamang lost his place in the side to Gurpreet,” said Vijay Kumar, who had won the silver in the Beijing World Cup last year.
Smirnov’s appointment was a part of Army’s Olympic Mission Programme that was launched in 2004 to turn potential talents into medal winners.
“We are in the sixth year of the programme and still have a long way to go. We need more coaches to take the programme forward,” he said.
“Now I have to look after 30 shooters and that becomes an impossible task. I have asked the management for more coaches so that all the shooters get equal attention,” he added.
Smirnov also feels that Indian shooters need a full-time mental trainer.
“Shooting is more of a mental sport than physical. Even Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra had a mental trainer,” he said.
“Lot of things go into the making of an Olympic champion. I feel if we have a good mental trainer, our shooters will be able to produce desired results at the international level,” he added.
India’s chief coach Sunny Thomas is highly impressed with the Russian and wanted him to train other shooters as well.
“Before the Commonwealth Games we had asked the steering committee to appoint Smirnov to train the Indian shooters. But before we could take a decision, the Army renewed his contract and gave him a salary hike,” he said.
“I must say Smirnov has done a great job with the Army boys and he must continue till the 2012 London Olympics,” he added.
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