Shooting body draws up back up team for Olympics

March 26th, 2008 - 1:23 pm ICT by admin  

By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Shooters are India’s best bet in the Olympics, and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) wants to be doubly sure about it by building a back up team for the Beijing Games. Nine shooters have qualified for the Olympics. The NRAI has kept six shooters as a back up for the Aug 8-24 extravaganza.

If the performance of any of the nine qualifiers dips in the next few months, then the selection committee will not hesitate to replace them with those in the standby pool.

Tejaswini Samant, Suma Shirur and Priya Aggarwal have been identified as back up for the women’s 10 metres air rifle event. Among men, P.T. Raghunath is in the 10m air rifle and Onkar Singh and Vivek Singh in the 50m air pistol events.

“Ideally we would love to have the same shooters participating in the Olympics who have qualified themselves. But we are keeping the back up team after considering the larger picture in mind,” national coach Sunny Thomas told IANS.

“After Olympics we have the Commonwealth Games (in 2010 in Delhi), so it will be beneficial for all.”

Thomas said that keeping a back up team doesn’t imply that the association wants to keep the qualified shooters on the tenterhooks.

The ministry of sports and youth affairs, despite its known differences with the NRAI, is also supporting the back up idea. It wants the six shooters to practice regularly with the nine-member Olympic squad.

“This has been done keeping the interest of the country in mind. The back-up shooters are practicing regularly with the team. There is no tension among them,” said Thomas.

The coach said that none of the shooters were in peak form right now, but he doesn’t want them to attain that before the Games start.

“We want them to peak at the right time. There will he three World Cups before the Olympics in August and we will be closely monitoring the performances of the shooters in those events,” he said.

The Olympic team will be finalised by June.

Thomas lamented that Raghunath, despite shooting extremely well in different tournaments, failed to qualify for the Beijing Games.

“It was unfortunate. If we see any of the Olympic rifle shooters not shooting well, then Raghunath stands a good chance of making it to the final team. It can be painful for others but we have be sure that the best shooters compete.”

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