With the National Games kicking of the shooting events on February 1, Sports Rediscovered takes a look at the previous season for the Indian shooters.
In 2014, Jitu Rai was a star performer with a record 7 international shooting medals in a single calendar year. What makes it even more remarkable is that this was his first year of competitive international shooting.
India’s legendary shooter Abhinav Bindra claimed his maiden triumph in individual category at the Commonwealth Games. The former Olympic gold medallist announced his intentions of being a ‘hobby shooter’ after the Asian Games but he was good in his chosen hobby and went on to win the gold at the National Championships.
The year also saw good performances from Gagan Narang along with some notable performances from the youthful brigade.
Jitu Rai started the year in sensational form, winning three World Cup medals. At the Munich World Cup, Jitu scooped up the silver in 10m air pistol. He went a notch higher at Maribor, capturing the silver in 50m free pistol and a gold in 10m air pistol. The incredible consistency saw him being ranked World No. 1 in air pistol.
Jitu Rai’s annus mirabilis continued with a gold medal in the 50m pistol event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. He even went on to create the Games record during the qualifying rounds.
The 27-year-old Army marksman did not sit back and rest on his laurels. His fantastic composure in a hectic year for Indian shooters simply stood out.
At the World Championships in Granada where other Indians faltered, Jitu Rai was once again India’s lone shining star. He booked an early ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics with his Silver in the 50m free pistol.
With another brilliant show, Rai brought home India’s only shooting gold –a 50m free pistol gold – from the Incheon Asian Games. He also contributed in the team event of 10m air pistol. The trio featuring Jitu Rai, Samaresh Jung and Prakash Nanjappa finished third to take the bronze.
Jitu Rai capped off a stellar year by clinching the yellow metal in 10m air pistol at the National Shooting Championships.
During the Asiad, Abhinav Bindra created quite a stir with his tweets announcing the end of his professional career even though he still has an eye on Rio Olympics. Clarifying later, Abhinav said that after training with the same intensity for 20 years, he was now looking forward to being a hobby shooter.
Abhinav did tick off the blank boxes in his illustrious resume. At the Commonwealth Games, Bindra picked up his maiden individual gold medal in the 10m air rifle. The 32-year-old then went on to win an individual medal at the Asian Games when he took the bronze in the same event.
At the National Championships in Pune, Bindra showed he still had the same fighting spirit despite calling himself a ‘hobby shooter’. The iconic shooter defended his 10m Air Rifle title in a packed field to finish the year on a high.
Gagan Narang makes a comeback; Manavjit wins too
London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang had a harrowing experience when he started training for the 2013 season. A neck injury confined him to bed rest for eight months and he even had doubts whether he would be able to pull the trigger ever again.
But Gagan’s a born champion. At Glasgow, he displayed his steely resolve and made a determined comeback which saw him get the silver medal in 50m rifle prone and a bronze in 50m rifle 3 positions.
Another old warhorse going up on the podium this year was Manavjit Singh Sandhu. The former World No. 1 clinched the top spot in trap at the Tucson World Cup earlier in the year.