Shooting trials ensures a level playing field, says Abhinav Bindra

Paris Olympics Shooting trials are happening at the Karni Singh ranges in Tughlakabad (Image: S Kannan & Archive)

Call it anxiety or stress, the 37 shooters competing in the first of the four pistol and rifle trials for the Paris Olympics at the Karni Singh ranges in Tughlakabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, on Saturday, got to test their weapons and own calm.

The first day programme began with the first phase of sports pistol event, where Manu Bhaker, Rhythm Sangwan, Esha Singh, Abhidnya Patil and Simranpreet Kaur Brar were in action. Friday’s second part is for the men’s rapid-fire pistol event, where Anish Bhanwala, Vijayveer Sidhu. Adarsh Singh, Bhavesh Shekhawat and Ankur Goel will test their skills.

RevSportz talked to Abhinav Bindra, the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist to understand how hard these trials are. In true style, Bindra explained how the depth in Indian shooting has necessitated these trials. This is a first of sorts, where the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) is holding trials to ensure the best board the flight to Paris.

Even as the Capital, and then Bhopal, will hold the trials for rile and pistol, the Indian shotgun marksmen will get one last chance, next week in Doha where the ISSF qualifying for trap and skeet will be held. Well- known names like Manavjit Sandhu, Zoravar Singh, Angad Bajwa, Shreyasi Singh are among the 12 who will be seen in action in there.

Back to the trials, Bindra answered some questions, in his typical, frank way.

RevSportz: This is a new concept, four trials before the Paris Olympics. How hard is it on shooters?

Bindra: The Olympic Trials have always been part of the journey, though the format may change. Historically, athletes with Olympic quotas enjoyed a certain cushion, but having multiple trials is quite common in many countries. This new system with four trials ensures a level playing field and truly tests the depth of talent we have, which is substantial. It’s essential for Indian shooting to adopt such rigorous standards if we are to excel on the international stage. Competing at the Olympics is the ultimate challenge, and these trials are a critical step in that journey.

RevSportz: Someone like Palak wins an air pistol quota and flies back from Rio. Is it easy to get over jetlag and be ready?

Bindra: Overcoming jetlag and adjusting back to peak performance conditions is always a challenge for athletes, especially after long-haul flights across multiple time zones. It requires a well-thought-out recovery protocol, which includes proper sleep management, nutrition, and sometimes even training at specific times to simulate upcoming competition schedules. It’s definitely not easy, but with the right support and planning, athletes can manage these challenges effectively.

RevSportz: Mentally, do you think the shooters are ready to face this? Some seem worried!

Bindra: Mental readiness is as crucial as physical preparation in shooting that demands high concentration and composure. It’s natural for shooters, especially the less experienced ones, to feel apprehensive about the new trial system. However, this can also be seen as an opportunity to build mental resilience and adaptability, which are vital qualities for Olympic-level competition.