Shotgun selection shows depth in Indian shooting for Paris 2024

Maheshwari Chauhan and Rajeshwari Kumari
Maheshwari Chauhan and Rajeshwari Kumari (PC: Maheshwari Chauhan and Rajeshwari Kumari/Insta)

In what can be termed as one of the more difficult exercises undertaken in Indian shooting over the decades, the National Rifle Association of India on Tuesday needed to pour over data before naming the shotgun squad for the Paris Olympics. With a tight selection policy formulated after being left red-faced with zero medals in the last two Olympics, Rio de Janeiro 2016 and Tokyo 2020, the need to select shooters based on performance, trials, a complex matrix of points plus current form was used to finalise the names.

In men’s trap, even though Bhowneeesh Mendiratta had won the first quota place for India in September 2022 at the World Championship in Osijek, Croatia, he missed out. Yes, there were emotions mixed with that effort of his, a first quota for India leading to the Paris Olympics. However, emotions alone have not helped. The current policy may seem harsh, extremely demanding and testing the marksmen non-stop. “There is no way but to assess current form and who looks good in the lead-up to the Paris Olympics. The shooters picked in shotgun and before that in rifle and pistol were all as per policy,” former trap shooter and Arjuna Awardee Moraad Ali Khan told RevSportz.

Prithviraj Tondaiman has been chosen to represent India in trap, ahead of Bhowneesh, but there is no cause for heartburn. Prithviraj had represented India at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, last year. He is 37 but then in shooting, its never too late to make a mark. The scores of Prithviraj puts him much ahead of the others who were in contention.

In men’s skeet, Anantjeet Singh Naruka emerged a clear winner on the basis of ranking points and how he has shown consistency over a sustained period. The pressure at the Paris Olympics is going to be high, so a combination of scores from competitions like the ISSF World Cup plus scores from trials have been factored. Anantjeet will be 24 soon and hails from Rajasthan. He has some experience of shooting for India at major meets, having won a medal in the team event in skeet in Hangzhou, last year. Yes, to have a new face in the Olympics will be challenging but the NRAI has ensured these marksmen have been tested thoroughly.

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Anantjeet will also be partnering Maheshwari Chauhan in the mixed skeet event in Paris 2024, where the form of these two shooters looks good. For Maheshwari Chauhan to hog headlines in the last three months has been sensational. She had not done enough in the trials to merit a selection for the Asian Games. However, in 2024, she has been in blazing form and showcased her talent, temperament and mental strength when she sealed a quota place for India at the last minute in Doha towards the end of April. “Pressure, ask me about it,” Maheshwari had told RevSportz after that effort in Doha.

At 27, she has found her mojo and it has been through tireless efforts for well over a decade where she had no corporate backing or support from the Government of India. To just have the family support her all through in this journey, spread from college days till now is a nice story of Indian sports.

With a recent ISSF World Cup held in Lonato, Italy, there were no great performances for India but it was a chance to assess what the form is of shooters. That helped in making a final decision of the composition of the shotgun squad on Tuesday evening in New Delhi.

The second shooter from India in women’s skeet is Raiza Dhillon, another crack shooter. She comes from a family, where shooting has as a sport has been a passion. When she first stepped into the skeet ranges, it was male dominated. But then, the way the Indian girls are now firing in shotgun, the men have been left far behind. One thing is to come from a family where the shooting background helps. But in addition to all that, individual talent and the hunger to do well is a major factor. Skeet is a very technical sport in shotgun and to master it required hours of arduous practice. Raiza has done that and will go to Paris knowing fully well she has slogged for it.

Maheshwari Chauhan in action
Maheshwari Chauhan in action (PC: Maheshwari Chauhan/Insta)

Last but not the least comes Rajeshwari Kumari, India’s lone woman who will shoot in trap at Paris 2024. Daughter of well-known sports administrator Raja Randhir Singh, Ria, as she is popularly known, has been shooting well. At 33, the fashion designer who is also solid shot with the trap gun has the gene pool.

There are plenty of stories in Indian sports where over-enthusiastic parents have pushed the children too hard. Randhir Singh, who himself shot for decades for India alongwith legends like Maharaja Karni Singh is a proud father. And so is Vinita, the proud mother. “Yes, it makes me proud to see my daughter represent India. The depth we have in shooting is amazing and there is great hope from our shooters in Paris,” said Randhir Singh.

“I think, till the team was announced on Tuesday, the wait was anxious,” said Vinita, who has been very supportive of her daughter in her shooting journey.

NRAI secretary general Sultan Singh said: “There was intense competition for the places and things could have changed in case some shooters medalled at the recently concluded Lonato World Cup. But we believe that we have a great shotgun team,” he said.

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