After sensational display a year or two back, Heena Sidhu, India's star shooter, saw a sharp dip in form and her performance in last year's Rio Olympics forced her to go back to her basics in order to find her form back. She is set to apply the same in the upcoming International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup beginning from February 22 at Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhi.
"Thinking too much about the minute details and techniques of the sport, I kind of lost the basic vision I had. We have identified the problem areas and I am working on getting back to my basics. That is why I have chosen to participate only in one event, which is air pistol, my strongpoint, where I can fix my issues better. Once I feel I'm going in the right direction, I will take that confidence into other events."
Even Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang is going to participate only in Prone event and he echoed Heena's words as he said, "I want to take it slow and change a few things in my approach towards the game. Concentrating on one event will help me judge my approach better and then I can advance to others."
As India prepares to play host to athletes from 50 nations at the ISSF World Cup, Raninder Singh, National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) President, said, "Despite being the first World Cup after the Olympics, to have such a high turnout (50 participating nations), we've done well. Normally World Cups just after Olympics do not evoke such a response but since we have, we are looking to put our best foot forward."
On being asked whether the federation has taken into account the report submitted by the committee headed by Abhinav Bindra for team compositions, Singh said, "It's both a yes and no. For all events apart from Skeet, we've gone on merit. The report had a point asking us to empower the coaches more, so we are taking step by step and have followed it for the Skeet event. It's like we have to balance things and so we can't give the reins completely to an individual and put merit at bay; we have taken it as a test case."
The World Cup has a new event "Mixed Team" where female and male shooters will team up for the event. On being questioned how the teams were decided, Singh said, "We've gone as per ranking, the no.1 from both male and female categories will go as a team and the subsequent rankers will get a chance in case the higher-ranked is not available for any reason."
Shooting is considered an individual sport but asked if the inclusion of Mixed Team event dilutes that, Heena said, "It is still individualistic because there's no strategy or tactics involved. It is still going to be you with that target and the result will come out from the sum total of the individuals in the team. So, all have to put their best foot forward and it doesn't matter if it's a team of two or three or more."
The spearheads of the Indian challenge in the World Cup, Gagan Narang, Jitu Rai, Heena Sidhu and Kynan Chenai, asserted that while it was a great feeling playing a World Cup at home, both home advantage and pressure of expectations would play a role.
Posted by Thom Erik Syrdahl