NRAI may announce squad in two batches, reserve shooter could replace selected ones if form dips

NEW DELHI, May 23:

The Indian shooting contingent for the Paris Olympics could be announced in two batches with the National Rifle Association of India also likely to keep a reserve third shooter in each category in the event of a drop in form of the selected athletes, sources close to the developments said on Thursday.
A series of four selection trials in pistol and rifle events concluded on May 19 and the squad for Paris is to be announced shortly, but the source said that the 21-member squad could be announced in two batches.
“The federation could announce the rifle/pistol and shotgun squads separately,” said the source.
“The situation has arisen as Manu Bhaker had topped both the 10m air and 25m sports pistol trials held in Delhi and Bhopal. Since one shooter will compete in two events in Paris, a spare slot has been created in the 21-member squad and the NRAI could include a shotgun shooter in the Olympic-bound contingent,” the source said, adding that it would “most likely be a female trap shooter.”
With the Indian pistol and rifle shooters securing a maximum possible 16 Olympic quotas, the only way to utilise the spare quota created by Manu competing in two events is to go for a “quota swap with shotgun”, said the source.
“That (quota swap) might be delaying the announcement of the squad. Whether to announce it (squad) today or to announce it before the team departs for the World Cup (pistol/rifle) in Munich (May 31-June 8) or after that is the federation’s dilemma. All these things will be put up before the selection committee and it will take a call on that,” said the source.
On the issue of Army man Sandeep Singh topping the Olympic Selection Trials in 10m air rifle and pushing world champion Rudrankksh Patil to third spot, which could effectively end the youngster’s hopes of going to the Summer Games, another source said that the selection policy is quite clear on it.
“The NRAI can’t superimpose itself to deny anybody any chance if it is available (to him or her). Now to overawe the situation because of somebody’s better performance is something the NRAI has two months to carry forward to train its shooters.
“If not, then the selection committee would also take into consideration the past experience and the situation of the third guy (before the squad’s departure to Paris). There will be three guys, one reserve, plus two (who have topped the trials),” the source said.
“…The selection committee has the power to make last-minute changes. The issue is not only about a shooter’s selection in his own event. The NRAI will also have to assess the candidate for fielding him in the mixed team event.”
India also have a good chance of winning Olympic medals in mixed pistol and rifle events.
The source said that the NRAI would not want to be caught on the wrong foot after putting in so much of effort into the trials.
“The NRAI will ensure it is battle ready for all situations. NRAI doesn’t want to be flashed around with a surprise at a time when they cannot act or react.”
It is learnt that Rudrankksh, who became only the second Indian 10m air rifle shooter after Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra to become a world champion in 2022, has written to NRAI to consider him ahead of Sandeep Singh, who topped the trials but has no international medal to his credit. (PTI)