A four-member review committee, formed by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and headed by Olympics gold medalist Abhinav Bindra, has come down heavily on the functioning of the federation running the sports after the 12-member Olympic team put a flop show at the Rio games 2016.
Besides, it also held the players’ preparation, policies, and practices responsible in the 36-page report on the dismal performance at the Olympics. The committee concluded that the consistent flow of medals in shooting since 2004 Athens Games had made everyone involved in the sport complacent.
The report stated, “everyone took it for granted that there would be progress automatically, and forgot to ensure a systematic healthy process.” It added, “To sum up the deliberations of the committee it can be said with no reservations that Indian Shooting ‘over achieved’ at the Rio Olympic Games. The formula for success was wrong and Indian Shooting had ridden its luck over the last few years, no doubt helped by some extremely talented shooters.”
The committee was formed after none of the 12 shooters from India managed to rope a medal in Rio. Abhinav Bindra’s personal fourth-place finish in 10m Air Rifle event was the best show. It unanimously criticised all the shooters, including the likes of Olympic medalist Gagan Narang, Manavjit Singh Sandhu and young shooter Ayonika Paul.
Gagan Narang was found guilty for his lack of physical preparation and not disclosing to the NRAI about his knee injury, which he carried to the Olympics. Sandhu, who put up his worst individual performance at this year’s Olympics, was blamed for his ‘inflexible attitude’.
The committee also took a tough stand on Paul for misleading the Sports Ministry on who exactly was coaching her to garner more funds; the panel felt the rifle shooter was a classic case of a promising youngster being “ill-equipped” to chart her path. “The projection of Thomas Farnik as the coach and Suma Shirur only as a mentor was purely for financial gains. The records and documents presented to the committee proved that Suma was the full time coach. There has to be absolute honesty of effort while preparing for the Olympics,” the report stated.
Another shooter who was criticised strongly by the committee was Apurvi Chandela. “The Committee feels that the claims of coach Lapidus about the struggle to get funds for training are misleading. Apurvi’s case was one of the first to be approved in the TOPS scheme. However, funds could not be released until Apurvi submitted a training plan and schedule,” the report stated.
On the very promising Jitu Rai not living upto expectations, the committee said the pistol shooter did not get the right expertise and could not develop a “working relationship” with foreign coach Pavel Smirnov.
The committee also found that NRAI does not have single coaches report over the last couple of years as Sports Authority of India (SAI) had stopped asking for them! It strongly felt that “NRAI must end its dependence on SAI” and look ways of becoming self-sufficient.
However, the committee praised Bindra’s fourth finish calling it a matter of ‘luck’. It read, “It was the good closure of a brilliant career, even though it lacked the fairytale finish.”