Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rio Olympics 2016: Shooter Jitu Rai should back himself to corner glory at the Games

Indian shooting contingent invariably have to carry ‘high expectations’ whenever they head to the summer Olympics. Why not? After all, the Indian marksmen have never returned empty-handed from the marquee event since Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, a feat which was bettered by Abhinav Bindra’s gold winning showing in Beijing in 2008 and the ‘medal-winning momentum’ was maintained by Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar in London in 2012.
As the 2016 Rio Olympics draws closer, the Indian shooters will hope to grab the limelight – and one man, who will look to prove that his solid performance on the international stage in recent years is no fluke, is talented Jitu Rai. The 29-year-old Army shooter has ‘done much’ on the international stage in recent years to exude hope among shooting fans about being a potential medal prospect.
Every athlete needs a nice build-up going into the Olympics, and Jitu seems to have ticked all the boxes on this front.

The ace shooter had started the year with a gold medal finish at the ISSF World Cup in Bangkok in March in the men’s 50-metre pistol event – following it up by bagging a silver medal in the men’s 10-metre air pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in Baku. Clearly, these performances will stand him in good stead for the Rio Olympics.
The ISSF World Cup does provide a fair idea of where a shooter stands on the world level. Why Jitu’s gold and silver medal-winning efforts in Bangkok and Baku are significant, because he had a pretty rough time in 2015 – winning only a bronze medal at the 2015 ISSF World Cup in Changwon.
The lone medal effort at the ISSF World Cup is seen as a disappointment because he really rocked in 2014 winning three ISSF World Cup medals – one silver in Maribor and one silver in Munich ISSF World Cups, as well as winning gold medals in the men’s 50 metre pistol at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Eight ISSF World Cup medals in last three years must be some ‘performance’ from Jitu and no wonder medal hopes are soaring from the Indian shooting fans. The one question that is asked is that in which event Jitu fancies his medal hopes – 50-metre pistol or 10-metre air pistol?
As far as the 50-metre pistol event is concerned, Jitu’s main challengers will be Ukraine’s Oleh Omlechuk (who won the Rio de Janeiro ISSF World Cup), Spain’s Pablo Carrera (he had won the Munich ISSF World Cup), Korea’s Jin Jongoh (he had won the Baku ISSF World Cup) besides the Chinese duo of Wei Pang and Wang Zhiwei.
Not to speak much of fancied Brazilian Felipe Almeida Wu, who had won two of the 2016 ISSF World Cup crowns in the men’s 10-metre air pistol event. One hopes that Jitu who had become the first Indian shooter to earn a Rio quota in September 2015, with a second place finish at the 2015 World Championships in Spain, won’t disappoint his fans and put in a blockbuster performance in Rio.
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