Bronze medallist Gagan Narang of India poses with the bronze medal won in the Men's 10m Air Rifle Shooting final final on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at The Royal Artillery Barracks on July 30, 2012 in London, England. Photograph: (Getty)
India's Olympic bronze medallist has mixed feelings about changing men's shooting events to become mixed-gender, and he's not alone
Indian Olympic bronze-medallist Gagan Narang says shooting's "ecosystem" will take a "hit" if the Indian International Shooting Federation (ISSF) Athletes Committee's recommendation for mixed-gender team events for future Olympics, starting with the 2020 edition in Tokyo, is ratified by the world body.
In a decision that evoked mixed response, the ISSF Athletes Committee, headed by India's lone individual Olympic gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra, recommended mixed-gender team events for the Olympic Games. The panel has sought to replace the double-trap men's event with a mixed-gender trap event, convert the 50m prone men's event into a mixed-gender air rifle event and the 50m pistol men's event into a mixed-gender air pistol event.
Speaking to the Press Trust of India (PTI), Narang, one of India's most versatile shooters, said, "The ecosystem of shooting sport will take a hit with these three events going out of the Olympic program." The ace shooter, though, promptly added, "But like many others, I will also cross the bridge when we get to it".
Unlike some of India's top pistol shooters, Narang is not "deeply saddened" but ready to embrace it. When asked to elaborate on his statement that the ecosystem of shooting will take a hit, Narang said, "Prone is very popular across the world and suppose it is dropped, so many shooters who are shooting prone only will be out."
He felt the equipment manufacturing units will also be affected. "Weapon manufactures will stop producing weapons, equipment required for 50m prone and 50m pistol events." Citing another example, he said a 50m range that caters to three events now will cater to two only, if 50m prone and pistol are dropped.
The move follows the International Olympic Committee's objective of international sport federations working towards a 50 per cent female representation at the Games. Currently, shooting has nine men's and six women's events at the Olympics. The 33-year-old Narang is currently not part of his pet event -- 10m air rifle -- in which he won the bronze medal at 2012 London Olympics, but he is determined to regain peak form.
"It has been my bread and butter event ever since I started shooting. Several injuries had set me back. I have had an issue with my heel during the Rio Olympic Games. That came in the way of shooting my best scores. But I have recovered now, changed my equipment, found out the flaws and been able to plug the loopholes. Hopefully, I shall be back to my best in the next few months," Narang said.
From only prone at the moment, he plans to gradually get back to shooting in other events. Narang will look to get his act right when the year's first ISSF World Cup begins in the capital on February 22, where there will be no dearth of crowd support.