In the upcoming 2018 Asian Games that is set to take place in Jakarta and Palembang cities of Indonesia, all eyes will be on Indian teenage superstars Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala and Elavenil Valvarian, who are carrying India’s medal hopes in the shooting events that are set to kick off on August 19. However, they will have to overcome the mighty challenge of South Koreans and the Chinese.
Bhanwala and Bhaker, who are 15 and 16 respectively, came to limelight after bagging a gold in the 25m rapid fire pistol and 10m air pistol events respectively at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But the Asian Games is a much tougher challenge for the young starlets than the CWG and it would be interesting how they take on the pressure.
One interesting fact going into the 2018 Asian Games is that India has won the same amount of gold medals (7) as the country has managed to bag in the history of Asian Games and only four shooters have won the shining gold in the Asiad – Jaspal Rana, Jitu Rai, Randhir Singh, and Ronjan Sodhi.
Jaspal Rana, one of the gold medal winners as a shooter is now a coach with the Indian team, is optimistic about their medal chances.
Bhaker is set to kick off her 2018 Asian Games campaign alongside Abhishek Verma in the pistol mixed team event.
The 16-year-old has tasted success at the highest level, winning two gold medals at the Guadalajara World Cup in March before stealing the spotlight at the Gold Coast games.
Bhanwala, unlike his teammate, is yet to kick off his career at the senior level. But he had bagged gold in the Junior World Championships and now it is a perfect chance to steal the show at the Asian Games. However, that will be a massive challenge for him.
While, Bhaker and Bhanwala is catching all the limelight ahead of the 2018 Asian Games, the 19-year-old Valarivan has quietly managed to focus on her business. She bagged the gold in the 10m rifle event at the Sydney Junior World Cup earlier in 2018 with a World Record score.
And then there is the seasoned Sanjeev Rajput, who has his eye set for the top prize in the 50m rifle event after winning in the Gold Coast games. He, however, has extremely high expectations from the 19-year-old Valarivan.
“She has been shooting really well. Unlike in the past, the youngsters are doing really well for India. There is a sizeable pool (both in rifle and pistol) which has been doing well. It was not the case earlier,” Rajput told news agency PTI.
In the 2018 Asian Games, in the absence of legends like Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra, there is a high probability of a star coming out in the shooting events.
The youngsters will be guided by the seniors like Heena Sidhu, Manavjit Singh and Shreyasi Singh, who would be itching to leave their mark.
With a gold, silver, and seven bronze – a total of 9 medals- India had finished eighth in the shooting events at Incheon, South Korea, four years back, and this time around the expectations are much higher.
Four years ago, China topped the table with 50 medals (27 gold) are expected to be at the centre of attraction again, but all the Indian eyes would be on the ‘desi’ superstars.