Faced with a do-or-die situation in his own words, two-time Olympian Sanjeev Rajput battled the odds to secure India’s 12 quota from shooting for the upcoming Rio Games by finishing fourth in men’s 50m rifle 3 positions at the Asian Olympic Qualifying Competition today.
Owing to the 35-year-old marksman’s effort, India could be sending 12 shooters, their highest-ever, to the quadrennial extravaganza in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro come August. At the London Olympics four years ago, India had 11 representatives in shooting.
It also brought to end a three-day barren run that set in on day four of the competition.
Overcoming a broken barrel barely three days ago and a struggling 2015, Sanjeev shot 429.5 after an impressive comeback in pone in the eight-man finals at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range to earn the country another Games berth.
Sanjeev qualified for the finals in fourth position shooting a score of 1163. There were three quota places available in the finals and the other two went to Kazakhstan’s Vitaliy Dovgun and Thailand’s 20-year old Napis Tortungpanich.
India, however, missed out on a quota in men’s skeet as Angad Vir Singh Bajwa narrowly failed to make the cut after finishing eighth with a score of 118 in the qualification rounds. Six top shooters play in the finals of skeet.
“I have had a tough 2015 where I had to change my shooting jacket and gun three times which affected my performances. Also, the fact that after I left the Navy in 2014 it took me a while to adjust to the change in lifestyle,” Sanjeev said after his event.
The Asian champion added, “For this competition I had trained hard but the barrel extension of my gun started giving me problems in the last three days and I could not change it at this stage. This is why I was being inconsistent in the finals as I was finding it difficult to adjust otherwise I could have shot even better. I am hoping that my form starts improving more after this performance.”
Expressing his delight, President of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Raninder Singh said, “I am very happy to have won more Olympic quotas than last time but at the same time we also have to give a long hard look at the reasons why we missed so many of them after coming so close. In at least four events we missed quotas by a whisker.”
“We will have a look at the players’ preparations and training, review the work done by the coaches and officials as well as the federation’s working and ensure that responsibility is fixed so that we continue to improve. There are no holy cows."