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Come the season of significant multi-sporting saga's, India sits up and takes notice of the budding talents sprouting from the far-fetched corners of the country. There has been a considerable surge in the current teenage generations to step out into the sports arena and see their country's flag fluttering high. Two days after 16-year old Saurabh Chaudhary lifted gold for India, the nation was heralded with the news of a fifteen-year-old shooter Shardul Vihan who added silver to India's Asian Games 2018 Medal Tally when he finished second in the men's double trap event. The Uttar Pradesh born teen is participating in his first Asian Games and made sure that he didn't return empty-handed from his maiden campaign. Compatriot Ankur Mittal, ranked 1st in this event, failed to make it to the finals today Shardul Vihan shot 73 to claim the silver medal in the Men's Double Trap Shooting while Korea’s 34-year-old Shin Hyunwoo claimed the gold with a score of 74. Qatar’s Al Marri Hamad Ali bagged the bronze after shooting 53 at the Jakabaring shooting range. Although statistics like age should not be a significant factor in a sport like shooting they do glare out all the same. Shardul's sheer brilliance at this young age is predictive of his future potentials. At just 15, in his first ever Asian Games, he is winning silver while a 34-year-old veteran shooter from Korea settles for the gold. The one thing that this statistic does reveal however is the scope for greatness in Shardul in the coming years.
So, what does the future for Shardul look like, one might ask.The Meerut-born teenager Vihan who grabbed four gold medals at the Shotgun Nationals Championship last year and finished sixth at the Junior World Championship in Moscow in 2017, like every athlete must consider and eye the 2020 Olympics as the target. It is the dream of every athlete to compete at the Olympics and do their country proud. However, in Shardul's case, the Olympic dream might not be realised anytime soon. Given the rounds of discussion, The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) is very likely to stick to its plans and axe Double Trap from the Olympic Games programme, starting from Tokyo 2020, replacing it with a mixed gender competition. Shardul, who is coached by former Asian Championship double gold medalist Anwer Sultan, therefore has his ultimate dream stomped away to ashes. Along with Double Trap, other key events like the 50 metres Air Rifle and the 50 metres Pistol events have been dropped from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To think in retrospect, India has always been a consistent performer in this double trap event going back to the 2004 Athens Olympics when the current Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore rose to prominence when he won the silver at the Games. This medal was historic as it was India's first ever individual silver at the Olympics.In a category where India has done so exceptionally well, it comes as sad news to see so many dreams crumbling away with the ISSF's decision to do away with Double Trap from the Olympics. Shardul, at 15, is quite the sensation now with his commendable performance that bagged his very first Asian Games silver. Studying in just his 9th standard, Vihan has shown some tremendous skill and poise to emerge worthy of silver. Shardul was leading for the most part of the final but lost some crucial points at crucial moments to regain his grip on a gold medal. Shardul's noteworthy performance at the Games at such a young age is only an indicator of his potential to conquer unexplored territories in shooting from India. But the pressing question remains. Is this coupled with World Cup titles the highest honour Shardul can achieve now that the double trap event has been discarded from the Olympic Games, which is easily the pinnacle of every athlete's dreams? The future ahead is bright for Shardul, but if the Olympic chances are made available again, the way forward will shine brighter. India should be proud of producing such talented teenagers who go great lengths to fetch laurels for the country and carry home an Asian Games medal, at just 15. Olympics or not, Shardul's talent needs to be celebrated and encouraged so that many more from the younger generation can step out and aim for the bulls-eye and hope for the best.