Asian Games: Joydeep Karmakar delighted with 50m Rifle 3P shooters' feats; praises Sift, Ashi
The success of one event that amazed Joydeep the most was the 50m Rifle 3 Positions, always considered India's weak link. India's 50m Rifle 3P shooters won two gold, including Sift's individual feat, a silver and bronze medal at the Asian Games.
Joydeep Karmakar is happy and busy. His X - formerly Twitter - account is always active, with posts explaining Indian shooters' best-ever show at the Asian Games.
His posts are not merely about praises or encouragements or bearing mere information. He has taken up the task of breaking the critical aspects of the game into lucid words to make it easy for a layperson to understand shooting better. This he is doing besides his impassioned commentary on Sony Network.
The Bridge caught up with Joydeep over the phone to get the Olympian and former India 50m Rifle 3 Positions coach's perspectives on shooters' spectacular shows at the 19th Asian Games.
"They have done the best this time around if we go by the numbers as well. At the last edition of the Asian Games in Jakarta, we won nine medals. And at Hangzhou, we have already won 17 medals. Of course, team events are added this time. Nonetheless, 14 was the highest when the team event was there. And I expect about four medals more," asserts Joydeep.
While Indian shooters won six gold and as many silver and bronze medals in China, the success of one event that amazed Joydeep the most was the 50m Rifle 3 Positions, always considered India's weakest link. But at the Asiad in Hangzhou, Indian shooters won a staggering three medals - a gold and silver in the team events, and a gold and bronze in individual events. On Friday, Aishwary Pratap Singh, Swapnil Suresh Kusale, and Akhil Sheoran clinched the men's 50m 3 Positions team gold medal while smashing the world record.
"This is a special feat in the 50m 3 Positions event. Generally, it has been always regarded as the weak point of the Indian team. There have been a lot of medals from air rifle events, but the 50m, the outdoor event, was always the weakest," states Joydeep.
Elated with rifle shooters Sift Kaur Samra and Ashi Chouksey's commanding performances, with Sift winning a gold and silver medal, Joydeep said the 50m 3 Positions event was the biggest takeaway for India from this Asian Games.
"Shooting performance overall is really good. But if I am asked to point out one event, I would say it is the 50m Rifle 3 Positions women's event just because for the reason that this is the single event in the entire Asian Games across all sports where India has two individual medallists. That is very special in its way," opines Joydeep.
Sift dominates the show
Joydeep has also had words of praise for his former trainee Sift, who has broken national, Asian, and world records en route to clinching the women's 50m Rifle 3 Positions gold medal, a historic first for India.
"If we talk about Sift, her performance is superlative. It gives a hint of what level of performance she delivered in the qualification as well as the final. She dominated the entire event," stresses Joydeep, who is now a coach at the Madhya Pradesh State Shooting Academy in Bhopal.
'Ashi was unprepared for the final shot'
Ashi, a pupil of Joydeep, is another shooter who made India's feat in the event even more exciting by winning the bronze medal, missing the silver by a whisker.
"Ashi lost silver in the last shot with 8.9. Else, she was quite poised to win the silver medal only. But we won two individual medals, including Sift's first-ever gold medal in the history of Asian Games for India," says Joydeep.
Asked what caused Ashi to earn a below-par mark in the final shot, he says, "You have only 50 seconds to shoot, not more than that. She was not happy with the preparation for the shot. By the time she was ready for the shot, it was too late. Only four or five seconds left in the clock. So she needed to shoot anyway, or else she would have scored zero. We will discuss it and sort it out once she is back at the academy."
Joydeep has a reason to be happy about the success of this team, as he oversaw the rise of these shooters at a time when India emerged as a serious competitor in the 50m Rifle 3 Positions event.
"I'm happy that I was the chief coach when the rise took place last year. Our 50m shooters won 11 medals in six ISSF World Cup outings in 2022 and 2023 beginning. So that was the first of its kind ever. So that was a significant time. In this time, two shooters Swapnil Kusale and Sift won the Paris Olympics quota in the 50m 3 Positions event for India. This was again first ever. I am happy that I could contribute to this," says Joydeep.
For this success, Joydeep credited the facilities that India has nourished in recent times. It has proved to be a boon for young Indian shooters.
"The young shooters are making rapid progress due to the facilities that have come up in recent times. There is also structured facility from the government such as Khelo India, Target Olympic Podium Scheme, and the National Center of Excellence. The shooters are products of these programmes, where they get the government's support, encouragement, proper training, and of course proper coaches. These are more effective right now. There were schemes previously also but not that effective," says Joydeep.
"Previously, we had mostly the managers, who were sitting in the position of coaches without any experience of shooting, unlike today. It is a huge change in Indian shooting. Also, we have a depth of talent pool. We also have a stringent selection procedure in place. One cannot be complacent with one or two flashes. One has to be consistent to get selected, " he adds.
'Defensive strategy doesn't work in Olympics'
With the Paris Olympics less than a year to go, Joydeep sounds wary as shooters are again in the spotlight for their exploits at the Asian Games. India shooters have drawn criticism for failing to deliver at the last two Olympics.
"Rio and Tokyo both were failures for Indian shooters. If you are defensive in the Olympics, it doesn't work. I think there were some issues with the administration, the coaching, and the management part because it was not well managed. I wish they continue to groom the shooters, make them immune to negativity, and don't try to make them robots. At the same time, retain the discipline there. It should be a very good balance of rigidity and flexibility. Coaches and administrators have to take responsibility," says Joydeep, who resigned from NRAI last year in June, citing backbiting and politics.