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India at Olympics: Shooting - A look at the history of the sport

The journey of the Indian shooting team at the Olympics, from Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to Abhinav Bindra.

Abhinav Bindra at 2008 Beijing Olympics

Abhinav Bindra at 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Source: Times of India)


Shreya Verma

Updated: 13 Jun 2021 5:50 AM GMT

The rise of the Indian shooting team at international levels is phenomenal. The nation is all set to send its biggest-ever shooting contingent to Tokyo Olympics 2021.

Shooting has been the most rewarding sport for the country. Abhinav Bindra won the first and the only individual gold medal India has won at the Olympics. However, it took the Indian shooting team a lot of time to reach this feat.

The first-ever Indian shooting contingent at Olympics was sent in 1951. Let's have a look at the journey of the Indian shooting team at the Olympics over the years.

Pre Rathore Era

In post-independent India, there wasn't much awareness about the sport. Albeit, some significant names came up in the 20th century. Following the inception of NRAI in 1951, India sent its first shooter, Dr. Harihar Banerjee, to the Olympics in 1952.

One of the early shooting legends, Dr. Karni Singh, became the only Indian shooter to compete in five Olympic games (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1980). Some other early shooting stars of the country were Prithipal Chatterjee, Devi Singh, and Roy Chaudhary. Young shooters at that time Jaspal Rana and Mansher Singh also represented India at the Olympics in 1996. However, no Indian shooter could reach the finals.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Anjali Bhagwat became the first Indian shooter to qualify for finals. Marking her place in top shooters, Anjali opened up new possibilities for the country. This was the first seed in the growth of the Indian shooting.

2004 Olympics - India clinches its first medal in Shooting

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore marked history by winning the first-ever medal for India in shooting sport. He clinched the silver medal in the double trap event. It was also the first-ever silver medal for India at the Olympics. He opened up new horizons for the nation.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore at 2004 Athens Olympics| Source: Indiatoday

Eight Indian shooters represented the country at the 2004 Athens Olympics:

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Double Trap)

Abhinav Bindra (10m air rifle)

Gagan Narang (10m air rifle)

Mansher Singh( Trap)

Manavjit Singh Sandhu (Trap)

Suma Shirur (10m air rifle)

Deepali Deshpande (10m air rifle)

Anjali Bhagwat (10m air rifle)

After 2004, there was a swift increase in awareness about the shooting sport in India. Although, the sport still couldn't gain a lot of popularity.

2008- India won its first Gold at Olympics

Abhinav Bindra reached a feat no Indian ever had. Young shooting sensation won the first-ever gold for the nation at the Beijing Olympics. To date, no other Indian has clinched individual gold at the Olympics. The Olympic gold led to a meteoric rise of the shooting sport in the country.

Shooters who represented India at the 2008 Olympics were:

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Double Trap)

Samaresh Jung (10m air pistol, 50m pistol)

Manavjit Singh Sandhu (Trap)

Mansher Singh (Trap)

Sanjeev Rajput (50m rifle, 3P)

Gagan Narang (10m air rifle)

Anjali Bhagwat (10m air rifle)

Avneet Kaur(10m air rifle,50m rifle 3P)

2012- India clinched two medals at Olympics

2012 London Olympics became India's most successful outing in shooting to date. Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar clinched the bronze and silver medals, respectively.

The London Olympics was not a cakewalk for shooters, who had to face the change in ISSF rules. Unlike previous Olympics, the qualification scores were not added to the final scores anymore. Indian shooters had to face the top world shooters in the finals.

Vijay Kumar became the first Indian shooter to win an Olympic medal in the 25m rapid-fire pistol event. Vijay had no ammo left for the finals; however, fellow shooter Joydeep Karmakar came to his rescue. Gagan Narang finally won an Olympic medal in the 10m air rifle event by finishing at the third position.

Gagan Narang at 2012 London Olympics| image courtesy:

India's sole Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra couldn't qualify for the final rounds. Eleven Indian shooters represented the nation at the 2012 London Olympics:

Abhinav Bindra (10m air rifle)

Vijay Kumar (25m rapid fire pistol)

Gagan Narang (10m air rifle)

Sanjeev Rajput (50m rifle 3P)

Joydeep Karmakar (50m rifle 3P)

Manavjit Singh Sandhu (Trap)

Ronjan Sodhi (Double Trap)

Shagun Chowdhary (Trap)

Rahi Sarnobat (25m pistol)

Heena Sidhu (10m air pistol)

Annuraj Singh (25m and 10m air pistol)

2016 - Indian shooters fail to clinch medals

After bringing home medals for three consecutive years, the expectations from the Indian shooting team were high at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Likes of Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang were part of the shooting contingent. Bindra playing his last Olympics was the most favorite to bring home the medal.

Luck was not in favor of the country, as Bindra's rifle malfunctioned in the finals. Olympic gold medalist finished at the fourth position, missing out on the bronze medal. Gagan Narang, on the other hand, couldn't make it to the cut for the finals.

Pistol favorites Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai also couldn't produce their best performances. Most of the Indian shooting team couldn't qualify for the finals.

2016 was an enormous setback for the Indian shooting team. The NRAI president took the blame for the underperformance. The technique and strategy went wrong. But above all, luck was not in favor of the nation.

The 2016 Indian Shooting contingent consisted of :

Abhinav Bindra(10m air rifle)

Gagan Narang(10m air rifle)

Kynan Chenai (Trap)

Mairaj Ahmad Khan ( Skeet)

Prakash Nanjappa (50m pistol )

Jitu Rai( 10m air pistol)

Chain Singh( 50m rifle, 3P)

Gurpreet Singh( 10m air rifle, 25m rapid fire pistol)

Manavjit Singh Sandhu ( Trap)

Apurvi Chandela( 10m air rifle)

Ayonika Paul(10m air rifle)

Heena Sindhu(25m pistol)

The 2016 Olympics Indian shooting contingent was the most diverse team. The nation had representatives from almost all the shooting events. The Rio Olympics performance was a lesson for the country to invest more resources in the sport.

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