Shooting is one of India’s most popular Olympic sports. Out of the 17 individual medals at the Olympics, 4 have come in shooting. However, shooting did not have the best of starts and gained popularity in the country within the last 20-25 years. Let’s take a look at the advancement of Indian shooting over the years.
Indian Shooting – 1960s and 1970s
The 1960s was an era when Indian shooting first began to make its presence felt thanks mainly to Karni Singh. Born in Bikaner’s Royal Family, Karni Singh was the first Indian to represent the country at five Olympics (1960-1972, 1980). His best performances in the Olympics were 8th in 1960 and 10th in 1968.
Karni Singh won a silver medal at the 1962 World Shooting Championships and won a gold medal at the Asian Shooting Championships in 1971. At the 1974 Asian Games at Tehran, Karni Singh won two medals- a silver in trap and a bronze in skeet).
Another shooter who impressed for India during the 1960s was Henry Shaw who won India’s first shooting medal at the Asian Games, clinching bronze in 1962 at the 50m rifle prone event.
During the 1978 Asian Games, Randhir Singh won the gold medal in trap. Randhir Singh became the second Indian to play in five Olympics from 1968-1984.
Indian Shooting – 1980s
The 1980s was a decent decade for Indian shooting. India’s first shooting medals at the Commonwealth Games came in 1982 at Brisbane. Mohinder Lal and Ashok Pandit won the silver medal at the Centre-Fire Pistol Pairs. India’s second medal at the competition was won by the duo of Sharad Chauhan and Ramakrishnan Vij who came third at the Rapid-Fire Pistol Pairs.
Chauhan won the silver medal in the 25m standard pistol event at the Asian Games that year. The trap team comprising of Karni Singh, Randhir Singh, Pranab Kumar Roy and Gurbir Singh won the silver medal while Randhir Singh bagged the bronze in the individual event.
At the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, India won three medals in shooting. Two of them were won by female shooter Soma Dutta. Dutta won the bronze in the 10m air rifle event and the silver in the 50m rifle 3 positions. India’s male medalists at the Asian Games were the 50m standard rifle 3 positions team who brought home the bronze. The team comprised of Joydip Das, Ghisa Lal Yadav and Bhagirath Samai.
Indian Shooting Early 1990s
This was the era where Indian shooting was truly brought on the map. During the 1990 Commonwealth Games at Auckland, Ashok Pandit won the gold medal in the Centre-Fire event while Surinder Marwah won the silver. The duo won the bronze medal in the Centre-Fire Pistol pairs event. Soma Dutta won the bronze in the Small Bore Rifle 3 positions and along with Bhagirath Samai, won the bronze medal in the Air rifle pairs event.
Dutta won India’s solitary shooting medal at the 1990 Asian Games at Beijing, in the 50m rifle prone event.
Indian Shooting Mid 90s
The mid-90s was the period when Indian shooting began to gain a lot of recognition and one of the primary reasons behind this was Jaspal Rana. Jaspal Rana came into international prominence by winning the gold medal at the World Youth Championships in Milan in 1994. He later won the gold medal in the 25m centre fire pistol event at the 1994 Asian Games at Hiroshima.
Rana was also in the team comprising of Ashok Pandit and Surinder Marwah that won the bronze in the 25m centre fire pistol team event. The 1994 Commonwealth Games at Victoria was a huge success for the Indian shooters as they won a total of 7 medals. Jaspal Rana won the gold in the centre-fire pistol event. He also won the gold in the pairs event of the same discipline alongside Ashok Pandit.
Rana won the silver in the Air Pistol individual event and won the bronze in the pairs event alongside Vivek Singh. Roopa Unnikrishnan won the silver medal in the small bore rifle three positions event and won the bronze in the pairs event alongside Kuheli Gangulee.
At the trap event, Mansher Singh won the gold medal. The 1995 Asian Clay Shooting Championships at Chengdu saw the Indian skeet team comprising of Moraad Ali Khan, Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh Sandhu winning the gold medal which was India’s first ever shooting gold medal in a team event. At the Asian Shooting Championships in the same year, Jaspal Rana won the gold medal in the 25m standard pistol event.
Indian Shooting – Late 90s
The 1998 Asian Games saw the Indian shooters winning three medals (two silver and one bronze). The 1998 Commonwealth Games was a more successful one with India bagging 7 medals in shooting including three golds. Two of them were won by Jaspal Rana in the 25m centre-fire pistol events (individual and pairs alongside Ashok Pandit). The third gold was won by the Trap team of Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh Sandhu. During the mid-90s, the likes of Jaspal Rana, Mansher Singh and Manavjit Sandhu had become big names in Indian sports.
Indian Shooting – 2000s
The 2000s saw some new names rising up the ranks like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Samaresh Jung, Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra. The 2002 Commonwealth Games was a highly successful one for the Indian shooters as India bagged 24 medals in Manchester.
Out of those 24, 14 were gold which was won by the likes of Jaspal Rana, Samaresh Jung, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Moraad Ali Khan, Vivek Singh and Anjali Bhagwat. India won only three shooting medals at the 2002 Asian Games. Both were silvers won by the Men’s Trap team and the Women’s 10m air rifle team.
In 2003, Manavjit Singh Sandhu won the gold medal in the trap event at the ISSF World Cup in Delhi. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the bronze in the double trap event at the World Shotgun Championships held in Cyprus. Rathore then gave Indian sports one of its proudest moments by clinching the silver at the Athens Olympics in 2004. He also won the gold medal at the World Championships in Sydney later that year.
Since then, shooting in India has been brilliant. The 2006 Commonwealth Games was another grand success with India topping the shooting medals tally with 27 medals including 16 golds. India also won three gold medals at the ISSF World Shooting Championships in Zagreb. At the Asian Games, the Indian shooters won 14 medals including three golds.
Indian shooting’s proudest moment came in 2008 when Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold. Indian shooters have since been performing brilliantly at major sporting events.
Indian Shooting – 2010s
The likes of Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Ronjan Sodhi, Tejaswini Sawant, Vijay Kumar and Heena Sidhu have been performing brilliantly over the years. Narang and Kumar went on to win bronze and silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics. The Indian shooters have dominated the Commonwealth Games for a long time now.
Presently, the likes of Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai have been performing really well at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships. Indian shooting has evolved a lot over the years and will be evolving a lot in the coming years. Looking at the way the shooters are performing, we can be sure of seeing a medal-fest at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games next year.