Asian Shooting Championship: India's 22-medal haul builds a platform for Paris Olympics

Anish Bhanwala and Tilottama Sen. NRAI

Manu Bhaker became the first Indian shooter who participated at Tokyo Olympics to seal a Paris Olympic quota spot while 15-year-old Tillotama Sen overcame her World Championship heartbreak to complete India's women's 10m air rifle quota set at the Asian Shooting Championship, where India turned in a creditable showing with 22 senior medals and six Paris Olympics quota spots sealed.

As with any shooting assessment, though, the story lies behind the numbers. How many medals were in Olympic disciplines? Were China a big factor again? How much can be read into these medals? Here are answers to some of those questions:

Six Olympic quotas - a good haul

The primary aim of the competition was to win Olympic quota places for next year's Paris Olympics and on that front India did well. The six quotas take the total to 13 spots already secured for next year's Games, behind only China and USA in number of quotas won and joint-third with South Korea. (The quota goes to the country and not the shooter, so who actually makes it to Paris will be decided at selection trials next year.)

These quotas depend not just on medals won but on where Indians finished in certain disciplines and how many shooters ahead of them belonged to countries that had already secured the maximum of two quotas available.

China, for example, had sealed most of their possible quotas when the Olympic qualification opened with the World Championship. This opened up space for Indians to get the rest even if they didn't reach the podium and India's depth in shooting came in good stead here.

India improved their numbers by not fielding shooters who'd already won a Paris quota; those who took part in Changwon were not part of the A team fielded at the recent Asian Games and World Championships. And, with a number of qualification events still to come next year, there is a chance that India will field a much higher number of shooters at Paris 2024 than before.

Manu Bhaker, Tilottama Sen, Anish Bhanwala among the quota winners

Manu Bhaker is the only shooter so far to have participated at the Tokyo Olympics and also sealed a Paris quota. Most of the shooters from the Tokyo debacle have had poor results since but Bhaker (21) has consistently made the Indian squad. However, her quota came with a fifth-place finish in 25m pistol after topping the qualification, indicating that her problems in finals persist.

Anish Bhanwala's quota in the 25m rapid fire pistol means that there will be once again Indian representation in that discipline at the Olympics (where Vijay Kumar won a silver at London 2012). He's been consistent at the national level but didn't make the cut for Tokyo.

Tilottama Sen is only 15 and a senior World Cup medal winner this year already. Now she has added a silver and an Olympic quota spot to her season's highlights. This should make her feel better after she agonisingly finished fourth at the World Championships in August and missed the Asian Games cut.

Sarabjot Singh missed out an individual Asian Games but sealed India's first 10m air pistol quota for Paris with a bronze. He also won the mixed team silver with Surbhi Rao.

The other quota winners were Arjun Babuta (Men's 10m air rifle) and Shriyanka Sadangi (Women's 50m rifle 3 positions).

Away from the quotas, there was other good news too

The only individual gold medal came from the always consistent Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar in men's 50m rifle 3 Positions, who'd won two individual and two team medals at the Asian Games as well. There was no quota as both had already been sealed by his teammates but a gold could serve him well at the final Olympic trials.

There were also two gold medals in mixed team shotgun events, which should be a cause for cheer. Prithviraj Tondaiman and Manisha Keer won gold in trap while Anantjeet Singh Naruka and Darshna Rathore won skeet.

Naruka, who had famously gone toe-to-toe with 60-year-old veteran Abdullah Al-Rashidi in the Asian Games final, got some measure of payback as the Indians beat Kuwait's Al-Rashidi and partner Eman Al-Shamaa in the final.

How many medals in Olympic disciplines?

When it came to medals, India's tally was high as it always it at continental events. India won a total of 19 gold, 19 silver and 13 bronze medals across the senior and junior categories, to finish behind China (73 medals including 32 gold).

In the senior event, India won a total of 22 medals, behind China (33). But the important number is this: 10 of the 22 medals were in events that take place at the Olympics as well.

There were also 10 team medals and, while they aren't part of the Olympic shooting events, a team medal signifies depth and consistency of a country. Team medals are calculated based on the total score of a country's shooters in the qualification round and are not a separate event. One needs all three shooters from the country to shoot high scores to get on the podium; to get frequent team medals (India won several at the Asian Games too) is an indicator of India's bench strength.

What about the shooters who did well at Asian Games?

As mentioned, many of India's A team competed in the RPO category (shooting in the qualification for Ranking Points Only and were eligible to enter the final) This was to ensure India can win more quota places. So, shooters like Sift Kaur Samra and Rudrankksh Patil were not in contention.

Among the others, Asian Games champion Palak Gulia had an indifferent outing in women's 10m air pistol, finishing 25th in qualification. Esha Singh, medal winner in both 10m and 25m pistol, couldn't make it to the finals of either. Ramita Jindal won a bronze in Changwon as well.

In shotgun, Anantjeet Singh Naruka and Kynan Chenai couldn't replicate their individual performance from Asian Games.

A bizarre disqualification

There was a rather strange incident of 'improper stiffness' of a rifle shooting kit that caused a disqualification and India to miss a sure-shot team gold.

Dhanush Srikanth, a hearing-impaired shooter, was disqualified because his trousers had a stiffness of 2.9, while the International Shooting Sport Federation rules stipulate it should not be less than 3.0. The Indian junior men's 10m air rifle team of Umamahesh Maddineni, Dhanush and Abhinav Shaw shot 628.5 and were on top before the inspection while Dhanush was also on course to reach the final. However, they conducted a post-qualification check and found his kit not conforming to the ISSF rule.