After what seemed like a famine for the Indian athletes in the 20th century in Olympics, the majority of the medals came in just one event and that was field hockey. It took the Indians almost 100 years to amplify their success in the quadrennial extravaganza and it was post-2000 that India started proliferating in the individual events.
India has won a total of 28 medals in their chequered antiquity in the grandest showdown for the athletes out of which 11 have been won by the hockey team. Out of the remaining 17, 4 came in the 20th century and two of which arrived in the year 1900 itself with Norman Pritchard winning a brace in his maiden appearance in the Olympics.
The other two came in 1952 and 1996 when K.D. Jadhav and Leander Paes showcased an exemplary showdown in the respective games in their respective sports to bag the bronze medals for the country.
However, India’s major success at the extravaganza started coming in the 21st century as the Indians were successful in bagging 13 medals in the last four Olympics and all of them came in individual events.
Out of those 13 medals, four came in shooting while another four came in wrestling. The remaining five were divided between badminton, boxing and weightlifting. However, with all said and done, India’s solitary gold medal until date in an individual event came in shooting.
In this story, we will be taking a look at the four medalists who made India proud in front of the world in the shooting.
1. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore – Silver in shooting, 2004, Athens
Rathore’s first major triumph came at the 2002 Commonwealth Games where he won the gold medal which was followed by another classic performance at the Asian Clay Target Championships.
Coming to Athens in boisterous form, he trained with Luca Marini and Russell Mark firing almost up to 80 shots in a day. He also worked very closely with Mauro Perazzi whose guns will later go on to help him win the glorious Silver medal in Men’s Double Trap event.
He stuttered in the opening round, managing only to grab scores of 135 out of 200. UAE’s Shaikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s ruling family went on to grab the Gold.
Rathore kept on duking it out with three other shooters in the final and had to hit both his flying clay targets to bag the silver. The former colonel bagged a score of 179 out of 200 in the final to send the nation erupting in a bout of extraordinary exhilaration.
2. Abhinav Bindra – Gold in shooting, 2008, Beijing
Bindra arrived at the Olympics in 2008 on the back of two gold medal showdowns in Commonwealth Games and the expectations heaped on his shoulders were colossal. He made through to the second barely through the skin of his teeth.
However, once he made the cut for the final, it was all cream from Abhinav Bindra as he didn’t score below a ten in any of his essays. He ended the final round with a rippling 10.8 score.
Bindra’s final score in the men’s 10m Air Rifle stood at 700.5 that trounced the gold medalist of Athens, Qinan Zhu. Qualifying topper, Henri Hakkinen of Finland did manage to rub shoulders with Bindra until the very end but had an astonishingly woeful display in the final round with a score of 9.7.
3. Vijay Kumar – Silver in shooting, 2012, London
Kumar started training under the likes of Russian coach, Pavel Smirnov after he was transferred to the Army Marksmanship Unit.
He shortly shot to the top, bagging a couple of Gold medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Asian games later in that very year.
Sadly, bad luck befell him and he was smitten by Chicken Pox just ahead of the 2008 Olympics, putting his year-old preparation on a hiatus. Kumar posted a strong turnaround by winning silver at ISSF World Shooting Championships.
He followed up this triumph by winning three gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games that included both rapid-fire and centre-fire pistol single events.
In the 2012 games, the Indian shooter was off to a blinder in the first round of the final, but was shortly surpassed by Cuba’s Leuris Pupo. A close challenge with Alexei Klimov kept everyone edgy, but a sad elimination of Klimov ensured a medal finish for Kumar.
However, he was locked with China’s Ding Feng in an impasse for the second spot. Yet a brilliant display in the seventh round saw him grabbing the silver and penning history for India.
4. Gagan Narang – Bronze in shooting, 2012, London
Narang’s journey to the 2012 games was a humdinger. He was one of the favourites to bag a medal in the 2008 Beijing games, and yet he crashed out of the final on countback. Coming so close and yet staying so far is one of the bitterest pills to swallow.
Yet Narang once again started preparing and made an eminent footfall in the 2012 games, drawing inspiration from his childhood interest, the famous Walther rifle of James Bond that got him into shooting in the first place.
He started regaining his lost momentum in no time and notched up gold in the 2008 ISSF World Cup. The success kept on amplifying for Narang as his medal spree continued in the following years.
After an intensified and pulsating contest, Narang bagged the bronze at London, falling behind the likes of Romania’s Alin George Moldoveanu and Italy’s Niccolo Campriani.
When he appeared in the 2012 Olympics, his failure at Beijing burned bright in him and he had to pull off a medal with Bindra crashing out early.