New Delhi, 18 Mar: Seasoned Indian rifleman Sanjeev Rajput on Thursday said the Delhi World Cup could act as a perfect testing ground for shooters before the Tokyo Olympics as they return to top-flight competition after more than a year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Barring those in shotgun, Indian shooters’ last international appearance was the season-ending ISSF World Cup Finals in Putian, China, from where they returned with an impressive medal haul. Just as they looked to continue their dominant run, the pandemic broke out and disrupted normal life last March.
Having run out of ideas and patience after taking aim in his basement, bedroom and hall, Rajput was one of the first shooters to have resumed outdoor training, albeit in an empty 50m range, last summer.
“This World Cup is significant in the sense that it could act as a test event for the shooters before the Olympics,” Rajput told PTI on the eve of the tournament, to be held at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.
“One can also call it a kind of a dress rehearsal before the Games. This is also going to offer quotas based on rankings and the shooters who are yet to secure quotas will definitely look forward to clinching them here,” the ace marksman added.
The 40-year-old Rajput secured his Tokyo Olympics quota in the 2019 Rio de Janeiro World Cup when he gunned down a silver in the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions event.
Since the 2008 Games, he has secured an Olympic quota four times on the trot but competed twice.
Rajput is quite satisfied with the way he has prepared for the tournament and the system put in place by the local organising committee, National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), and also thanked the government for making it possible in the COVID-19 times.
“By hosting this tournament, India will set an example of how to conduct big sporting events in the COVID era. The sports ministry, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and NRAI deserve all the credit for ensuring the tournament takes place in a very safe environment,” Rajput said.
He was one of the shooters present during the pre-tournament press conference here on Wednesday.
“I am relaxed looking at the way they have managed everything. Except while they are in the firing line, the shooters are required to keep wearing their masks at all times. There is a kind of a wall made with what looked like plastic or acrylic between every shooting stations.
“We will be undergoing a COVID test the day before our events. So, the guidelines are being strictly adhered to.”
A total of 294 athletes and 109 officials from 53 countries, including a 57-member Indian contingent, will be seen in action in the first multi-nation Olympic sporting event of this scale anywhere in the world post the pandemic-forced lockdown.
Shooters participating in the tournament will be undergoing three COVID-19 tests — on arrival at the airport, 24 hours before their first competition and finally before leaving for their respective destinations.
As part of the SOP, all officials/media will be tested, wearing of masks is mandatory and there will be temperature checks at entry points. There will be isolation rooms and regular sanitisation will be done.
The first qualifying rounds of the tournament begin on Friday, with the first finals scheduled for Saturday. (PTI)