Asian Games: Jitu Rai, Bindra head India's challenge in shooting

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Asian Games: Jitu Rai, Bindra head India's challenge in shooting
Incheon, Sept 19: They were mostly off the mark in the recent World Championships but Indian shooters will nonetheless be expected to deliver a bagful of medals when the event kick-starts in the Asian Games here tomorrow.

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Shooters from 34 countries are in fray at the Ongnyeon International Range till September 30, competing for a total of 44 medals in the individual and team competitions. In fact, the opening gold medal of the 17th Games will be decided in shooting. The events will commence with the women's 10m air pistol and men's 50m pistol in which four titles would be decided tomorrow.

India culled one gold medal through Ronjan Sodhi in men's double trap, three silver medals and four bronze in the last Games at Guangzhou. But it would be a big surprise if they can better this haul or even equal it, in the backdrop of their generally poor form going into the 17th Asiad.

Sodhi is unable to defend his title having failed to qualify through the shooting trials and the burden of keeping the Indian flag high has fallen on man-in-form Jitu Rai, world number one in 10m air pistol and a gold medal winner in 50m free pistol at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Armyman Rai starts as perhaps India's biggest medal hope in the Games, even ahead of the renowned 2008 Beijing Olympics gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra and another rifle-shooting ace Gagan Narang. He is set to provide a strong challenge to the Chinese and Korean rivals in these two pistol events.

Bindra, who was reportedly upset over the change in his travel plans into this city because of the delayed receipt of his accreditation, has checked into the Asiad athletes village two days ago. Narang has moved in yesterday, according to Adille Sumariwalla, chef de mission of the huge Indian Games contingent.

Rai has had a splendid run going into these Games where Chinese shooters are expected to demolish the field as a clear favourite to win the gold in the 10m event though he finished a lowly 10th in this event in the world championships, a step behind Prakash Nanjappa.

He's also going to be a big force to contend in the 50metre free pistol, to be decided tomorrow, in which he took the silver in the Granada World Championship to gain a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

PTI

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