Days before a 24-member Indian team begins its campaign at the 2022 ISSF Pistol/Rifle Shooting World Championships, the National Rifle Association of India released the selection policy for the 2024 Paris Olympics on its website. The federation has introduced Olympic Shooting trials (OST) scheduled to be conducted in the first half of 2024 with an eye on selecting the final team for the Games by June, a month before the quadrennial mega event.
The policy is a marked change from the Tokyo Olympics criteria, which put emphasis on a shooter’s four-year cycle leading up to the Games and allowed them to pick their best five scores, the average of which would be considered for selection. To that score, various other points would be added based on where they won their medals, what was the colour of the said medal, and whether a quota was won with a certain performance.
What was supposed to be a model that aimed to identify the most consistent shooters ended up being India’s downfall at Tokyo.
“Even if a shooter’s form was bad in 2021, there was no scope of dropping them since the policy was already made and it never accounted for COVID taking a year off sporting calendars and then a particular shooter losing form in that lost year. The policy became a victim of the situation, but this policy aims to put current form over past performances,” national team coach Joydeep Karmakar told The Indian Express.
The Asian Championships are set to be held in February 2024 and will be the final continental quota competition. Post that, the NRAI plans to organise four Olympic shooting trials. The average of scores from three of these four trials will be taken and the top two shooters will take the two quota spots available for that event. Should that event only have one quota place, the top shooter would be considered.
Change in emphasis
One of the issues that this new policy brings with it is that the merit of where the quota was won, what the competition for shooters was at that particular event, or if medals, world records or national records were broken – are not considered.
“We don’t want to take out the credit of the winner of the quota. But eventually, most developed countries seldom give advantages to quota winners. You have to earn your place when it matters as well,” said Karmakar. But the selection policy calls for ‘a little emotion’, Karmakar’s words.
Now, if the shooter wins a quota at any event, one point would be awarded, but instead of the previous system where the point would be a huge addition to the score of an athlete in a sport where decimals make all the difference, now that point would be divided along with the three OST scores. Essentially, if a shooter wins a quota spot, they have 0.33 added to their OST.
How does a shooter make it to these trials?
“In order to be eligible for the trials, athletes need to adhere to certain criteria. In the Olympic cycle, athletes will need to shoot at least two ISSF international competitions and gather at least one Qualification ranking for the Olympic Games (QROG) point. Athletes will also need to be in the top five of Indian rankings in their event,” said Karmakar.
While the Paris Olympic selection criteria was planned and discussed over the last three months, and owing to the beginning of the Olympic cycle, had to be announced, the same can’t be said for the domestic shooting policy.
There are deliberations continuing over how the domestic policy needs to be shaped. The policy is said to be in the process of a change and will mostly work ‘hand in hand with the Olympic policy’. It will be responsible for figuring out the ‘how, where and when’ of athletes’ rankings, which can then be used to decide who gets to be a part of Olympic trials.