Shooters sweat over Olympic selection trials in Patiala

| | New Delhi
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Shooters sweat over Olympic selection trials in Patiala

Sunday, 18 February 2024 | PTI | New Delhi

More than 150 shotgun shooters are sweating over their participation in crucial national Olympic trials later this month in Patiala in the wake of the farmers’ agitation and the restrictions imposed on inter-state travel.

The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has convened two meetings but they have not yet altered the venue or the dates for the third selection trials because of several issues, including a “packed calendar” and the impending “announcement of the general elections”. The scores in the selection trials, to be held at the Moti Bagh Gun Club Ranges in Patiala from February 25 to March 2, “will be considered for selection of teams for Paris Olympic Games”, an NRAI statement had said on January 22. Several shotgun shooters PTI spoke to said carrying arms and ammunition by road will be a nightmare. Besides, airfares to Chandigarh have gone through the roof because borders have been sealed due to the farmers’ agitation.

NRAI secretary-general Sultan Singh when asked if the federation will be able to organise the trials in Patiala given the circumstances said, “That is a very difficult question. But do we have an option, considering the (shooting) calendar, elections... I’m running against the wall.”

On whether the trials could be shifted to the Jagatpura range in Jaipur or the Karni Singh range in Delhi, he said the Tughlakabad range would be an issue because of the upcoming Para Shooting World Cup from March 6-15.

The Para Shooting World Cup at the Karni Singh Ranges has 24 Paris Paralympic quota places up for grabs and 500 para shooters from 52 countries are competing.

“If I shift it (trials) anywhere else, then the northern people have a problem going to south (India) and south people have a problem going to north (India). Shooters in Chandigarh will then ask, ‘how do we reach Jaipur’,” said Singh.

“We’ve already had two meetings, but what is the solution? I can’t even postpone the trials because of a packed calender, and if the elections are announced, then the code of conduct will also come into play... Then there can be no shipment of ammunition, no weapons can be carried,” he added.

“We are totally seized of the matter, but we have no choice,” he said. “I am more than welcome to any suggestions that might come up,” he added.

However, a top shooter told PTI on condition of anonymity that both Jaipur and even the shooting range in Bhopal would be better options compared to Patiala given the scenario.

“The paramilitary forces at the borders will ask for a whole lot of documents... For what purpose we are carrying such large quantities of arms and ammunition. Then, the flights to Chandigarh have become very expensive as people are avoiding roads,” he said.

Another shooter said, several shooters recently travelled by road to Bhopal for the second round of Olympic selection trials.

“Besides, when the NRAI talks about shooters from the south, that is only a miniscule number and they also mostly reside and train in Delhi. Most of the shotgun shooters are from Delhi and adjoining areas. So where is the problem to shift the venue,” he said.

Another shooter said, the code of conduct that might come into force once the general elections are announced does not apply to sports shooters.

“We are exempted from depositing our weapons we use for sports purposes. I have never heard of shooting sports activity getting affected due the code of conduct,” he added.

A trap shooter added that the Para World Cup commences on March 6 at the Karni Singh range here, while the Olympic selection trials conclude in Patiala on March 2.

“Why can’t we have the trials in Delhi itself where there are far better lodging and boarding facilities and our trials will end much before the Para World Cup begins,” he said.

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