New Delhi, Mar 17 (PTI) The upcoming shooting World Cup in Delhi, the first international event for an Olympic sport in India amid the COVID-19 pandemic, can be a benchmark for other countries to follow, National Rifle Association of India President Raninder Singh said on Wednesday.
The tournament begins at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range on Friday.
'This is the first international sporting event in India after COVID and we can set an example for other nations whereby they can learn from here,' Singh, who is also the head of the local organising committee, said during a pre-tournament press conference.
'The eyes of the entire Olympic sporting world will be on us and therefore there is a great responsibility as well.
'Thankfully, the Government of India, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Sports Authority of India have all stood by us brilliantly in the most trying of times and supported us in the NRAI wholeheartedly in every aspect, thereby boosting our confidence.
'We are indebted for their support and hope that this sets a benchmark for other nations to follow. This united effort by Team India is sure to deliver a successful World Cup,' Singh added.
Last month, the NRAI had announced a 57-member Indian team for the year's first combined ISSF World Cup for rifle, pistol and shotgun shooters, including the 15 quota holders for the Tokyo Olympics.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) chief also hoped that the country can add to the number of the quota holders in the upcoming tournament.
Though not a quota holder, Anish Bhanwala, who competes in men's 25m rapid fire pistol, has a bright chance of making the cut thanks to his high ranking. A gold medal in the tournament will surely get him a Tokyo berth.
'We wish everyone all the very best and in particular, our men's rapid fire pistol squad, which has the opportunity to deliver the 16th Olympic quota to the country,' he added.
The Delhi World Cup will see as many as 30 finals being held at an ISSF World Cup stage for the first time with the new team formats approved by the global body last year coming into play.
'All COVID protocols and safety measures have been put in place and we are all looking forward to some exciting matches, with several world class and legendary shooters lining up against our Indian stars.
'It has been a very difficult time for our athletes, given there were almost no competitions to speak of for almost a year, but we believe they are professionals and the best in the world, so will come back strong.' Each section will have three shooters and two more in the MQS (Minimum Qualification Score) category.
As many as 53 countries have confirmed their entries, including Korea, Singapore, USA, United Kingdom, Iran, Ukraine, France, Hungary, Italy, Thailand and Turkey.
A total of 294 athletes, 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.
As per the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) guidelines, no spectator will be allowed inside the range for the tournament that carries ranking points, which could help shooters such as Bhanwala secure an Olympic quota.
'It is not allowed to have spectators because of social distancing norms and keeping in mind the interest of the athletes' health.' 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.
The programme was attended by several members of the Indian shooting squad and many including seniors like Sanjeev Rajput and Tejaswini Sawant, as well as youngsters such as Manu Bhaker, said that the lockdown had in a way turned beneficial for them as they had found time to focus on aspects like strength and skills, which they lacked earlier due to back-to-back competitions. PTI AH AT APA AH