NRAI introduces Olympic trials to select shooting team for Paris

Days before a 24-strong Indian team begins its campaign at the 2022 ISSF World Pistol/Rifle Championships, the National Rifle Association of India published the selection guidelines for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on its website. The federation has launched Olympic Shooting Trials (OST) to be conducted in the first half of 2024 with a view to selecting the final team for the Games by June, a month before the biannual mega-event.

The policy is a marked change from the Tokyo Olympics criteria, which focused on a shooter’s four-year cycle before the Games and allowed them to select their top five results, the average of which was considered for selection. Various other points would be added to this score depending on where they won their medals, what color the medal in question was and whether a quota was won with a specific performance.

What was supposed to be a model aimed at identifying the most consistent shooters became India’s downfall in Tokyo.

“Even if a shooter’s form was poor in 2021 there was no scope to drop it as the policy was already made and it never took into account that COVID took a year off the sporting calendar and then a certain shooter in that one lost year lost its shape. Politicians have become victims of the situation, but this policy aims to put current form above past performance,” said the national coach Joydeep Karmakar narrated The Indian Express.

The Asian Championships are scheduled to take place in February 2024 and will be the last continental odds competition. After that, the NRAI plans to organize four Olympic shooting tests. The scores from three of these four trials are averaged and the top two shooters take the two quota places available for that competition. Should this event only have one quota place, the best shooter would be considered.

change of focus

One of the problems this new policy brings is that merit, where the quota was won, what the competition was like for shooters at that particular event, or whether medals, world records or national records were broken – are not taken into account.

“We don’t want to benefit the ratings winner. But after all, most developed countries rarely grant benefits to quota winners. You also have to earn your spot when it counts,” Karmakar said. But the selection policy requires “a little emotion,” Karmakar says.

Now if the shooter wins a quota at any event a point would be awarded, but instead of the previous system where the point would be a great addition to an athlete’s score in a sport where decimals make the difference, now the point would be shared along with the three OST results. Essentially, when a shooter wins a quota place, .33 is added to their OST.

How does a Sagittarius make these trials?

“To be eligible for the trials, athletes must meet certain criteria. In the Olympic cycle, athletes must compete in at least two ISSF international competitions and achieve at least one qualifying rank for the Olympic Games (QROG). Athletes have to be there too the top 5 of the Indian rankings in their event,” said Karmakar.

While the selection criteria for the Paris Olympics have been planned and discussed over the past three months and had to be announced due to the start of the Olympic cycle, the same cannot be said of national shooting policy.

It will continue to discuss how domestic policy needs to be shaped. Politics is said to be in a state of upheaval and will largely work “hand in hand with Olympic politics”. It will be responsible for figuring out the ‘how, where and when’ of athletes’ rankings, which can then be used to decide who is allowed to compete in the Olympic trials.

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