NEW DELHI: rifle shooter Rudrankksh PatilThe achievement was the only highlight of an otherwise quiet year for the snipers, where they even missed out on the top of the Commonwealth Games after the sport was briefly overlooked by Birmingham organizers.
The 10m air rifle exponent from Maharashtra conquered the field in Cairo to become world champion with the added bonus of an Olympic quota place, and has now emerged as a hot contender to emulate the feat of the Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra at the Paris 2024 Games.
The bespectacled Bindra and sharpshooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore – silver medalist at the Athens Games in 2004 – have been icons when it comes to setting the standards for youngsters to follow.
And youngsters like Rudrankksh don’t need to look beyond these two big names for inspiration as they dream big and train maniacally to achieve those goals.
In fact, inspired by the presentation of the two legends, there was a tsunami of aspiring and ambitious young shooters who headed to the hundreds of private shooting ranges that have sprung up across the country to cater to the thousands of people who practice sport in the countryside.
Such has been the zeal to excel in the sport of shooting since the two achievements that each national or international competition throws in a few new faces, coming from a variety of backgrounds and driven by a hunger to win gold at the Olympics.
The year 2022 has been no different with the likes of teenage 10m sniper Rudrankksh, Bhowneesh Mendiratta (trap) and Swapnil Kusale (3 position 50m rifle) securing the qualifying places for the country for the Paris Games.
A sense of dismay filled the stage after a 15-person contingent returned empty-handed from the Tokyo Olympics.
Passionate fans of the sport were seeking answers from the national shooting body about what was wrong with Tokyo.
After the Tokyo debacle, a few new faces were needed to lift the gloom. And it came in the form of Rudrankksh.
Marksman Thane, who turned 19 a few days ago, came as a breath of fresh air, as did Bindra. He was inspired by Bindra’s gold in Beijing and seems to be in the same mold as the illustrious Punjab shooter – committed, ambitious and hungry for the ultimate prize.
The son of an IPS officer, Rudrankksh has virtually cut off his interaction with the outside world and is focused on the single-minded approach to winning Olympic gold.
The Maharashtra lad was consistently scoring big points in national events, although winning gold at the World Championships in Cairo in October seemed like overkill for a teenager.
However, Rudrankksh’s family never doubted his ability to withstand the pressure. He beat Italy’s Danilo Dennis Sollazzo for the gold to become the second Indian to achieve the air rifle feat after Bindra.
He also became India’s sixth world champion shooter after Bindra, Tejaswini Sawant, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Om Prakash Mitherwal and Ankur Mittal. The elite President’s Cup, where he again beat Sollazzo for gold, was the icing on the cake as he also became the world No. 1 in the category, replacing the Italian.
“Rudrankksh goes into a trance when he shoots, oblivious to the outside world,” his father had told PTI.
“He is inspired by the achievement of Abhinav Bindra and his only goal is Olympic glory.”
Rudrankksh’s career chart also indicates that he would be the one to watch in Paris to end India’s medal shortage in the sport, which has stretched to two Olympics now.
Bindra won the gold medal at the World Championships in 2006 and two years later the first medal in Beijing. Rudrankksh could follow a similar trajectory but before that, 2023 will be a crucial year for him in terms of preparation and mental reinforcement for Paris.
The Asian Games in Hangzhou next year and several international competitions will provide not only Rudrankksh, but also young trap shooter Mendiratta and veteran Kusale the opportunity to hone their skills ahead of the Olympics.
Mendiratta had the misfortune to miss a medal at the World Shotgun Championships in Osijek, Croatia, in September, but won the Olympic quota by finishing fourth. With that, the 23-year-old from Faridabad made up for India’s disappointment at not being able to field a shooter in a trap event in Tokyo.
It was the first time since 1992 that India did not have at least one trap or double trap shooter in the Olympics.
With three quota places reserved, the Indians would now aim for more slots in the qualifying cycle, scheduled to run until June 2024.
The World Championships in August next year and the Asian Championships in Changwon in October are the key events where the Indians would look to stamp their pedigree.
There will be no shortage of new faces like Rudrankksh in the national team with the desire to perform in major international competitions. And there will be more than a good sprinkle of veterans, like the skeet shooter Mairaj Ahmed Khan among other things, rubbing shoulders with shooters who are half their age.
For stalwarts like Mairaj, it could be a last chance for Olympic glory, while for youngsters, 2023 could well be the harbinger of good times ahead.
It’s time to give Paris 2024 a try by setting gold standards in 2023.



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