'Shooting is not a very physical sport, there haven’t been many issues, but shooting is like mathematics, if you don’t practice, you lose out a lot. Online shooting has given us a different platform altogether, but at least they are getting some exposure during the lockdown' - Joydeep Karmaker.
It is for a known fact that Shooting is a sport for the privileged, with huge costs involved in training. Likewise, top shooters stranded in their respective bases during lockdown mostly have make-shift ranges at their disposal to maintain the flow. But, as things stand, not all enjoy facilities at home, like a beginner, which is a clear case of having and have-nots, with them losing valuable time. At times, luck also plays a catalyst, with some getting hold of their equipment before the restrictions took effect, while some find themselves stuck miles away from their peripherals. The situation is contrasting for different shooters, which is the main reason we cannot predict whether the lockdown will have a positive or negative effect on the contingent. Joydeep Karmakar, an Olympian and also runs an Academy in Kolkata, explains why we are not in a position to foretell what after-effects the Covid-19 outbreak might have on the shooters.
“As shooting sport is not a very physical one, there haven’t been many issues, but definitely shooting again like mathematics. If you don’t practice, you lose out a lot. That is not what we might face with a few shooters, not everyone is in the same condition, and some are training at home. Many are not lucky enough to get the equipment at the home, no place for dry training. While we resume training again, it will be interesting to see that there will be differences in performance and preparation for each individual because they have faced different situations (during the lockdown),” Joydeep Karmakar told SportsCafe in an exclusive interview.
“We are not really sure what’s going to happen because we haven’t experienced these kinds of situations ever. What we are predicting might be totally wrong or totally correct, but after the lockdown will it be beneficial or detrimental, it’s very difficult to say. It can be mixed as well. Yes, and at times it is just luck because you lockdown somewhere and you are stuck somewhere else and never managed to retrieve it. Most of the senior shooters do have their equipment, but rather it is depending on luck whether you have got hold of it before the lockdown or you haven't missed the chance. The beginners are losing out because they do not have the equipment,” added the Arjuna Awardee.
Making the most of the available resources has been the mantra for athletes during the lockdown, which has helped them stay active, even though the real feel was missing by quite some distance. With the growing popularity of social networking sites and online video chatting facilities, many coaches have started classes virtually. In what was a unique initiative, shooters started online tournaments that saw top shooters from around the world getting together, with the event streamed live on the internet. Electronic Shooting Targets (EST), an internet connection to stay connected via the Zoom App, along with the equipment - three essentials that were enough to get a competition-like feel in domestic comfort. Among the Indians were Manu Bhaker, Divyansh Singh Panwar, and more. But, was it close enough to reality?
“It might not be close to reality, but it is a different platform altogether. People are shooting from their home, but at least they are getting some exposure, some kind of attachment to real shooting where they can think, they can simulate the idea of the match. It might not be as good as a real match, it can never ever replace a real match, but it definitely gives shooters a sample of something they were missing and this is the best we could have done during the lockdown. Otherwise, it was impossible, so it’s a good opportunity for shooters to get together and get a virtual-feel of the whole situation. At least they could do something other than sitting at home,” opined Karmakar.
Now, comes the unfortunate part, where we have to face the harsh reality of the situation in our hands. Even though the top shooters might do away with the readymade solutions within their reach, Shooting is a sport, which requires a constant supply of ammunition. So when the stock gets exhausted, it is impossible to refill as per the current situation, with several travel bans in place. At a certain point in time, a standstill is inevitable, keeping the shooters’ future hanging by a thread.
“Few are privileged enough because they have a 10 metre space at home/garage/terrace for live training also. But there are difficulties also; you need air in the cylinder to shoot air rifles. But the refilling cylinders are closed. Maybe, in these 70 days, the maximum you can shoot with a filled up cylinder is about 200 shots, but after that, the cylinder is empty and you do not have scope to refill it. It is practically impossible to continue live shooting even if you have everything,” claimed the veteran.
Whatever the case might be, we are facing dire straits, where the future is looking dizzy through the glass. With 15 shooters already qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, which has been pushed back by a year, the more the delay, the more the damage. It really reminisces school day mathematics, where even a one-week gap can make you lose a grip on the subject. Only that we’ve given exams, while the athletes are gearing up to set foot on the biggest sporting stage of all, in an attempt to claim the ultimate glory - an Olympic medal.