Avani Lekhara, by winning a shooting gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics created a host of new records. She became the first para-shooting medalist from India, the first woman to win a Paralympic event and the first female Indian shooter to win a medal at the senior Olympic or Paralympic level.
Another Indian Swaroop Unhalkar finished 4th in the Men’s 10m AR standing SH1 finals despite being in the lead at one stage. Nevertheless, India on Day 1 of the Paralympic shooting has already seen more success than the entire Olympic campaign. There are other medal prospects such as Manish Narwal, Singhraj Adana, and Rubina Francis still in the fray.
Interestingly the National Rife Association of India (NRAI) that governs Olympic shooting does not have much say in para-shooting. The latter is instead overseen by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).
PCI vs NRAI: Governance makes a difference
The PCI manages many para-sports in India such as para-athletics, para-swimming, para-shooting, power-lifting, etc, including conducting Nationals and selection trials and selecting athletes for international events.
This is different from able-bodied sports where federations such as NRAI and AFI affiliated to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) govern their respective sports. India has so far won Paralympic medals in athletics, table tennis, and shooting. Athletics was a success story for India in both the Olympics and Paralympics while para-table tennis is managed by the TTFI.
This leaves shooting as the one sport with the biggest contrast between Olympic and Paralympic results. 16 shooters and 5 para-shooters including Avani Lekhara are a part of the most recent TOPS list. Some of them have common coaches. Both the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics saw a record number of Indian shooting quota winners. The Central Government has spared no (taxpayer’s) expense for the shooters.
Both shooters and para-shooters reaped the benefits of government patronage, both had similar coaching structures and both had to face the pressure of a big event. In fact, the former got a lot more facilities than the latter.
Yet it is the para-shooters who have done India proud while the shooters sank without a trace. The difference lay in the governance of the PCI vs the NRAI. The para-shooters worked for the greater good of the nation while the shooters were caught up in egos and conflicts of interest.
After the Paralympics are over, the Sports Ministry, SAI, and other stakeholders should do a serious assessment of Indian shooting performance and highlight the areas where the NRAI faltered whereas the PCI succeeded.
This is the least that can be done for Indian fans and taxpayers.