Tokyo 2020: Rahi Sarnobat has the form, acumen, and experience for another first in Indian shooting

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Rahi Sarnobat knows what it is to perform under the unprecedented spotlight that comes with the Olympics. The 30-year-old is just one of four shooters from the highly-rated, 15-member Indian shooting contingent at Tokyo to have competed at the Games before. She also knows how it feels to be the underdog. Her Asian Games gold came at a time when there were few expectations from her.

Indeed, the shooter has lived the whole gamut of success, failure, injury and comeback in an athlete’s career.

Yet, in a strikingly young and supremely talented Indian shooting squad, Sarnobat has stayed under the radar and quietly gone about her business ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. But based on form and track record, the 30-year-old sports pistol shooter is one of the stronger individual medal contenders for India at the Tokyo Olympics.


In the last international competition before the Olympics, the ISSF World Cup at Osijek, she won the 25m sports pistol in a loaded, world-class field. Her third World Cup gold – with the first coming back in 2013 – was India’s only at the event, an anomaly for the decorated Indian team.

Sarnobat World Cup medals since 2018 Gold 2019 Munich 25 meter pistol Gold 2021 Delhi Women’s 25 m pistol team Gold 2021 Osijek 25 meter pistol Silver 2021 Delhi 25 meter pistol Bronze 2021 Osijek Women’s 10 m pistol team

It was her second World Cup medal this year, having won silver at Delhi in March. She is one of only two Indian shooters to win individual medals at both World Cups this year, the other being the firm favourite in 10m air pistol, Saurabh Chaudhary. While she may not the teenager’s unbelievable consistency in qualifications, she has another attribute perhaps more suited to the Games – the ability to raise her level when needed.

Tokyo 2020, Indian shooting preview: A talent-filled squad capable of some special results

The Indian team’s performance in Croatia can largely be attributed to the pre-Olympics peak-management, especially important given the pandemic-forced break in 2020. But Sarnobat seemed on a different level right from qualifying with her personal best of 591/600 followed by 39/50, including five perfect series, in the final. She won by a huge eight-point lead ahead of the silver medallist, but it is the qualification score that inspired real confidence.

It’s unrealistic to read much into one performance, but this felt like an important marker for her, and Indian shooting’s, Olympic expectation. When Sarobnat makes the final, she is almost always a medal contender.

Unlike many others, shooting is a sport virtually played against yourself. It is the most unpredictable event at the Olympics. This uncertain nature of the sport is further amplified in women’s 25m sport pistol, which requires a lot more patience and consistency with two different modes of qualification (precision and speed) spread across two different days. A shooter needs to be both consistent across two stages but also has the chance to pick up after a bad round.

In a way, this dichotomy suits Sarnobat’s game well.


Heading into Tokyo, it is not just her form that gives Sarnobat the edge; her terrific technical acumen is now backed by a steely belief and experience.

At the 2012 London Olympics, as a 21-year-old, the occasion got to her. She couldn’t qualify for the Rio Games because of a debilitating injury that left her unable to pick up a gun. But her comeback, right from the Asian Games and through this Olympic cycle, has been very well balanced. She lost close matches but has also won five World Cup medals since, with her 2019 Munich performance sealing her second Olympic spot.

In her last interaction with the media before leaving India, the ever-articulate Sarnobat was refreshingly honest answering whatever questions there were, adding she wouldn’t be available after. She spoke about everything, from preferring to work alone and personally needing pressure to perform to even the unusual pandemic-induced things she has to carry while travelling around the world. Her thoughts on the 2012 Olympic experience, where the then 21-year-old finished 19th, show how much she has grown.

“The biggest lesson I got in London 2012 was that we as athletes are much more than what we think ourselves to be… I got overwhelmed in London and I was very satisfied just being there. But later, I felt that this was not unachievable, and it was absolutely in my hand, it was just my thought process,” the 30-year-old Sarnobat told journalists in an interaction arranged by the Sports Authority of India. “I will have a different perspective in Tokyo.”

Rise, dip, rise again: Rahi Sarnobat’s nail-biting Asiad final is a metaphor for her shooting career

The perspective will be a key differentiator in a squad filled with talent and primed with expectation. And it will be perspective from a decade of diverse experiences – from being a Commonwealth Games champion to being the first Indian pistol shooter to win World Cup gold to almost ending her career with an injury.

No Indian woman shooter has won an Olympic medal before. Before 2018, no Indian woman shooter had won a gold medal at the Asian Games either. But in what was a career-defining performance she stormed to the top of the podium and maintained that optimal level for the next three years, through ups, downs and sport shutdowns.

If the level-headed shooter can maintain a similar balance for two days, Tokyo could well witness another Indian shooting first from Sarnobat.

Tokyo Olympics: Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker to resume India’s challenge in shooting

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TOKYO: India’s Rahi Sarnobat and Manu Bhaker will resume India’s shooting challenge at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when they take the field in the first precision round of qualification in the Women’s 25M Pistol competition on Thursday at the Asaka Shooting range.

The precision round is slated to begin at 5.30 am IST. Rahi, fresh from an ISSF World Cup stage gold in Osijek, Croatia, leading up to the Games and Manu, will have to go through two days of qualification on Thursday and Friday before the top eight are separated after the second rapid-fire round.

The 44-strong women’s Sport Pistol field on day six of the Olympic Shooting competition closely resembles the Air Pistol competition of day two and will have all the finalists of that event, barring the Chinese who have changed personnel.

India too has the experienced Rahi, also the reigning Asian Games champion, in place of Yashaswini Deswal who played the Air Pistol event, to accompany Manu.

The 15-member squad has six starts to go and is still searching for its first shooting medal at the Games.

Tokyo Olympics: Disappointing end to Rahi Sarnobat and Manu Bhaker’s campaign

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Pistol shooters’ campaign ended in disappointment when Manu Bhaker and Rahi Sarnobat failed to enter the women’s 25m sports pistol final on Friday. Rahi, who specializes in the event, shot a poor 286 in the rapid, her strength, to total 573 and finish 32nd overall.On the other hand, Manu, who had a good precision round with 292 on Thursday, too fumbled in the rapid stage, scoring 290. She managed 582 in the qualification to finish 15th on the table. Top-8 shooters made it to the final.Manu shot 96 in the first 10 attempts, which included a few 9s and an 8. Likewise, Rahi too struggled with consistency and shot an 8, 7 and even 6 to blow away her chances.“Manu was shooting well, but she didn’t plan her timings well. I think she needs to work on it in the coming days,” coach Ronak Pandit said.Russian shooter Vitalina Batsarashkina completed a double after clinching gold on Friday. Both Vitalina and Korean shooter Minjung Kim shot a new Olympic record of 38 in the final and were tied for first position. The Russian won the shoot-off.Vitalina had earlier clinched gold in the 10m air pistol event. The bronze went to China’ 19-year-old Jiaruixuan Xiao, who shot 29.