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No place for Rathore; Joydeep, Heena selected for London Olympics

New Delhi(IANS): There was no place for 2004 Athens Games silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in the 11-member shooting squad for the 2012 London Olympics that was announced by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) here Sunday.

Joydeep Karmakar and Heena Sidhu made the cut at the expense of Hariom Singh and Imran Hasan Khan, who were the only two shooters to be dropped despite booking Olympic quotas. Rathore, a double trap exponent, however, was kept as a back-up.

Abhinav Bindra, the 2008 Beijing Games 10-metre air rifle gold medallist, India’s first individual Olympic champion, and 2010 Commonwealth Games’ star shooter Gagan Narang were the automatic choices while Shagun Chowdhury will be the first Indian woman trap shooter to participate in Olympic Games since the start of quota system in 1988.

Narang will be the only shooter to participate in all three events – 10m air rifle, 50m 3 position and 50m prone – while Bindra will only be seen in his pet event, 10m air rifle.

The selection committee met in Rudrapur, where NRAI president Raninder Singh, son of former Punjab chief minister Amrinder Singh, was attending a political rally.
NRAI senior advisor Baljeet Sethi told IANS that all names, including Rathore’s, were considered and the best squad was selected.

Sethi said the selectors followed the norm that “quota belongs to country and not to the person who won it.”

“All names were discussed but we had to go by the selection criteria. Rathore finished second behind Ronjan Singh Sodhi. But we thought there were better chances of winning a medal in the women’s air pistol and that was the reason why we swapped a rifle quota for Heena Sidhu. She is a talented girl and we picked her based on the current form,” he said.

Heena, World No.17, won a gold medal in pairs and an individual silver medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and was also a part of the silver winning team in the Guangzhou Asian Games.

Sethi said Hariom and Imran were dropped because they couldn’t perform well in the trials.

“Hariom could not be selected as he finished third in the trials and we had to replace him with Joydeep, who finished on top. Similarly, Imran, who won the quota in 50M rifle 3 position also finished third in the trials and it was unanimously decided to swap his quota for air pistol,” he said.

Olympic squad: Abhinav Bindra (10m air rifle), Gagan Narang (10m, 50m 3 position, 50m prone), Sanjeev Rajput (50m 3 position, Joydeep Karmakar (50m prone), Vijay Kumar (rapid fire pistol), Annuraj Singh, Heena Sidhu (both 10m air pistol), Manavjit Singh Sandhu (trap), Shagun Chowdhary (trap women), Rahi Sarnobat (25m pistol) and Ronjan Sodhi (double trap)

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