India's 10m air rifle women's duo of Apurvi Chandela and Elavenil Valarivan and the men's 10m air pistol pair of Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma will kick off India's medal hunt at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday, with the four being among the best prospects to bring home medals from the quadrennial showpiece.
The experienced Apurvi and the young world No. 1 Elavenil will be up against an extremely tough field, as they look to make it to the top-eight finals field from among 49 shooters in the qualification fray.
Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma will then take the field with the same intention in 10m air pistol in a 36-man field.
On the eve of the contest, national rifle coach Deepali Deshpande said, "The girls are all raring to go and training today has been as planned. We are confident of a good showing tomorrow."
Sharing his thoughts from Tokyo, pistol coach Ronak Pandit said, "Yes the boys trained for an hour today as did other members of the squad and they are all shaping up well. We are all looking forward to the start of competitions and are focused on the job ahead."
A total of 60 shots are fired in the qualification round in an allotted time of 75 minutes, and scoring is in decimals of 10, with a 10.9 being the perfect shot.
Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) shooter, Yulia Karimova, who is the reigning world champion in the 50m rifle 3-positions event and Chinese Taipei's world No. 4 Lin Ying-Shin will pose a formidable threat to the Indian duo.
In-form shooters like Carolyne Mary Tucker of the US, Ziva Dvorsak of Slovenia, Sofia Ceccarilo of Italy, and Eszter Mezaros of Hungary will also pose a strong challenge along with the Chinese duo of Wang Luyao and Yang Qian and strong Korean shooter Eunji Kwon.
Generally, a score of 630 out of a maximum possible 654 ensures qualification into the finals at this level. The Indian duo has recorded world competition bests of 633 (Apurvi) and 632.7 (Elavenil) respectively.
Apurvi also holds the finals world record in the event with a score of 252.9 to her name.
The finals are a 24-shot affair with the eighth-place being decided after 12-shots and one shooter being eliminated after every two shots thereafter, till the winner is decided after the 23rdand 24thsingle shots.
In men's 10m air pistol, Chaudhary and Verma have been by far the two best shooters in the world over the past three years, but the much narrower 36-man field here is fraught with danger, simply because of the presence of some legends of pistol shooting, led by Korean Jongoh Jin.
The four-time Olympic champion is also the reigning world champion and will have for the company, Beijing Olympic champion Pang Wei of China, the Rio rapid-fire pistol champion Christian Reitz of Germany and the Rio defending champion Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam.
The Indian duo will also have to contend with the challenges of ROC athlete Artem Chernousov (world No. 3), in-form Iranian Javad Foroughi (world No. 4 and winner of the last two world cups before the Olympics), seasoned Serbian Damir Mikec, recently crowned European champion Juraj Tuzinsky of Slovakia and top Ukrainian shooters Oleh Omelchuk and Pavlo Korostylov among others.
The qualification round here is scored in full rings as opposed to decimals in the air rifle competition, and a score of 580 is considered the bare minimum to reach the finals of world-class competitions.
The finals revert to decimal scoring and follow the exact same format as the air rifle competition.
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