Shotgun marksman Mansher Singh, among the first few to win a gold medal in shooting at the Commonwealth Games — at Victoria in 1994 — feels the sport not being a part of the Birmingham curriculum has taken the charm away from the quadrennial showpiece and made it a “non-existent” event for him.
The 56-year-old, a four-time Olympian whose last major achievements came in 2010 when he won the CWG pairs silver and team bronze at the Asian Games in trap event, is convinced that India dominating in the sport is the prime reason for it being removed from the CWG curriculum in Birmingham.
Following are excerpts from an IANS interview:
Q: What are your feelings about shooting not being a part of the Birmingham curriculum? You were one of the pioneers nearly three decades back and today you are seeing the discipline being dropped completely…
A: The first thing that comes to my mind is that I know the Commonwealth Games are happening, but for me it’s not happening. The excitement I’ve seen over the last 30-40 years is missing. The CWG is a non-existent event for me. Personally speaking, as a shooter and maybe as an (India) coach, it’s an unreal scenario.
The sport not being a part of the curriculum is a big loss to the shooting fraternity. The standard of trap and skeet shooting at CWG has always been very high; I would say it was of the world and Olympic standard. CWG is definitely poorer because shotgun is not a part of the curriculum.
Q: Don’t you think it odd that a country known for its shooting tradition has dropped it from the CWG curriculum?
A: If you look at the history of the CWG, shooting has been a very traditionally borrowed sport in all those countries that furthered the whole objective of the Commonwealth.
It is very odd that it’s happening in a country which has such a strong following and history of shooting. And now they are the first to actually withdraw the sport from the curriculum saying that it is not an essential sport for the Games.
This edition of the CWG will definitely be a lot poorer because of the fact that shooting is not there, as it used to be one of the most well-attended events in the Commonwealth Games.
You find a lot of athletes coming from small islands and places. For many, their only window to competitive shooting used to be Commonwealth Games. Go through the history, you’ll find a lot of these countries coming here because they don’t have basic shooting ranges in their small islands.
A lot of them cannot participate in big events such as the World Cups and Olympics because they don’t have the kind of equipment and training facilities. So, they would definitely feel more let down than others. India, on its own, will feel let down because we are the powerhouse and we had a lot of our CWG medals coming from shooting.
Q: Did you see this coming? First they did away with the badge events, then the pairs and finally removed the discipline completely from the curriculum…
A: True. Earlier they used to have the badge events 3-4 days before the start of the CWG. It used to be a festive occasion; kind of a pre-event match thing. Then they did away with pairs (team events) and finally all the individual events.
These were prime events to look forward to in the CWG. I think when they took the pairs out (of the curriculum), that in itself was a sign that there was some kind of a move with India dominating shooting in the CWG.
I would say India dominating the sport is the prime reason for it being removed. Otherwise, why would you take the badge out, the pairs out, and finally remove the discipline altogether? Systematically, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has done it.
Taking the event out in this way shows some misgiving towards shooting, or there was somebody against shooting (in the CGF). I don’t want to say, but I would (still) say that the decision has been taken purely because India is a dominant nation in shooting among the Commonwealth countries.
Q: Do you think it was a collective decision to remove the sport from the Birmingham Games?
A: The federation (CGF) seems to be controlled only by a few who have a common objective; it is not democratically placed. Therefore, these kinds of arbitrary and ad hoc decisions come up. Very soon you are going to find out other countries, which are good in a particular sport, meet the same fate where the big two-three are not dominating.
Q: Is the inclusion of beach volleyball at the expense of shooting in the Commonwealth Games justified?
A: You have included beach volleyball, right. How many Commonwealth countries are comfortable with playing beach volleyball given our cultural background and our way of life? It is a sport meant only for a certain few in the Commonwealth. So, where is this whole movement heading? It’s not democratic. India should make a very strong statement that they (CGF) should take everybody’s interest into consideration before taking decisions.
Q: Do you think the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) did enough to get shooting included in the Games?
A: I think the NRAI did a great job of forcefully putting forward the case and taking the issue right to the House of Commons. The IOA too did some posturing.
It is the fault of the CGF to take an arbitrary decision without taking into consideration the number of countries getting affected by it. Just by including something like beach volleyball, they have opened themselves up to scrutiny that they are only there for a select few. Some kind of posturing must happen after the Birmingham Games (to get shooting included).