The review committee set up by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to look into shooting's no-medal show at the Rio Olympics this year has, in its report, implicated the federation for its lack of initiative and planning and sought a major overhaul in its attitude, policies and practices. In response, the NRAI said it will set up another panel to monitor all recommendations.
The four-member committee, chaired by Abhinav Bindra, analysed the individual performances of the shooters who qualified for the Olympics and then laid the onus on the national body for operating within a flawed structure, leading to a combination of factors which led to the disappointment of the Rio Olympics. The NRAI was held accountable for hiring incompetent national coaches, not holding national camps and not having a system in place to monitor the physical readiness of shooters competing at the Olympics.
The committee, which held its first meeting on August 29, spoke to shooters and coaches over a number of sittings before drafting its 38-page report assessing the performance of each of the 12 Rio Olympic shooters separately and putting forward its recommendations with regard to the terms of reference mandated by the NRAI. The committee acknowledged the "NRAI's willingness to look within for answers" and noted that it was the only national sports federation that had done so post-Rio. Bindra, who was a part of the Rio Games contingent, did not participate in matters dealing specifically with his Olympic teammates to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
"We suggested some course corrections to ensure that the sport is run in a more efficient manner, hope they are imbibed," Bindra said at a press conference on Wednesday. The complete report was made available to the public and was expected to be put up online, too.
Among its recommendations, the committee sought the appointment of a high-performance manager -- who is not a part of the NRAI -- to coordinate among the shooter, coaches, the NRAI and the Sports Authority of India (SAI), and remain accountable to the governing body of the NRAI. It has also called for a committee of experts, comprising the national coach, at least three shooters who have won medals at major events and the high-performance manager, to appoint a fresh set of coaches for Olympic contenders.
Pushing for a review of its existing selection policy, the panel has suggested that the NRAI announce its 2020 Olympic selection guidelines in 2017; offering room for debate and scrutiny and make the final policy applicable from no later than January 2018.
In its assessment of primary medal prospect Jitu Rai's performance at the Games, the committee pointed out that foreign coach Pavel Smirnov lacked the expertise in precision events to help the shooter win an Olympic medal and the absence of a working relationship between them only worsened matters.
Responding to the review panel's observations, NRAI president Raninder Singh told ESPN that the federation would, possibly over the next 48 hours, set up an independent committee to monitor all the recommendations in a time-bound manner. It will be entrusted with one mandate -- to institute and implement the recommendations -- and will be required to send monthly reports to the president on the status.
"If we're not doing our job we need to be criticized," Raninder said. "As far as the coaches are concerned, for instance someone like (Pavel) Smirnov, he's the one who gave us shooters like Vijay Kumar, Gurpreet Singh and Jitu Rai, and now suddenly he's the bad apple. That's not fair. It's very easy to criticize and get rid of anyone but very difficult to replace. It has taken me one year to find a rifle coach in place of [Stanislav] Lapidus. So we've got to put things into perspective. Certainly we'll put in more protocols to make them more accountable and we'll be monitoring shooters as well as coaches, both Indian and foreign."
Calling attention to Gagan Narang's underpreparedness to participate in three events -- air rifle, 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle 3 positions -- the review panel highlighted NRAI's ignorance of the shooter carrying a heel injury into the Olympics. While the committee commended shooter Mairaj Ahmed Khan for his creditable show in the skeet event, it roundly chastised four-time Olympian Manavjit Singh Sandhu for his "inflexible attitude" and lack of inclination to adopt a fresh approach.
The committee said that the word "coach" has lost meaning in the Indian shooting context and observed that "none of the national coaches have a proven track record either as coaches or shooters", the committee noted that the title of the national coach has turned into a titular one and that there's total absence of coordination between the national, foreign and personal coaches.
Seeking an end to the federation's dependence on the SAI, the panel strongly suggested that the NRAI turn into a self-sustaining, shooter-friendly organization. "The NRAI cannot be at the mercy of SAI and every problem cannot be outsourced to SAI," it said. "If there is a problem, NRAI should step in with corrective measures and sort it out with SAI later."
The other three members of the panel were sports administrator Manisha Malhotra and senior journalists Kamesh Srinivasan and Digvijay Singh Deo.