By Abhishek Hore
Dronacharya awardee coach Jaspal Rana was not enlisted in the “essential” category by the National Rifle Association of India when it finalised its accreditation prioritisation for the Olympics, resulting in him not accompanying his shooter Abhishek Verma to Tokyo.
According to the list, which PTI is in possession of, the seasoned pistol coach and former shooter was not a priority for the national federation when it was assigning coaches to the Olympic-bound shooters, who did not win a single medal for a second successive edition.
Following the split with Manu Bhaker, Rana was left with Verma as his only ward ahead of the Games, and he was supposed to be with him in Croatia — for the team’s training-cum-competition tour — and in Tokyo to help the shooter, who had taken part in the men’s 10m air pistol and the mixed 10m air pistol events.
As per the list, Mansher Singh, the national shogun coach, was marked in the “required” category for skeet shooters Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan, while foreign rifle coach Oleg Mikhailov was categorised essential for Elavanil Valarivan and Apurvi Chanedala.
Likewise, national rifle coach Deepali Deshpande (essential) for Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant, Sanjeev Rajput and Deepak Kumar, junior rifle coach Suma Shirur (essential) for Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar and Divyansh Singh Panwar, and pistol high-performance coach Samaresh Jung (essential) for Rahi Sarnobat, Yashaswini Deswal and Saurabh Chaudhary were finalised.
Rana’s presence, or rather the absence, has been a subject of controversy ever since Bhaker made it clear that she did not wish to train with him. The 19-year-old has alleged he did not address her technical issues even though Rana has asserted that he has always been willing to support the young shooter provided she listened to his inputs.
The NRAI listed Ronak Pandit, who replaced Rana as Bhaker’s coach after the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, as ‘priority’ since she was taking part in three events, while also making him the team manager.
Unlike the names of other coaches in the list, Rana’s “required” was also not typed in bold letters. Long-time foreign pistol coach Pavel Smirnov, who also did not make it to Tokyo like Rana, was marked as “if possible”.
Besides triggering questions on Bhaker’s fallout with Rana three months before the Games, reports of intra-squad factionalism among coaches have also emerged after the Indian shooters’ forgettable outing in Tokyo.
It has also emerged that the Sports Authority of India (SAI), on June 28, wrote to the NRAI secretary general (D V Seetharama Rao) regarding the inclusion of Rana in place of Ved Prakash Pilanaya in the preparatory/training camp at Zagreb, Croatia.
“… Convey the revised approval of the competent authority for inclusion of Mr. Jaspal Rana in place of Mr. Ved Prakash Pilaniya in preparatory/training camp and ISSF World Cup for Olympic bound rifle/pistol shooters in Croatia from 26th June, 2021 till departure to Olympic Games,” the letter stated.
“The sum of pocket allowance of Rs 39,375/- to be recovered from Mr. Ved Prakash Pilaniya and should be deposited in SAI account for further transfer to Mr. Jasapl Rana.
“This issues with the approval of the competent authority,” the letter further stated.
The president of the NRAI, Raninder Singh, said the entire coaching staff will be overhauled in the wake of the Indian shooters’ disastrous outing at the Tokyo Olympics. The Indian shooters, who were expected to do well in Tokyo, are returning from the Games without medals for the second straight time.
The campaign also had its share of controversies with stories on the long-standing conflict between Bhaker and her former coach Rana grabbing the limelight and doing an already demoralised team no good. Singh criticised national junior pistol coach Rana last Tuesday, saying he was a negative factor ahead of the Olympics.