By Shimon Sharif
The Indian Paralympic shooting team for the IPC World Cup in Turkey encountered a similar - rather more difficult - problem when they got the government approval to travel late on May 1 and boarded the flight early
on May 2, knowing well that they were taking a calculated risk as the competition had already started on April 30.
The team reached the venue at Antalya at 2:30 pm but by that time the air rifle competition, in which Naresh Kumar Sharma had to shoot, had already started.
Left with little choice, Naresh - with 99% disability and paralysed from waist below - pleaded with the organisers and the jury and he was finally allowed to shoot the second detail at 4:15 pm. With barely any time to freshen up or overcome the fatigue of a nine-hour journey, the physically-challenged marksman rushed empty stomach to the equipment control and medical rooms before heading to the competition arena.
Still, the Delhi-based shooter made it to the finals placed eighth with a score of 574/600 in 10m air rifle. In the finals, he shot an amazing 99.4 to finish an impressive sixth. Naresh is the only paralympic shooter to have qualified for the London Paralympic Games and if he has to grapple with the Indian officialdom in this manner, it's anybody's guess what obstacles the others might be facing.
Coach of the Indian Paralympic team, Sudhir Tomar, said, "Had the team got the government clearance two days in advance, the results would have been much better.
"I don't think other countries treat their athletes like this. Naresh is the only shooter from the country to have made it to the IPC World Cup finals in a long time and this is the treatment meted out to him," added Tomar.
Naresh shot a 574 (94,96,95,96,96,97) to qualify for the finals and then went on to shoot 99.4 to move up two places. The gold medal was won by Lurii Stoiev (Ukraine) with a score of 689.3 (589+100.3), while the silver went to Franc Pinter (Slovakia) 687.9 (587+100.9).
At the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008, Naresh had finished fifth after an impressive showing in 50m rifle prone. He had recently said that he was completely dependent on the government support for London Games preparations. Despite such creditable performances, Naresh, who is a medal hope at London, is still without a sponsor.
Being repeatedly shot down by one and all, Naresh's unflinching belief in himself is what keeps him going.
The author is a rifle shooter of repute.