PUNE: Ace shooter Heena Sidhu said she is ‘heartbroken’ and ‘hurt’ by the injustice meted by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) by including junior pistol shooter Manu Bhaker in the Asian Games and World Championships squads, despite not meeting the selection requirement.
The former World No. 1 also said that she doesn’t feel like participating in the Asian Games.
According to NRAI’s rankings announced last week, Heena was No. 1 in the 10m air pistol and No. 2 in 25m pistol. While top two shooters in each category go to the Asian Games, the No. 1 shooter gets a chance to compete in the 10m air pistol mixed doubles category.
NRAI’s selection committee on Thursday decided to include Manu in the team, tweaking the policy, which pushed Heena to No. 2 in the 10m air pistol event and No. 3 in 25m sports pistol, which means she cannot shoot in the 10m mixed event and is excluded from the 25m pistol team.
While speaking to TOI, Heena said she is extremely hurt by the way the NRAI has treated her and her hard work.
“After giving 12 years of hardwork to the country and the federation, I get this. At this point of time, I am asking myself whether I should even go to the Asian Games, when I am being treated like this. They have selected me as if they have done a favor on me. I am really heartbroken,” Heena told TOI.
“I was already going through depression and wasn’t in a condition to shoot in the KSS and Trial 5, but I still did. I am probably the only Indian shooter to have been shooting continuously since October last year,” Heena said.
“I have been at the shooting ranges throughout the year and didn’t even get time to visit my family in Punjab. I still shot decent scores and was ranked No. 1 by all mathematical calculations. I don’t understand how can a federation apply rules in retrospective and consider scores achieved from 40-shot events.”
The shooting body surprised Heena and Shweta Chaudhry by including Manu in 10m air pistol team for both the events, despite the shooter being 6th in the national ranking. After Manu’s inclusion, the earlier No. 2 ranked Shweta was pushed out of the Asiad team.
Manu had participated as ‘provisional shooter’ in the recently held Kumar Surendra Singh championships and Trail 5 and had asked the NRAI not to consider her scores for selection. She shot in both the events and had apparently shot the best scores, however, her scores were not to be counted. The shooter didn’t have enough points to make it to the squad, but the NRAI went out of the way by considering her Commonwealth Games scores, which were omitted from consideration, according to the federation’s selection policy that was modified in January this year.
Since the women’s 10m air rifle and pistol events have been upgraded from 40 shots to 60 shots, the NRAI had decided to consider scores achieved only in 60-shot matches or trials. The CWG had 40-shot matches, hence, they were termed ‘excluded’ from consideration, according to the policy.
NRAI president Raninder Singh and other officials didn’t respond to TOI’s repeated calls and messages for a comment on the development.
Deadline to send Asiad entries is Saturday.
“Everybody knew that CWG scores will not be considered, so scoring high in the qualification was never a priority for me. I trusted the system, but it failed me by changing the rules in retrospective. I see only favoritism and nothing else in this whole episode,” Heena added.
About her exclusion from the 25m pistol event in the Asiad, she said, “In sports pistol, they considered Manu’s scores, which were shot before 180 days. According to the policy, scores shot before 180 days are not considered, but hers were done.”
Shweta, who had won bronze in the Incheon Asian Games in 2014, too felt cheated. “I had made a comeback to the Indian team after a break of almost two years, since my son’s birth. I had not just worked hard towards getting into the team, but had also followed the policy rigorously. I shot the KSS and Trial 5 despite meeting an accident just two days before the events. I shot because the policy says if a shooter withdraws from the event after registering for it, her scores will be considered as 0. I still shot and managed No. 2 ranking. But now I feel disillusioned,” Shweta said.