Bhopal, Mar 19 (IANS): Six Olympic medallists, including three former and reigning Olympic champions as well as six reigning world champions, will headline a field of 198 shooters from 30 countries at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol stage, to be held here from March 20-27.
Hosts India and China are participating in their first ISSF World Cup this year and have entered the largest contingent of 37 shooters as Brazil and Singapore became the first foreign contingents to arrive in Madhya Pradesh's capital city for the event to be held for the first time in the M.P. State Shooting Academy ranges.
Besides India and China, some other foreign squads that have already arrived are Denmark, Switzerland, the USA, Korea, France and Germany. Monday will see the maximum arrivals before the official opening ceremony on March 21. The competitions begin on March 22.
Luciano Rossi, President, ISSF and his wife Laura Rossi, also arrived in New Delhi on Sunday and were accorded a warm welcome at the New Delhi International Airport by Raninder Singh, President, NRAI, and Rajiv Bhatia, Secretary, NRAI.
Commenting on the visit of the ISSF President, Singh said, "We are delighted to welcome Mr. Luciano Rossi and the wonderful Ms. Laura Rossi to India. This will be his first visit to India after being elected ISSF President in November last year and we look forward to making it a most memorable experience for both of them. We also take this opportunity to thank the President with all our hearts, for continuing to support the Indian shooting in every possible way. We assure him that India and the Indian Shooting fraternity will always stand steadfastly for the growth of our beloved sport and he can count on our support to him and his team in implementing their vision."
The ISSF World Cup Rifle/Pistol Bhopal will see a total of 10 finals, all Olympic events, over five consecutive competition days. The two (men and women) 10m Air Pistol events get decided first on Wednesday (March 22). China's Liu Jinyao and Lu Kaiman are the reigning men's and women's world champions in the event and both have arrived in Bhopal.
Jean Quiquampoix of France will be the only reigning Olympic champion on show in Bhopal and the men's 25m Rapid Fire Pistol (RFP) ace will be leading a strong five-member French contingent, which also includes Clement Bessaguet, a silver medallist in the Cairo World Championships last year and Lamolle Mathilde, who won the women's 25m Pistol (SPW) event in the Cairo World Cup last month.
The USA has sent an eight-member contingent that includes reigning women's air-rifle world champion Alison Marie Weisz, who won alongside India's Rudrankksh Patil at the Cairo World Championships last year.
Carolyn Mary Tucker, Tokyo Olympics silver medallist in the air-rifle mixed team event is also here along with her Tokyo partner Lucas Koziniesky. Carolyn likes India and has an ISSF World Cup gold here for a total of three ISSF medals won in the country. Alison too has two ISSF silver medals in India.
One of the all-time great pistol shooters and Rio Olympics champion in RFP, Christian Reitz, will also be on the show leading a 13-member German contingent which includes Monika Karsch, a Rio Olympics silver medallist and Doreen Vennekamp, who won the SPW event at the ISSF World Cup Final in Cairo last year. Switzerland's Jan Lochbihler, the reigning men's prone world champion will also be competing in Bhopal.
Powerhouses China on the other hand has sent a squad which is tilted towards their upcoming talent. The squad includes 19-year-old Du Linshu, who won a total of five gold medals at the Cairo Worlds and a total of seven medals in the junior category. Min Hou also won double gold in the junior section at the Cairo World Championships last year.
The 16-year-old Huang Yuting is already a reigning senior world champion in the 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team event. The relatively experienced 18-year-old Lihao Sheng won the men's 10m air rifle silver at the Tokyo Olympics as well as the two reigning world champs Liu and Lu in the 10m air pistol.
All in all, in the presence of China, hosts India will find it tough to repeat their top finish at the Cairo Rifle/Pistol World Cup last month.