Jitu-Heena pair gifts India a Gold ‘badge’ and underscores the importance of mixed pairings

Heena Sidhu (left) and Jitu Rai (Image Credit: The Asian Age)

Kolkata: India took a breath of relief after two consecutive days of disappointment in the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup when the pair of Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu emerged as winners in the 10m mixed team air pistol event on the fifth day of the World Cup. Unfortunately though, the duo couldn’t be awarded with a gold medal as the mixed team event is still under trial process and is yet to be announced as official by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The recommendation to include mixed gender events was given by the Abhinav Bindra led ISSF Athletes Committee and soon afterwards the ISSF executive committee ratified the proposal. Despite the ratification, the federation failed to provide the winners with a medal and had to compensate them with badges.

Rai, who is a Gorkha regiment shooter has had a gold medal in the 2014 Asian Games alongside many other World Cup titles and honours. Sidhu, wife of pistol shooter Ronak Pandit, has found a coach in her husband. Both Rai and Sidhu broke a chain of disappointing performances by their counterparts and emerged victorious. Indian shooters apart from Rai and Sidhu have only managed to get to a bronze by holding the hands of Pooja Ghatkar in 10m air rifle.

The decision to add mixed gender events in a game which has till date been individually played has received mixed opinion from experts of the sport. “That’s the stuff shooting needs. People should talk about it instead of just sit, clap and go home” said Australian coach Petr Kurka when asked to comment upon this new format. On the contrary, Hungary’s Peter Sidi who won a Silver in the 10m air rifle event commented, “It’s just like playing, you know. Like passing time. This is not a real event.” She further went to say that this format was a little boring and that the governing rules could be better.

Opinions are always based on personal choice and will differ from person to person. But the crux of the matter is something else. The decision of the ISSF to host a mixed gender event is totally justifiable. At a time when gender equality is at its peak and female sports personalities are rocking the stage, the aim of the IOC is clear. It simply wants to bank on the prospects of gender equality by including the mixed gender events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Programmes.

This is good news for India as it has already found a successful mixed gender pair which is capable of earning many such successes in the near future. To celebrate the triumph, Sidhu tweeted a picture of her alongside Rai. The caption read “Feels great to win this mixed doubles medal with Jitu Rai after my yesterday’s performance. But Miles to go before I sleep.” Kudos to the duo!

(With inputs from Indian Express and Hindustan Times)



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