Amid a lot of talk on women sportspersons in recent days, the heartening news of shooting to be a multi-gender event in the coming Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 got buried somewhere. If John McEnroe courted controversy (yet again) by stating that Serena William would be “like 700 in the world” if she competed on the men’s circuit, the Indian women’s cricket team captain Mithali Raj got miffed when asked who her favourite male cricketer was. That the team entered the finals of the world cup might not have been consolation enough for a feisty sportsperson seeking gender parity.
Some of this led to a clamour for mixed-gender sports events, and though the decision to make shooting one such event was obviously not taken in view of recent controversies, it paves the way for the future of sports. Not that multi-gendered events are anything new. There are mixed team events across different sports, such as lawn tennis, badminton and table tennis, but a deliberate change is something to celebrate. Categories in the shooting events have been changed to bring in more gender equality, as per the guidelines of the IOC Agenda 2020. The double trap men’s event has been replaced with a trap mixed gender team event, the 50m rifle prone men’s event with a 10m air rifle mixed gender team event and the 50m pistol men’s event with a 10m air pistol mixed gender team event.
Shreyashi Singh, ace shooter and member of the Indian contingent for the Asian Shotgun Championships to be held in Kazakhstan from August 7, hails the move to be of utmost importance. “The move was definitely in the coming, as rumours have been floating for a while now. This gives me the opportunity to focus more and participate in two events. It opens up the arena for me to win more medals,” she says. Shooting is the only event, apart from hockey, where India has won a gold in the Olympics. And, over the years, Indian women players have taken their game to new heights. “I saw in the selection trials for the Asian Championships that women are performing equally well as the men. We have been trained well and are on a par with the men,” says Singh.
Singh believes audience’s participation in the women’s event has changed over the years for the better. “I have been shooting for eight-nine years now. When I started, there were very few spectators for women’s events, but now I see more of them. The level of women’s participation has also gone up in the past years,” she remarks.
This change was visible at the Mumbai airport earlier this week when a crowd of people waited to welcome the women’s Indian cricket team. And, the cheers were not for Virat Kohli and company, but Mithali Raj and her blue brigade, something suitably acknowledged by the captain when she said, “it’s the beginning of good times for women’s cricket” at a meet-and-greet session organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).