RAAJIV TRIPATHI DOHA QATAR'S three sharp shooters are busy fine-tuning themselves for the upcoming London Olympic Games.
Nasser bin Saleh al Attiyah (skeet), Rashid al Athba (double trap) and Bahya Mansour al Hamad (10m air rifle) will be representing Qatar at the quadrennial games, starting on July 27 in London.
While Nasser, also an ace car rally driver with 2011 Dakar Rally crown to his name, will be figuring in his fifth successive Olympics, it will be first Olympic appearance for Rashid and Bahya.
Oleg Engachev (50m pistol) had won the quota for Qatar during the Asian Shooting Championship in Losail in January. But Bahya, a promising teenaged girl, was given the nod as she was considered a better medal prospect than Engachev, according to Qatar Shooting and Archery Association Technical Expert Gennady Solodovnikov.
Also, the fact that Bahya is a female and the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) is putting a great deal of emphasis on encouraging females to take to sport in the country. Bahya is a good sports ambassador prospect as well.
The QSAA has drawn an elaborate plan to provide the best possible combination of training and competition to the shooting trio in the hope of earning the first shooting medal in the Olympics.
In 2004, Attiyah was close to winning a medal in Athens.
But he was edged to the fourth place by Cuban Juan Miguel Rodriguez in the shoot-out.
The Qatari, balancing his demanding rally and shooting programmes, is in Lonato, Italy at present for the ISSF World Cup, the third and final chance for the shooters to gauge themselves at the truly world class stage. Athba is there too for the double trap event.
Soon after finishing his World Rally Championship commitment in Argentina, the 41-year-old star reached Italy to get ready for the Olympic Games where he is dreaming to bag a medal for Qatar.
A gifted sports person, Nasser has a knack of lifting himself at the right time. An example that would endorse it well was when he dashed down from Argentina to Qatar to take part in the Asian shooting championship in January after his Dakar Rally title defence was cut short by mechanical problems. During the qualification round, he shot 125 out of 125 to share the world record and that too after practising for just a few hours. Later he won the thrilling final to qualify for the Olympic Games.
"All three are good talents but Nasser is Nasser who can do anything any time," said Solodovnikov. "We've carefully planned the programme for all the three shooters and we're optimistic about getting good results from all of them." Clearing the doubts about Attiyah if he will get enough time for shooting, he said: "Late May or beginning of June, Nasser will fully devote himself to shooting. At the moment, he is in Lonato for the ISSF World Cup along with Rashid. Let us see how they perform there." Athba recently contested in the ISSF World Cup in London at his first competition before the Olympics. He fared well, though he could not make it to the final, missing out on it by just two points. His 137 score fetched him 13th place.
Bahya, who secured the silver medal in the Arab Championships in March, will mostly train at the Losail shooting range. Later, she will figure in two training camps in Munich and Switzerland and contest in two World Cups, scheduled in Milan and Munich in May.
The schedule for the male shooters is quite demanding and hectic. Both Attiyah and Athba will have almost seven each training camps and competitions abroad.
While choosing the training camp sites, the QSAA has taken a care that the venue is more or less similar to the big shooting range like the London Games will have, informed Solodovnikov.
The QSAA expert also said: "This is the best possible schedule that we could come up for making our shooting fighting fit for the Olympic Games. But some minor alterations in the preparations cannot be ruled out at the last moment depending on the fitness of the shooters."
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