It will be a test of focus, precision and nerves at highest level when the shooting para sport competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games kicks off at the Asaka Shooting Range on August 30, 2021.
The shooting para sport events, which will be competed for over seven days, will have 158 athletes from 44 nations vying for top honours in the 13 medal events.
While shooters from China and South Korea are expected to rule most of the competition, the ones representing United Arab Emirates, India and Iran should be among the mix and pick up few medals.
In R1, R7 and R6 (Men’s & Mixed Air Rifle SH1) competitions, Paralympic and Asian Para Games medalists Dong Chao, reigning world champion Tian Fugang (both from China) and Abdullah Sultan Alaryani (UAE) will be among the Asian favourites to finish on the podium.
UAE’s Alaryani will aim for better medal colour
At the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Chao and Alaryani fought it out for the 10m air rifle SH1 gold with the former eventually emerging the champion. Alaryani then went on to the gold at the 2018 World Shooting Para Sport World Cup in Chateauroux, France.
However, at the Asian Para Games 2018, Alaryani had to settle for the silver going down to Thailand’s Wiraphon Mansing. Chao took the bronze.
South Korea will be hoping to make some noise at the shooting ground with their multiple-time world and Paralympic champion Lee Jiseok, a two-time Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games gold medallist, Sydney Worlds medallist Park Jinho and Rio 2016 medallist Kim Geun-soo and APG 2018 gold medallist Sim Jae-yong in the mixed 10m rifle and 50m rifle prone events.
Meanwhile in the men’s pistol events, China’s Rio 2016 Paralympics, Chateauroux 2018 Worlds and APG 2018 champions Yang Chao and Huang Xing should fight out for the top honours. South Korea’s Lee Ju-hee, the Rio 2016 silver medallist in P1-men’s 10m air pistol, should be also among the mix.
Promising Indian shooter Narwal among favourites
But watch out for promising Indian shooter Manish Narwal, who shattered the world record to clinch a gold medal in the P4 mixed 50m pistol SH1 event at the Al Ain 2021 World Cup in March 2021. The youngster will be eager to make it big in his debut Paralympic Games.
The women’s rifle competitions are expected to be equally exciting with Chinese stars Zhang Cuiping, the four-time Paralympic champion, Yang Yaping and Bai Xiaohong to feature in R2, R8, R6 (Women’s & Mixed Air Rifle SH1) events, while Iranian ace shooter Sareh Javanmardi will be the hot favourite in pistol P2 and P4 (Women’s & Mixed Air Pistol SH1) events.
The 34-year-old from Shiraz, Iran, was the first female from her country to win a gold medal at a Paralympic Games when she won two gold medals at the Rio 2016 Games. She followed this up with another gold medals at the 2018 World
Championships in Cheongju, South Korea, in May and at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.
“Like any other athlete, improving performance, repeating the previous medals and achieving the best results are definitely my target in Tokyo,” said Javanmardi, who won two gold medals at Al Ain 2021 World Cup. “I will do my best to obtain the best result. I assume the situation around the globe is the same to all athletes participating in the upcoming Games. So, I am not worried about defending my title.”
Cuiping, on the other hand, was unstoppable at Rio 2016, winning gold in R6 and R8, both with new Paralympic records. She will hope to repeat the show at Tokyo.
Shooting, which is currently practiced in more than 65 countries, was included on the Paralympic programme at the 1976 Toronto Games.
The men’s team from Iran and Chinese women’s team will look to stamp their dominance yet again when the Sitting Volleyball competitions at the Tokyo 2021 get underway at the Makuhari Messe Hall from August 27, 2021.
Eight nations will compete in each of the men’s and women’s competition that will run over 10 days with the women’s winners to be decided on the final day – Sept. 5, 2021. The men’s gold medal match will be played on Sept. 4, 2021.
In the men’s competition, Iran have reached the final in every edition of the Paralympic Games since it was introduced in 1988, winning gold six times. Over that time period, they have won the world title seven out 12 times too as well as securing top spot at the Asian Para Games so they will be determined to maintain their stranglehold with their title defence.
The presence of their star player and country’s tallest man ever to compete at the Paralympics, Morteza Mehrzadselakjani, as well as Paralympic stars Sadegh Bigdeli, Ramezan Salehi Hajikolaei, Isa Zirahi and Majid Lashkarisanami make Iran unstoppable at Tokyo as well.
“Despite the outbreak of COVID-19 and its undeniable damaging impacts on the world including the realm of Para sport, we worked hard and never let COVID-19 defeat us! We are the winners of the pandemic and will prove it by defending our title in Tokyo 2020,” said Iran’s most sought-after player Mehrzadselakjani.
In the women’s contest, China have been in the final every time since the sport was introduced for women in 2004, winning it three times but were beaten by the USA in Rio. With several Paralympic stars like Lijun Zhang, Meiling Zhao, Tang Xuemei, Wang Yanan and Zhang Xufei in their side, China, who also won the gold medal at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games will be out for top spot again in Tokyo.
Host nation Japan have qualified both men’s and women’s teams through host country slot allocation.