New Delhi: The Olympic-bound Indian shooting team on Tuesday left for Croatia for a two and a half months training-cum-competition tour, its final tune-up to the upcoming Tokyo Games.
With coaches and support staff in tow, a 13-member Indian shooting team took off for Croatian capital Zagreb, where it will undergo a training camp before leaving for Osijek to take part in the European Championships (May 20 to June 6) followed by the combined ISSF World Cup (June 22 to July 3).
"Bon Voyage, Get the nose to the ground and work hard for your inevitable success team," Raninder Singh, president of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) tweeted just before the team's departure.
The two Olympics bound skeet shooters Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan will be based in Italy.
The Indians, including Gurjoat Singh Khangura, took part in the ongoing shotgun World Cup in Lonato, where they could not make the final of the men's skeet event on Monday.
Former India shooter Suma Shirur, who is now the high-performance coach of the national rifle team, sought blessings before their departure.
"With a "Bharat Mata ki Jay" we get ready to depart for Croatia. From there straight to Tokyo2020 Olympics. 80 days in total. The Indian Shooting team needs your blessings to give their best," Shirur wrote on her Twitter handle.
The team left in a chartered flight arranged by the NRAI.
After the stint in Croatia, the team will directly leave for Tokyo to participate in the Olympics, beginning on July 23.
The ISSF World Cup in Osijek is being organised in place of the one earlier scheduled in Baku, Azerbaijan (from June 21 to July 2), which got cancelled due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in that country.
There will be nine coaches for the 13 rifle and pistol shooters but some coaches like Samaresh Jung, Jaspal Rana and Ronak Pandit could not travel with the team for various reasons.
Foreign rifle coach Oleg Mikhailov was also a part of the travelling contingent but longtime pistol coach Pavel Smirnov could not leave on Tuesday as he did not get his visa. He is likely to join the team next week.
As per the standard COVID-19 protocols in Croatia, the Indian contingent will serve a mandatory quarantine before starting the training.
World Cup gold medallist Sanjeev Rajput and world number in 10m air pistol, Elavenil Valarivan, also issued pre-departure tweets from their respective handles, both hoping to lift the spirit of the coronavirus-ravaged nation with their achievements in the sporting arena.
"Long tour ahead, wish us luck. Hope we are able to win medals and raise spirits of the nation," Elavenil wrote.
Alongside a few pictures of the shooters, two-time Olympian Rajput tweeted, "Off to Croatia for our preparation leading up to Tokyo2020. Hopefully the next time we enter India is with a handful of Olympic Medals. Thank you for the support as always. Do keep blessing us with your wishes! Jai Hind."