Tokyo: Entering the Tokyo Olympics on the back of an unprecedented run that began sometime after the inexplicable meltdown in the Rio de Janeiro Games, Indian shooters bagging a medal or two, or, even three to four, is a tangible reality.
All of the 15 shooters are capable of winning medals, but few are seen as sure shot to secure podium finishes in the events that start on Saturday.
One among them is the highly-skilled Saurabh Chaudhary, who will have a few Olympic and world champions standing in his way to glory at sport's biggest showpiece.
Alongside Abhishek Verma, Chaudhary will be part of the first competition day action in the men's 10m air pistol event.
But before that, the fate of Apurvi Chandela and Elavenil Valarivan -- in the women's 10m air rifle event -- will be decided. A good outing for either of them means India will have won their first medal in these Games.
Both Chandela and Elavenil will enter the competition with plenty to look forward to, despite the occasional blips here and there.
Three-time ISSF World Cup gold medallist Chandela has endured a bit of rough time in the run up to the Games, having contracted COVID-19 and then testing negative just in time to board the flight for the Indian team's training-cum-competition tour of Croatia.
It will be her second Olympics and she will look to exorcise the hurt she felt after a foot injury pegged her back in Rio five years ago.
The 21-year-old Elavenil, world number 1 and considered one of the country's finest rifle shooters after some fine performances since breaking into the senior team, will certainly fancy her chances too.
What could aid her all the more is that she has been trained by Olympics medallist Gagan Narang for the past seven years, including throughout the stay in Zagreb.
As far as the taciturn Chaudhary is concerned, the National Rifle Association of India restraining the Olympic-bound shooters from interacting with the media in the run-up to the Games, was irrelevant.
Chaudhary prefers to live in a world of his own, likes to keep interaction with those trying to know him, to bare minimum, and mostly responds in monosyllables.
While most of his colleagues in the Indian shooting Olympic team talk and also let their guns, pistols and shotguns do the talking, the 19-year-old Chaudhary only does the latter.
Chaudhary has done it end number of times in what has so far been an incredibly successful six-year shooting career, due to which he has entered Tokyo as one of the hot favourites to win a medal.
Whether one gives him the favourites tag or not, it hardly matters to the boy who would once shoot for fun in his village fares while chewing gums, having been introduced to the sport on a visit to a neighbouring village.
Ahead of the world's biggest sporting event, Chaudhary remains composed and detached, focussing instead on trying to keep things simple and sticking to the basics to hit the bull's eye in his maiden Olympics.
Not to forget his compatriot in the same event, Verma, who has also taken rapid strides and has made a place for himself after living in Chaudhary's shadow.
On the second competition day, India will have the sensational Manu Baker and the hard-working Yashaswini Singh Deswal representing the country in the women's 10m air pistol competition.
The women's 10m pistol event has attracted maximum number of entries but that should not worry the two Indian shooters given their skills and consistency over the years.
In the men's 10m air rifle event, India will have the teenaged Divyansh Singh Panwar and the experienced Deepak Kumar, with the former especially seen as a strong contender after his superb run of form since breaking into the senior team in 2019.
If these eight participants fire on the first two days, India can expect a handful of medals at the Games, which will make up for returning empty-handed from the 2016 Rio Games.
In the middle and towards the end of the shooting events too, India have in its ranks strong contenders in the form of Rahi Sarnobat, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant and the seasoned Sanjeev Rajput, besides the two skeet shooters in Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa.
The likes of Sarnobat, who has won a silver and gold in the ISSF World Cups in New Delhi and Oisjek, Croatia respectively, world number one in 10m air rifle Divyansh Singh Panwar and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar are all gunning for medals.
Only 18, Panwar has already won over six gold medals in international events so far.
While Sarnobat gave a demonstration of her recent form as she overcame a tough field to win the 25m pistol gold at the ISSF World Cup in Osijek in June.
Tomar, who has also progressed tremendously in recent times, is another bright prospect in Tokyo, in the men's 50m rifle 3 positions, in which he will be representing India alongside the experienced Sanjeev Rajput....