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Shooter, coach denied US visa

New Delhi: A day after Hockey India (HI) complained about the rejection of visa application of defender Harbir Singh Sandhu for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, two members of the Indian shooting squad were denied visas by the US embassy for the World Cup in Fort Benning.

The 33-member star-studded Indian squad left for the season’s first World Cup on Sunday night without pistol coach Gangadhar Sharma and rapid fire pistol shooter Mohinder Singh. Both were not granted visas.

The Indian team have the likes of London Olympics silver medallist Vijay Kumar and rifle shooter Gagan Narang in their ranks.

According to National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) sources, Mohinder, who is from the Border Security Force (BSF), would try again on Tuesday to get the visa.

“These things happen with us all the time, they never give us any reason for the denial of visas,” said a senior official of the NRAI. “Sharma is a seasoned coach. We have no idea why he was denied visa,” the official added. The federation is unlikely to take up the matter with the IOA.

Last year, Sayed Wajid Ali, a pistol coach, could not go for the World Cup after he was denied visa for no apparent reason. The venue again was Fort Benning.

Even 10-metre air rifle shooter Imran Khan could not participate in 2012 World Cup in Fort Benning as he too was denied a visa.

The tournament was important for Indian shooters as it offered quota places for the London Olympics.

However, the denial of visas to sportspersons is not a new phenomenon in Indian sports.

There were news about India’s lawn bowl and arm wrestling teams being denied visas by Australia and Canada, respectively, in the recent past.

In 2001, top Indian boxer Gurcharan Singh hit the headlines after he went “missing” in the US. In 1998, Lakha Singh and Debendra Thapa, scheduled to participate in the World Military boxing meet, slipped out of the airport in Texas, never to return.