GUANGZHOU: India gets an early chance to dent China's massive reputation in Asian Games shooting when its two leading marksmen hit the ranges on Saturday.
Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra and compatriot Gagan Narang will contest with Chinese rivals in what could be an intriguing tussle for gold in the men's 10m Air Rifle on the first day of competition.
Bindra, 28, returns to the country where he clinched India's first and only individual Olympic title in Beijing two years ago, sparking wild celebrations in his cricket-obsessed nation.
Narang, who was forced to watch close friend Bindra' Olympic triumph from the stands after being ousted from the finals on countback, hit back with a vengence after Beijing.
Narang overshadowed Bindra at the Commonwealth Games at home in New Delhi last month with four gold medals, including an easy win in Bindra's 10m Air Rifle event.
Many Indians were disappointed Narang did not win the David Dixon award for the athlete of the Games, a feat achieved by compatriot Samaresh Jung in Melbourne in 2006.
The award went to Jamaican Trisha Smith for her gold medal in the women's triple jump.
A confident Narang, 27, predicted a good showing at the Aoti ranges in Guangzhou, but remained wary of his Chinese competitors.
"It will be a lot tougher to win here than it was during the Commonwealth Games," said Narang, who will carry India's flag at Friday's opening ceremony.
"The Chinese are always strong in shooting, but this is a sport where the competition is within yourself, not the other guy."
The man who could ruin the Indians' quest for glory is former Olympic champion Zhu Qinan, who was reduced to tears at the press conference in Beijing after being denied gold by Bindra.
Zhu later said the pressure of living up to his countrymen's expectations -- most wanted him to retain the gold he won in Athens in 2004 -- let him down.
Zhu has an opportunity to avenge the Beijing humiliation and also lift the team gold medal in the event with compatriots Cao Yifei and Yu Jikang.
Veteran Chinese coach Wang Yifu refused to predict a winner.
"We are all on the same starting line," he said. "There are good shooters taking part in the Asian Games. They all have an opportunity to win."
The Chinese were the undisputed champions at the Doha Asiad four years ago with 27 gold medals, way ahead of the six won by second-placed Kazakhstan.
South Korea, India and Kuwait with three golds each, while Thailand and North Korea claimed the remaining two titles.
Bindra, whose form appears to have dipped after the high in Beijing, said India had the talent to surpass the Doha haul -- despite the Chinese wall standing in the way.
"There are no easy medals at the international level and one always looks forward to competing against the world's best," Bindra said.
"India's shooters have done well in recent years and there is no reason why we can't do the same at the Asian Games."
Revenge off the war-field..