The morale of the Indian side seemed to be low after going medal-less in the men’s rifle prone final. But then, it did soar to the skies as Heena Sidhu, with an incredible showing, gifted the country with the women’s 25m pistol gold medal of the XXI Commonwealth Games at the Belmont shooting centre, Brisbane, on Tuesday.
The happy ending to the day also underlined the prowess of this seasoned shooter and her die-hard spirit to fight the odds. It was the second medal of the Games in three days for the 28-year-old, having settled for silver behind compatriot Manu Bhaker in the 10m air pistol event.
In the qualification in the morning, Sidhu had a card of 579 over the two rounds of competition (95, 93, 98 = 286 for precision and 95, 99, 99 = 293 in rapid) in at third place, but six short of team-mate Annu Raj Singh (584; 96, 99, 98 = 293 in precision and 98, 96, 97 = 291 in rapid).
In the final, almost three and an half hours later, Annu, however, was unable to replicate her form in the initial rounds, while Sidhu stuck on bravely behind Australian Elena Galiabovitch, who simply seemed to be going great guns.
But closing in sharply, especially through rounds five and six — with a clean slate of five in both them — Sidhu was finally able to overhaul the Australian in the seventh, as the two finished with four and two shots.
Into the lead for the first time, the Indian did not give up and held on through her consistency before she nailed the gold medal with a Games record score of 38, three ahead of the home favourite. And reflecting on her success, Sidhu placing her hand on her first gold medal in three editions, said, “I am really feeling good, this being my first medal in this event. I am still learning. Certainly medals like this bolster your confidence and help you enjoy what you are doing.”
Meanwhile, Annu was eliminated after the sixth stage and in the same position with a card of 15. Alia Sazana Azahari (Malaysia) claimed the bronze medal.
There was considerable disappointment, earlier, as Chain Singh was left stranded in fourth position of the men’s 50m rifle prone and Gagan Narang, on the lookout for a 11th Games medal, was eliminated at the spot in the final. The two Indians had finished third and sixth in the qualifiers, with Narang scoring 617.0 (102.5, 104.8, 102.3, 103.2, 103.4, 100.8) and Chain Singh 614.2 (104.3, 104.2, 103.1, 100.9, 102.3, 99.4).
The duo were very much in the picture in the initial stages, but Narang fell back in the third and fourth rounds to be eliminated with a total of 142.3. Chain Singh was put to pressure when he could manage only 9.5 with his first shot in the fifth and anyhow did not survive thereafter as a 9.3 off the first shot again in the seventh eventually pushed him out of the reckoning with a total of 204.8 points.