A large gathering of shooters, who also doubled up as spectators saw Gurpreet Singh thunder at the 25 metre range at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Thursday, with a spectacular score of 35 hits on target in the eight-series five-shot final. There were six contestants competing for the title in the men’s rapid fire pistol event and Gurpreet, who had qualified with a top score of 579 from the two-stage qualification process, dominated the final to win his favourite pistol event for the first time in the 60th National Shooting Championship.

Hailing from Indian Army’s Ambala-based and BEG’s 268 Engineer Regiment, Gurpreet, said: "The 51st National Shooting Championship was my first and it has taken me 10 years to win the rapid fire. I have won the silver and bronze, and this is my first gold medal. I did not have a good Olympics. My ambition is to win a medal at the Olympics."

Carrying forward his qualification-stage form into the final, Gurpreet hit the centre ring four and five times in the first two series of five shots each respectively. Behind him was Haryana’s Harpreet Singh and the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, Vijay Kumar.

Gurpreet had sealed the fate of the final in his favour in the penultimate seventh series itself after which Vijay Kumar and Neeraj Kumar, also from the Army, tied on 24 hits, played the shoot-off to enter the eighth and final series.

Talking to Sportstar , Gurpreet said: "This is the first time I got 35 hits on target. I have done 31 before in the nationals and other tournaments. I wanted to set a benchmark in the final. For some reason I was not satisfied with training and practise. Today I felt better. Such a good performance was necessary for me; whether I won the final or not, my aim was to get a good score in the final. I would have probably entered many finals since the 51st nationals. Pressure was there and I was determined to get the maximum in the eight-series final. It was more or confirmed that I would win the title with two series to go. I had to set a standard for myself, and I was able to do that."

Gurpreet will now prepare for the selection trial tournament to be held here in the next month.

Results:25m Rapid Fire (Men) 1. Gurpreet Singh (Army) 579 (35), 2. Neeraj Kumar (Army) 570 (29), 3. Vijay Kumar (Army) 574 (24), 4. Harpteet Singh (Haryana) 565 (17) , 5. Rahul Panwar (Navy) 566 (10), 6. Aadeithyaa Joahal (Haryana) 565 (5).

25m Rapid Fire (Men-Team) 1.Army Marksmanship Unit (Gurpreet Singh, Vijesh Kumar, Rajesh Kumar) 1699.0; 2.Haryana (Aadeithyaa Joahal, Harpreet Singh, Anish) 1690.0; 3. Maharashtra (Vikrant Ghaisas,AkshayAshtafutre,Shivraj Sase) 1672.0.