Anwer Sultan strikes gold

NOT many Indians, competing abroad, have the honour of seeing the National flag going up and listening to the National Anthem on the Independence Day. Trap shooter Anwer Sultan had the honour twice over, as he clinched the individual and team gold medals in the Asian Clay shooting championship in the picturesque setting of Bangkok.

"It was a moment of great happiness for me. It was the best gift I could give to my country on the Independence Day," said a delighted Anwer as he savoured the moment.

M. LAKSHMAN

It has been a period of joy for the 40-year-old Anwer as he had bagged the bronze in the Commonwealth Games earlier with a score of 142, including a personal best 120 in the preliminary phase.

"It was a long desire for me to win an individual gold medal. I had won the silver in the Asian shooting championship along with the Olympic quota with my score of 143 in 2000. We won the team gold then. Last year I won the only individual medal in the Asian Clay championship in Bangkok," said Anwer as he quickly recounted his exploits.

There was a sense of disappointment in his tone, when one spoke of Arjuna Award eluding him. But quickly he reassured himself that he had done enough now to warrant the award next year.

"It is a very important achievement for me, especially in view of my desire to get the Arjuna award. I have fulfilled my personal ambition of winning an international individual gold," said Anwer, who has already started working hard to tune himself for the Asian Games.

Anwer pointed that he could not shoot his best in the Sydney Olympics because of the tremendous pressure brought on him before he was assured of his place in the team, despite the fact that it was he who had won the only quota place for the country.

He decided to start afresh, and the results are already there for all to see. There was also a difference of opinion with the Italian coach Marcello Dradi, whom Anwer felt was against him, even when he shot the best among the three Indians in the World Championship in Lahti.

"I shot 47 on the first day, and 49 was the highest. The coach tells me that I was on trial. It is another matter that he tells you that the team should not be disturbed. The next day I messed it up. Even when I shot 114, the best among the Indians, he was not happy. It was quite disturbing for me," recalled Anwer, even as he conceded that Mansher Singh was also under pressure then.

"We have a good heart and are not selfish. If we have to sacrifice we will do that, if everything is well. The idea is to shoot well for the country. Today there is Anwer, Mansher and Manavjit, tomorrow there may be a new set of good shooters. The idea is that we all work together to ensure that the Indian flag goes up," said Anwer in an emotional tone.

The NRAI decided to keep Dradi away, and apparently a relieved Anwer was able to strike golden form.

"I have really worked very hard over the last few weeks. I was also confident that I would do very well. I shot 114 in the Sydney World Cup and 119 in the Shanghai World Cup. I was very upset when I missed the last bird in the Commonwealth Games.

"Not that I would have won the gold or silver, but I could have shot a high score of 121. Till then 119 was my highest," said Anwer, who has been gradually improving his scores in a bid to bridge the gap between him and the very best in the world.

"During the Olympics I thought that Michael Diamond was too good, now after a few competitions I feel that I am very near to him. I will beat him one of these days," said Anwer, in a confident tone, as he spoke about the two-time Olympic champion, the versatile Diamond.

Anwer's aim is to win the quota place for the Olympics.

With Khaled Al Mudhaf from Kuwait having clinched the quota by winning the World Championship gold, the race will be that much less demanding for Anwer and company.

Anwer vows that he would win the quota in one of the World Cups, possibly in the one to be held at home next year, but feels quite pleased with the fact that the Asian Shooting Championship has once again been awarded to Langkawi, where he has fond memories of success.

The businessman from Shamli in Uttar Pradesh is pretty happy with the atmosphere in the team, as there is no mistrust between the members, in the absence of the Italian coach.

However, Anwer strongly feels that there should be a coach behind the shooters to take care of the various needs.

"I didn't need a coach behind me at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Clay Championship. Basically, we need everyone behind us, not just the coach, when things are not going well," opined Anwer.

The ill health of his father bothers Anwer, but he knows the only way to keep the 80-year-old man happy is to do well for the country.

"It is tough. Trap shooting depends on various factors, unlike in pistol and rifle. I think the government needs to give better awards for the shotgun marksmen," said Anwer, who was quite emotional when recalling the reception given by the sports minister Uma Bharti when the Indian contingent returned from the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Grateful to the government for the international exposures and support, Anwer said that the team was getting better, what with Manvjit Singh Sandhu landing his first individual medal, a bronze, after losing a shoot-off for the silver.

Mansher Singh finished fourth, and the Indian team walked away with the gold, in the absence of Kuwait which was busy competing in the World Cup in Santo Domingo.

"We were shooting so well that we would have beaten the Kuwaitis also had they been competing," said Anwer.

While Anwer Sultan and his trap teammates had a memorable outing, the double trap shooters managed to grab the team bronze.

It was indeed a far cry from the routine when Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the gold in the Commonwealth Games ahead of Olympic gold and silver medallists Richard Faulds, Russell Mark and the former world champion Michael Diamond.

The Indian pair of Rathore and Moraad Ali Khan had also won the team gold then. Yet, it was a fine effort by the double trap marksmen to have won only their third international medal!

It has been a long stint of competitions right from the World Cup in Suhl, and the dip in form was bound to happen somewhere. The double trap marksmen will be ready by the time the team assembles in Busan for the Asian Games.

The same may not be said of the skeet shooters, who have been struggling to establish their credentials internationally. Their cause has not been helped much by the indifference shown right from the federation to the government.

Arti Singh shot a 59, and missed making the final by one point. The bronze went at 61. If she trains better and shoots with confidence, Arti Singh, who had beaten the Olympic champion to the fourth slot in the World Cup in Milan last year, will have as good a chance for a medal as anyone else.

The results:

Trap: 1. Anwer Sultan (114, 24) 138; 2. Jethro Dionisio (Phi) (113, 23) 136 (4); 3. Manavjit Singh Sandhu (112, 24) 136 (3); 4. Mansher Singh (113, 22) 135.

Team: 1. India (Anwer, Manavjit and Mansher) 339; 2. Chinese Taipei (Wei Tao Chen, Ching Huang Hsu, Wen Chieh Tsai) 327; 3. China (Lixin Huang, Bo Li, Yajun Li) 319.

Doubles trap: 1. Zheng Wang (Chn) (135, 46) 181 (18); 2. Wei Hong (Chn) (136, 45) 181 (17); 3. Chien Ming Shan Chang (Tpe) (131, 45) 176; 5. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (128, 44) 172; 8. Oraad Ali Khan 122; 16.T. Ronjan Sodhi 110.

Team: 1. China (Wei Hong, Nan Wang, Zheng Wang) 389; 2. Chinese Taipei (Chien Ming Shan Chang, Ching Huang Hsu, Min Lun Wu) 369; 3. India (Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Moraad Ali Khan and Ronjan Sodhi) 360.

Skeet: 1. Chan Sik Jeon (Kor) (119, 23) 142 (3); 2. Alexei Ponomarev (Kaz) (117, 25) 142 (2); 3. Ridong Qu (Chn) (119, 21) 140; 13.T. Harinder Singh Bedi 111; 18. T. Naveen Jindal 108; 22. Rao Inerjit Singh 102.

Team: 1. China (Dong Chen, Huarong He, Ridong Qu) 348; 2. Kazakhstan (Sergey Kolos, Alexei Ponomarev, Sergey Yakshin) 347; 3. Korea (Jung Soo Hwang, Chan Sik Jeon, Ha Yeon Kim) 342.

Women:

Skeet: 1. Jia Zhou (Chn) (67, 21) 88 (2); 2. Yu Hyun Kwak (Kor) (66, 22) 88 (0); 3. Hye Kyoung Son (Kor) (61, 23); 84; 7. Arti Singh 59.