China gets cracking

A. VINOD

REPUTATIONS did take a beating in some events, but mostly it was China's writ that ran large in the shooting competitions of the 14th Asian Games. The Chinese had arrived with expectations of only 18 golds, but exceeded all calculations as they finished with a tally of 27 out of the 42 golds that were at stake at the Changwon international range.

On target for China in the pistol events were Tan Zongliang (right), Chen Ying (below, left) and Tao Luna (below, right).-AFP

Known for their prowess even at the world-level, it was a show which once again underlined the proficiency of the Chinese shooters in good measure. In fact, it was the Chinese all the way, there being only minor crumbs of comfort for the rest in the fray.

India, for all the good show in the Commonwealth Games wherein its shooters had picked up a record 14 golds, had only disappointment in store as it finished with a haul of just two silvers, one each in the women's 10m air rifle and the men's trap team events. It was a pitiable show by almost all the leading Indian figures with the exception of Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat, who was distinctly unlucky not to get into the individual medal bracket by a wafer-thin margin.

The rest, Jaspal Rana included, simply faded away. In the case of Anjali itself, it was her poor show in the qualification round that cost her the expected medal in the 10m air rifle event. In hindsight, it could be said that it was her poor 9.7 (by her known standards) in the seventh round of the final which saw India's expectations evaporate into thin air. But then, that the 32-year-old champion of champions had only a score of 396 in the qualifiers should in no way be forgotten.

AFP

The Chinese, in contrast, had no such worries. Records took a tumble as the Chinese continued with their assault in brilliant fashion and attracted attention all through the nine-day event.

Of the 10 golds on offer in the pistol events of the men's section, the Chinese dominance was evident in all but two events - in the 25m standard and centre-fire individual events won eventually by Thailand's Opas Ruenganyawut and North Korea's Kim Jong-Su, respectively. The team golds in these events were, however, picked up by China which also won both the team and individual golds in the 25m rapid-fire, 10m air and 50m events with ease.

In the standard pistol competition, the Thai winner had a score of 579 points over the two rounds of competition as he finished two points clear of Liu Guohui, who otherwise had led China to an easy win in the team event with a new Asian record total of 1724. South Korea (1721) also improved upon the existing Asian record as it finished ahead of North Korea (1712) for the silver. India, represented by Jaspal Rana (568), Ved Prakash (561) and Samresh Jung (551), could finish only a poor seventh with a tally of 1680 points. Rana, shooting below-par, was placed only a joint 12th in the individual rankings.

AFP

Liu Guohui made up for his failure in the standard pistol with a winning performance in the rapid-fire event, finishing a good four points ahead of the second-placed Lee Sang-Hak of South Korea (686.8). The Chinese, with Liu again in the lead, were easy winners of the team event with a tally 1757 points. In the centre-fire event, China won the team gold with 1747 points but surprisingly none of its marksmen figured in the final individual standings.

The gold in the event was won by North Korea's Kim Jong-Su who had a tally of 587 compared to the 586 compiled by South Korea's Lee Sang-Hak and Vietnam's Nguyen Manh Tuong, the silver and bronze medallists in that order which was decided on the countback. Jaspal Rana, the Indian hope, again was far from impressive, finishing a joint 10th and going out of the medal bracket for the first time in three Asian Games. The former world junior record holder had won the gold in the 1994 Games in Hiroshima and a silver at Bangkok in 1998. India in the team event was placed a poor sixth with 1730 points.

Du Li, again from China, finished with a double gold in the 50m rifle 3-position event.-AFP

The Chinese hegemony in the 10m air pistol and 50m events was there for all to see as they swept all the four golds up for grabs. In the air pistol event, the individual gold was won by Tan Zongliang who shot a new Asian record of 690.3 points and in the 50m event, it was Wang Yifu who triumphed with 663.5 points at the expense of Tan (659.0). Incidentally, Wang was also a member of the winning team in 10m air pistol and thus along with Tan had an identical haul of three golds in the end.

In the rifle events, the Chinese had a definite setback as Sergey Belyaev of Kazakhstan and Igor Pirekeev of Turkmenistan robbed them of the individual golds in the 50m rifle prone and 50m 3-position events respectively. Herein, the Chinese could gain only the team gold in the 3-position event as the team title in the prone was taken by host South Korea. Pirekeev was in line for a golden double but lost the prone gold to Belyaev only in the shootout after the two had remained tied at 700.3 points. In the 10m air rifle, it was, however, the Chinese once again who finished on top.

Li Jie, the individual winner of the event, also had a new Asian record score (700.8 points) as he outgunned team-mate Zhang Fu. Abhinav Bindra, the lone Indian in the final, was placed seventh with 694.3 points, while in the team event India was placed fourth with 1764 points. Besides Bindra, the others who made up that team were Bharat Singh and Sameer Ambekar. China, which won the team gold, had a new World record score of 1788 points.

The Indian men's trap team (l to r) comprising Anwar Sultan, Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh won silver.-V. SUDERSHAN

There was no stopping the Chinese in the 10m running target event, with Niu Zhiyuan leading the way to a golden finish in the team and individual events. Likewise, it was Li Hui's heroics which stood out as China won the two golds on offer in the trap even as India (represented by Mansher Singh, Manavjit Singh and Anwer Sultan) fought back the challenge from the Philippines and settled for the team silver. However, in double trap it was South Korea which took the team gold while the individual title was won by Chinese Taipei's Chen Shih Wei. Qatar proved to be the surprise packet in skeet, scooping up the team gold with a new Asian record total of 360 and the individual title through Masoud Hamad.

The women's 10m air rifle team (l to r) consisting of Suma Shirur, Deepali Deshpande and Anjali Bhagwat took the silver.-V. SUDERSHAN

In the women's section too, the Chinese were once again dominant taking all the four pistol golds. And for both Tao Luna and Chen Ying it was quite a lucrative outing as they figured in both the team triumphs before taking the individual golds in the 10m air pistol and 25m events respectively. China's supremacy over India in the 10m air rifle team event was marked by a new World record total of 1194 points. Apart from Anjali, it was Deepali Deshpande and Suma Shirur who made up the silver medal winning Indian team. Suma was also fifth in the individual final won by China's Zhao Yinghui.

The Chinese also reigned supreme in the 50m rifle 3-position, wherein Du Li finished with a double gold, but had to be satisfied with minor positions in the team and individual events of 50m prone. Here, it was South Korea which took the team gold, while the individual title was taken by Kazakhstan's Olga Dovgun. However, in the 10m running target the Chinese were back in business led by Xu Xuan, the winner of the individual gold. The consistency of Pak Young-Hui and Ri Hye-Gyong did enable North Korea to spring a surprise over China in the team event of trap, but the two North Koreans were only good for the individual silver and bronze respectively once Gao Ee touched peak form in the final. China also took the double trap team gold, but was denied the individual title by South Korea's Lee Sang-Hee. The South Koreans also had a lot to cheer as Son Hye-Kyoung led the home country to a double triumph in skeet, their team gold winning effort of 198 also heralding a new continental benchmark.