Field day for Indian marksmen

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

THE Indian shooters hogged the limelight in the Commonwealth Games. They played a significant role in projecting a positive image of the country's ability to excel in sports. They had worked hard for the admirable results.

Samaresh Jung and Jaspal Rana, the gold winners in the standard pistol team event. Jaspal won a bagful of medals in the Games.-AFP

The seasoned ones like Jaspal Rana and Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat asserted their supremacy by capturing four gold medals each, as the Indian shooters returned with a rich haul of 14 gold, seven silver and three bronze medals.

The fact that India won three more gold medals than Australia, though the overall tally was six medals less, brought considerable happiness to the Indian shooting fraternity.

The rest of the athletes also pulled their weights with enthusiasm and efficiency.

Among the gold medallists, the double trap marksman Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore captured everyone's imagination, as he beat a strong field that featured World and Olympic champions.

The 32-year-old Rathore has been in good form ever since he shot a 50 in the first round of the recent World Championship. One should say that Rathore has gained in confidence by rubbing shoulders with the best in the world shooting.

By winning the gold, one point ahead of Russell Mark of Australia who won the Olympic silver medal in Sydney, Rathore showed that he has come of age. In fact, Rathore pushed his career-best score from 136 to 142 with a majestic display.

If that was not enough, Rathore was all poise and rhythm as he shot a 49 out of 50 in clinching the gold, one point ahead of Mark in a spectacular final, that was watched by hundreds of spectators at the picturesque clay range.

Moraad Ali Khan and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore proudly show their doubles trap team gold.-AP

Rathore won double trap pairs gold with Moraad Ali Khan, ahead of tough combinations from Australia and England. The team had not been cleared by the government initially, and it called for considerable effort from the Federation and the Indian Olympic Association to get the double trap marksmen entered in the competition. Rathore held his nerves for a double gold medal effort. Moraad Ali Khan, the Tata Steel executive, had done his part well in shooting a good score in the pairs event, and shot one point better than his career-best 136 in the individual event to make the final.

The fact that he was behind the Olympic silver medallist Richard Faulds of England spoke volumes not only about Moraad's return to form, but also about Rathore's ability to beat a strong field.

Olympic champion Michael Diamond as well everyone connected with shotgun shooting praised the Indian effort, which resulted in the gold.

Elsewhere, the 26-year-old Jaspal Rana was his usual strong self. He won four golds, a silver and a bronze medal in the six events that he competed. He was too good in centrefire pistol and had a strong hold over standard pistol as well. Jaspal missed the silver by 0.1 and the gold by 0.3 points in air pistol individual event. He was particularly below par in the team event for air pistol, and thus missed the gold.

Jaspal also became one of the most successful shooters in the Commonwealth Games as he took his tally to eight gold medals, into the third edition. With age on his side, Jaspal may set records that would stand the test of time.

When he needed to deliver the scores, Jaspal showed his class by shooting a round of 50 or a 100, as he did in the centrefire pistol individual and team events. With the young Army lad Mahaveer Singh, Jaspal won the centrefire pistol gold by one point. His perfect 'duelling' round of 100 did the trick, while Mahaveer had laid the foundation when Jaspal had faltered.

Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat is too consistent to give hope for the rest of the field, including her good friend, Suma Shirur. The 32-year-old CISF inspector, who had won two silver medals in the World Cup earlier in the season, swept the four gold medals with ease. She had trained hard for the past two months, especially in the build-up to the World Championship. Thus, Anjali was able to call the shots, and win her first Commonwealth Games medals.

Mukesh Kumar and Bhanwar Lal Dhaka, the winners of the rapidfire pistol team event.-AP

Anjali had a tense final in air rifle individual event, as Suma shot a very good match, except for the last shot. Anjali won it by 0.8 point margin, after having gone into the final with 398 to Suma's 397.

That apart, Anjali shot record scores, to beat the rest of the pack by a mile. The European and Australian media were surprised that a shooter with such a frail build could shoot so strongly, and be so cheerful as well.

The good showing by India was not a surprise as the team had won 13 golds, six silvers and eight bronzes in the Commonwealth Championship at the same venue, almost against the same oppositions.

India had also won seven gold, 12 silver and six bronze medals as far back as in 1995 in the inaugural Commonwealth shooting Championship in New Delhi in 1995. So the seeds had been sown long ago.

Unlike Anjali, the 19-year-old Abhinav Bindra has been letting his form fluctuate like English weather, a lot up and down. Abhinav won the team gold comfortably with Sameer Ambekar, but missed the individual gold to a 15-year-old Asif Hossain Khan from Bangladesh. Abhinav shot a 590, but the Bangladeshi could catch up despite being three points behind at the end of the preliminary series.

Asif Hossain Khan of Bangladesh came up with a meet mark in the air rifle event.-AP

He is young, and Abhinav has been learning a lot of things the hard way. The fact that he does not have a coach at the moment is one of the reasons behind his form going down these days.

Samaresh Jung has been improving by leaps and bounds. He showed his growing confidence by capturing two gold and three silver medals. He would have perhaps had another medal but for a delayed shot in the standard pistol individual event.

Samaresh was threatening to beat both Jaspal Rana and Michael Gault of England in the air pistol final. However, he had two bad shots that pulled down his performance. If he masters his mind a little more, Samaresh will be hard to beat. Charan Singh showed his phenomenal levels of concentration by winning the free rifle 3-position event by a slender margin. The Army lad has been working hard, and has started reaping the rewards. His fellow trainee from Army, A. P. Subbaiah could not distinguish himself much.

Raj Kumari did well to get the silver behind Anjali in the 3-position event, and partnered Anjali for the team gold as well.

Shweta Chaudhary was not in any great form, but partnered Sheila Kanungo to capture the silver on a countback against Australia in air pistol. Both did not distinguish themselves in the individual event.

Suma Shirur and Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat finished on top in the air rifle team event. Anjali had a whale of a time at Bisley, England.-AP

Shweta and Sushma Rana struggled to make an impact in the sport pistol event as well. The 16-year-old Faridabad girl, Shweta has been shooting strongly, and should mature into a tough shooter.

Mukesh Kumar and Bhanwar Lal Dhaka captured the team gold in rapid fire pistol, but were not near a medal in the individual event. In trap, Anwer Sultan took the bronze, and missed a medal by three points in the team event with Manavjit Singh Sandhu.

Overall, it was an efficient work by India to have won 24 medals, with a 23-member squad.

The returns would have been better, had the woman skeet shooter, Arti Singh been allowed to compete. In trying to reduce the team from 26 to 20, the government tried to be wise. It still managed to restrict the team to 23, leaving out the skeet shooters, who had come close to winning a medal in the last Commonwealth Championship.

The Asian Games may offer a lot stiffer competition for the Indian shooters.

Once they sort out the problems of ammunition, electronic targets, specialised coaching etc., the Indian shooters will be able to deliver at the world level.

The results: Men:

Air pistol: 1. Michael Gault (Eng) 675.0 (574); 2. Samaresh Jung 674.8 (576); 3. Jaspal Rana 674.7 (576).

Team: 1. England 1140; 2. India (Samaresh Jung 572, Jaspal Rana 565) 1137; 3. Namibia 1134.

Free pistol: 1. Michael Gault 657.5 (559) NMR; 2. Samaresh Jung 652.8 (558); 3. Daniel Francois van Tonder (RSA) 644.3 (547); 13. Vivek Singh 529.

Raj Kumari and Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat, the champions in the sport rifle 3-position.-AFP

Team: 1. India (Samarsh Jung 556, Vivek Singh 532) 1088; 2. Australia 1084; 3. South Africa 1074.

Rapidfire pistol: 1. Metodi Igorov (Can) 669.3 (574); 2. Bruce Quick 667.7 (576); 3. Allan Stuart McDonald 666.3 (572); 7. Bhanwar Lal Dhaka 563; 11. Mukesh Kumar 558.

Team: 1. India (Mukesh Kumar 575, Bhanwar Lal Dhaka 566) 1141; 2. South Africa 1131; 3. Australia 1127.

Centrefire pistol: 1. Jaspal Rana 583 (NMR); 2. Bruce Quick (Aus) 579; 3. Irshad Ali (Pak) 577; 10. Mahaveer Singh 570.

Team: 1. India (Jaspal Rana 577, Mahaveer Singh 573) 1150; 2. Australia 1149; 3. Pakistan 1142.

Standard pistol: 1. Jaspal Rana 574; 2. Frederick Willem van Tonder (RSA) 567; 3. Michael Gault (Eng) 567; 9. Samaresh Jung 556.

Team: 1. India (Jaspal Rana 577, Samaresh Jung 553) 1130; 2. Australia 1118; 3. South Africa 1116.

Air rifle: 1. Asif Hossain Khan (Ban) 691.9 (587) NMR; 2. Abhinav Bindra 691.4 (590); 3. Timothy Lowndes (Aus) 690.4 (589); 5. Sameer Ambekar 689.2 (587).

Team: 1. India (Abhinav Bindra 590, Sameer Ambekar 594) 1184; 2. Malaysia 1164; 3. England 1160.

Free rifle 3-position: 1. Charan Singh 1251.5 (1154); 2. Timothy Lowndes (Aus) 1251.2 (1156); 3. Samuel Wieland (Aus) 1248.1 (1152); 12. A. P. Subbaiah 1137.

Team: 1. Australia 2297; 2. England 2270; 3. India (Charan Singh 1135, A. P. Subbaiah 1131) 2266.

Free rifle prone: 1. Timothy Lowndes (Aus) 699.8 NMR (595); 2. Michael Babb (Eng) 699.0 (597 NMR); 3. Jaco Henn (RSA) 697.7 (596); 10. A. P. Subbaiah 587; 17. Abhijeet Konduskar 581.

Team: 1. England 1189; 2. South Africa 1180; 3. Malaysia 1173; 6. India (Abhijeet Konduskar 584; A. P. Subbaiah 581) 1165.

Linda Ryan and Latlita Yauhleuskaya on the podium after winning the sport pistol team event. In fact Latlita set a meet mark in the air pistol.-AFP

Trap: 1. Michael Diamond (Aus) 148; 2. Adam Vella (Aus) 146; 3. Anwer Sultan 142; 11. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 115.

Team: 1. Australia 187 (48); 2. England 187 (46); 3. Wales 186; 5. India 184.

Doubles trap: 1. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (191); 2. Russell Mark (Aus) 190; 3. Willem Chetcuti (Mlt) 189; 6. Moraad Ali Khan 181.

Team: 1. India (Moraad Ali Khan 93, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore 91) 184 (94); 2. Australia 184 (92); 3. England 182.

Skeet: 1. Clayton Miller (Can) 146; 2. Michael Thomson (Sco) 145; 3. Antonis Nicoladies (Cyp) 144.

Team: 1. Cyprus 194; 2. Australia 188 (49); 3. England 188 (47).

Women:

Air pistol: 1. Latlita Yauhleuskaya (Aus) 479.4 (384 NMR); 2. Dorothy Hare (Can) 477.9 (379); 3. Annemarie Forder (Aus) 476.3 (380); 6. Shweta Chaudhary 467.1 (375); 13. Sheila Kanungo 363.

Team: 1. Canada 747; 2. India (Sheila Kanungo 374, Shweta Chaudhary 370) 744 (187); 3. Australia 744 (185).

Sport pistol: 1. Latlita Yauhleuskaya (Aus) 686.6 (587) NMR; 2. Linda Ryan 682.7 (581); 3. Jocelyn Lees (Nzl) 672.4 (573); 6. Shweta Chaudhary 664.0 (569); 8. Sushma Rana 661.9 (562).

Team: 1. Australia 1150; 2. Malaysia 1135; 3. New Zealand 1126; 5. India (Sushma Rana 564, Shweta Chaudhary 554) 1118.

Air rifle: 1. Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat 500.8 (398) NMR; 2. Suma Shirur 500.0 (397); 3. Louise Minett (Eng) 494.8 (393).

Team: 1. India (Suma Shirur 397, Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat 398) 795 (NMR); 2. Canada 781; 3. England 776.

Sport rifle 3-position: 1. Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat 678.0 (578); 2. Raj Kumari 662.2 (568) 8.8; 3. Roslina Bakar (Mas) 662.2 (567) 8.2.

Team: 1. India (Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat 573, Raj Kumari 567) 1140; 2. Australia 1131; 3. Canada 1123.

Sport rifle prone: 1. Kim Frazer (Aus) 588; 2. Esmari van Reenen (RSA) 588; 3. Juliet Etherington (Nzl) 586; 16. Meena Kumari 575; 22. Kuheli Gangulee 565.

Team: 1. Wales 1175; 2. Scotland 1174; 3. England 1167; 8. India (Kuheli Gangulee 581, Meena Kumari 574) 1155.

Skeet: 1. Lauryn Ogilvie (Aus) 93 (2); 2. Natalia Rahman (Aus) 93 (1); 3. Edith Barnes (Sco) 87.