Providing the solitary glory

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

RAJKUMARI DODIYA did what the stalwarts could not. Her bronze medal in the sport rifle prone junior event provided the much needed hope to the Indian camp.

It was only the third medal in a World championship for India, following the silver by Dr. Karni Singh in trap in Cairo in 1962, and the gold with a World junior record in standard pistol by Jaspal Rana in Milan in 1994.

India's bronze medal winner, Rajkumari Dodiya (far right) with Dorothee Bauer (silver, third from right) and champion Daniela Peskova at the medals ceremony of the 50m sport rifle prone junior women's event.-KAMESH SRINIVASAN

There was no pressure of expectations on the 20-year-old girl who trains at the Infantry School in Mhow with Major A. S. Basur. Rajkumari knew that she was competing with some of the best in the world, and just shot as if she was practising back home.

In the event, she came up with a 586, only two points behind her best. The gold and silver went for that score to Daniela Peskova of Slovakia and Dorothee Bauer of Germany.

To her credit, Rajkumari enjoyed the challenging experience of shooting with the wind, and that improved her confidence level to face the conditions.

"The medal makes me very happy. The whole team was happy to see me win. I didn't try anything special. I just did everything normal, and had no idea of a medal till I came back to the stands", said Rajkumari, who has been making waves along with Meena Kumari.

Rajkumari had missed a medal by 0.8 points in the Commonwealth championship. Two 8s, because of the wind, took her gold away this time.

"I had to keep one eye on the foresight and another on the flag", said Rajkumari, as she recalled the experience.

"Now I feel that I can do better. I need to concentrate better on every shot, and if I do that, I can also be a champion" she said.

"My aim is to shoot well, and give my best performance in international competitions", said Rajkumari.

Rajkumari shot well in the 3-position event, despite a poor sequence in the standing series, but could not come good in the air rifle event. It was a humbling experience for her to shoot a 580, a far cry from her best of 594, but Rajkumari had done her bit in this World championship.

Meena Kumari, Bhavana Sindhu, Chetanpreet Nilon were unable to goad themselves to their best performances. Meena did enjoy shooting a 392 in air rifle, with a lot of good 10s.

Shweta Chaudhary, the 16-year-old Faridabad girl, was the most unlucky in the Indian camp. She shot a national record 382 in air pistol, a score good enough to get the bronze, but not for her. She lost it on the count back.

Shweta shot a 9.7 last shot, and that undid her good work. Had it been a 10, she would have got the silver on the countback. The way she shot, after a bad start of 92, Shweta deserved the gold.

"It was a joy to watch her shoot. Her preparations were so professional. She will be a champion for sure", said Tibor Gonczol, who was quite pleased with the poise of the young girl.

"I wanted a good score, not a medal", said Shweta, who will learn to yearn for the medals soon.

Abhijeet Konduskar was inconsolable after the prone event in the junior men's section. The Engineering student from the U.S. had come prepared to win the title, and could not digest two 8s, as he had done everything right.

"I don't know how it happened. I checked the ammunition, it was fine", said Abhijeet, who was joint ninth with a 584, when the gold went at 589. His competition best has been a 591 in the World Cup in Sydney.

His coach at the Ohio University, Patrick D. Cherry had flown in to watch the dedicated boy shoot and went back assuring us that he would give a gold medal to India soon.

Meanwhile, the air rifle and air pistol teams, without much experience could not distinguish themselves on the big stage. In fact, the air pistol team of Ronak Pandit, Zakir Khan and Deepak Sharma shot a poor series to baffle the coaches, who had placed a lot of faith in the combination for a medal.

In rapidfire pistol, the 17-year-old Ronak was nervous. He had rounds of 94, 94 and 93 for a 281 on the first day and improved to a 98, 99, 90 and a 287 on the second day.

After recovering so well, Ronak was overwhelmed by his own good shooting and undid the fine effort. Otherwise, he may as well have helped India wind up its challenge with a second medal. The four-second series was his strong point, and he finished with a 45 and a 45 in that.

If he builds on the experience of his father, Ashok Pandit, there is no reason why the talented Ronak cannot go places. He needs to believe himself, rather than demand the results from himself.

Overall, the juniors do provide a ray of hope. The hope of a better tomorrow, and a better World championship four years hence.