Rana's golden run

India looked to Jaspal Rana for a gold medal after his team-mates were off the mark. And the ace shooter responded with three gold medals apart from a silver. Kamesh Srinivasan reports.

Jaspal Rana cried like a child at the Lusail Shooting Complex in Doha after his remarkable performance at the 15th Asian Games. It was his fourth Asian Games, and the 30-year-old shooter had taken his tally of medals to four golds and two silvers at the quadrennial event. At the peak of joy, tears flowed.

It was not just a fairytale finish for India as Jaspal bagged three golds and a silver medal in Doha, but a reaffirmation of the fact that the nation is really doing well in the sport.

As the accomplished shooters such as World champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, rifle ace Gagan Narang, the brilliant Harveen Srao, the new stars in women's rifle Avneet Kaur Sidhu and Tejaswini Sawant, world record holder Suma Shirur and the lady with the golden gun, Anjali Bhagwat, all failed to strike gold, it was left to Jaspal to claim the top honours. He had done it at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games, but not many expected him to repeat it in Doha after a gap of 12 years when he had been distracted by so many facets of life.

India has won only five gold medals in shooting in the Asian Games, and Jaspal owns four of them. Randhir Singh, the Secretary-General of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), won the other in trap in 1978.

In Doha, Jaspal was calm and focussed on his technique during his events. He was running a fever and felt dizzy, but he never allowed anything to affect his concentration as he kept hitting the bull's eye. However, when he was on the verge of setting a world record in centre-fire pistol, a sudden gush of emotion overcame him and Jaspal managed only 9s on his last two shots.

It was perhaps his destiny. Considering the form he was in at that point of time, Jaspal could have easily hit the 10s. Yet, the effort was good enough to win him the individual gold medal, and also the team gold for India. It also entered his name in the record books with half a dozen other shooters.

"I am happy to have won the gold with a good score,'' said a modest Jaspal. Samaresh Jung and Vijay Kumar were classy in the end to ensure that the team gold did not slip out of India's grasp.

Jaspal's golden run began the previous day with the victory in standard pistol. He had shot into prominence in 1994 by winning the World junior title in this event.

The National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas was elated about Jaspal's performance. It was he who advised the shooter to concentrate on standard and centre-fire pistol earlier this season in order to do justice to his immense talent.

Tibor Gonczol, the Hungarian coach settled in Australia who had trained Jaspal and the Indian pistol shooters for more than a decade, too must have been proud of his ward's performance.

For the Indian team it was a wonderful climax. Having started with the bronze medals in air rifle, it picked up momentum to win the silver medals in the shotgun events before racing to gold in the final phase.

The manner in which Manavjit Singh defied high velocity winds to win the silver medal in trap will be etched in memory.

Rajyavardhan Rathore too was at his best, shooting a perfect 50 that put him in the final and ensured a team medal for India. He also shot the best in the final — a 47 — but the Chinese had gained a stranglehold over the double trap gold and silver medals by then.

Harveen Srao was brilliant in the air pistol final, but missed a medal by 0.1 point after shooting the best among the eight finalists. However, the 20-year-old shooter along with team-mates Sonia Rai and Shweta Chaudhry enabled India to win the silver medal.

Tejaswini Sawant entered the women's 3-position final, ahead of Olympians Deepali Deshpande and Anjali. She also made it to the air rifle final along with Avneet.

Gagan recovered from a disappointing performance in the air rifle to bag a bronze medal in the free rifle 3-position event with two fabulous last shots. Vijay Kumar was also remarkable in making the rapid-fire pistol final ahead of Pemba Tamang.

China was far ahead of its rivals, winning 27 gold medals. Indian shooters have miles to go and promises to keep.

THE RESULTS Men

Centre-fire pistol: 1. Jaspal Rana (India) 590 (EWR), 2. Liu Guohui (China) 587, 3. Jakkrit Panichpatikum (Thai) 586, 9. Vijay Kumar 580, 12. Samaresh Jung 578. Team: 1. India 1748, 2. Korea 1738, 3. China 1735.

Standard pistol: 1. Jaspal Rana 574, 2. Byung Taek Park (Kor) 571, 3. Vladimir Issachenko (Kaz) 570, 18. Ronak Pandit 558, 19. Samaresh Jung 558. Team: 1. Korea 1696, 2. India 1690, 3. Thailand 1686.

Air pistol: 1. Tan Zongliang (China) 687.1 (588), 2. Jong Su Kim (N. Kor) 684.8 (584), 3. Jong Oh Jin (Kor) 683.4 (583), 11. Samaresh Jung 576, 22. Deepak Sharma 571, 33. Ronak Pandit 565. Team: 1. China 1744, 2. Korea 1739, 3. Vietnam 1730, 7. India 1712.

Free pistol: 1. Xu Kun (China) 663.8 (565), 2. Rashid Yunusmetov (Kaz) 660.5 (564), 3. Jong Su Kim (N. Kor) 658.7 (562), 14. Samaresh Jung 550, 19. Bapu Vanjare 545, 24. Zakir Khan 541. Team: 1. China 1682, 2. N. Korea 1659, 3. Korea 1657, 7. India 1636.

Rapid-fire pistol: 1. Liu Zhongsheng (China) 778.4 (579), 2. Zhang Penghui (China) 778.1 (580), 3. Liu Guohui (China) 776.5 (579). 4. Vijay Kumar 775.3 (577), 9. Pemba Tamang 575, 20. Rahul Panwar 563. Team: 1. China 1738, 2. Japan 1721, 3. Kazakhstan 1720, 4. India 1714.

Air rifle: 1. Liu Tianyou (China) 700.8 (598), 2. Zhu Qinan (China) 698.3 (594), 3. Jae Chul Yu (Kor) 697.9 (596), 5. Gagan Narang 696.4 (595), 8. P. T. Raghunath 693.9 (592), 13. Navnath Faratade 589. Team: 1. China 1786, 2. Korea 1777, 3. India 1776.

Free rifle 3-position: 1. Zhang Fu (China) 1268 (1170), 2. Zhang Lei (China) 1266.8 (1165), 3. Gagan Narang 1261.9 (1162), 9. Sanjeev Rajput 1154, 18. Imran Hasan Khan 1140. Team: 1. China 3494, 2. Kazakhstan 3457, 3. India 3456.

Trap: 1. Naser Meqlad (Kuw) 133 (114), 2. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 130 (113), 3. Khaled Almudhaf (Kuw) 128 (108), 6. Anwer Sultan 122 (110). Team: 1. Kuwait 327, 2. India 322, 3. Lebanon 316.

Double trap: 1. Wang Nan (China) 189 (144), 2. Hu Binyuan (China) 187 (143), 3. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore 186 (139), 7. Ronjan Sodhi 136, 10. Vikram Bhatnagar 134. Team: 1. China 424, 2. India 409, 3. Chinese Taipei 397.

Skeet: 1. Almutairi Salah (Kuw) 123, 2. Almaktoum Saeed (UAE) 123, 3. Jin Di (China) 121. Team: 1. Kazhakstan 361, 2. Kuwait 360, 3. China 360.

Women

Air pistol: 1. Tao Luna (China) 490.3 (AR) (391 AR), 2. Guo Wenjun (China) 487.0 (386), 3. Byung Hee Kim (Kor) 484.6 (386), 4. Harveen Srao 484.5 (383), 9. Sonia Rai 381, 17. Shweta Chaudhary 378. Team: 1. China 1161, 2. India 1142, 3. Korea 1140.

Sport pistol: 1. Chen Ying (China) 792.2 (587), 2. Tao Luna (China) 790.7 (587), 3. Byung Hee Kim (Kor) 785.3 (578), 21. Shweta Chaudhry 569, 29. Sonia Rai 562.

Air rifle: 1. Du Li (China) 501.4 (398), 2. Zhao Yinghui (China) 501.0 (397), 3. Wu Liuxi (China) 500.4 (397), 5. Avneet Kaur Sidhu 498.6 (396), 8. Tejaswini Sawant 597.1 (395), 24. Suma Shirur 390. Team: 1. China 1192, 2. Singapore 1183, 3. India 1181.

Sport rifle 3-position: 1. Wang Chengyi (China) 685.4 (585), 2. Olga Dovgun (Kaz) 682.3 (586), 3. Yoon Kyung Na (Kor) 680.2 (581), 7. Tejaswini Sawant 672.9 (578), 19. Deepali Deshpande 570, 22. Anjali Bhagwat 569. Team: 1. China 1744, 2. Korea 1739, 3. Kazakhstan 1731, 5. India 1717.

Skeet: 1. Kim Myong Hwa (N. Korea) 71, 2. Wei Ning (China) 71, 3. Yu Xiumin (China) 69. Team: 1. China 207, 2. N. Korea 198, 3. Korea 193.