Rathore misses a golden opportunity

Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore let go a golden opportunity to win the Olympic quota place. It was home advantage that Rathore tried to capitalise on during the shotgun World Cup in New Delhi, as he trained hard for weeks, even foregoing the chance to compete in the World Cup in Perth in the run-up to the competition at home.

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Ahmed Almaktoum, the gold winner, Adam Vella (right), the silver medallist, and Rajyavardhan Singh (left), the bronze winner, during the double trap event at the Dr. Karni Singh range in Tughlakabad.-Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM

Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore let go a golden opportunity to win the Olympic quota place. It was home advantage that Rathore tried to capitalise on during the shotgun World Cup in New Delhi, as he trained hard for weeks, even foregoing the chance to compete in the World Cup in Perth in the run-up to the competition at home.

Everything was set on course as the Commonwealth Games double gold medallist Rathore shot rounds of 46, 46 and 49 to be on par with five others with identical scores of 141, into the final.

Two of the six finalists, Adam Vella of Australia and world champion Daniele Dispigno of Italy had already booked their quota for the Olympics. So, it was a race between Rathore, two Chinese Binuyan Hu and Zheng Wang apart from Ahmed Almaktoum of the UAE.

By the completion of 10 of the 50 shots in the final, everyone except Rathore had missed at least one bird. As the contest hotted up, Rathore missed a double, the 13th and 14th birds, but things were very much under his control.

The Indian team - Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Mansher Singh and Anwer Sultan - which won the trap gold with the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.-Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM

After 36 birds, Rathore had missed three, as compared to four by Vella and Almaktoum, five by Hu, six by Dispigno and nine by Wang. Rathore had to just hold his nerve and shoot to capture the gold and the quota place.

Rathore, who had shot a brilliant 49 out of 50 to beat a world class field that featured the Olympic gold and silver medallists in the Commonwealth Games, cracked under pressure at the Dr. Karni Singh Range.

He missed three more birds as compared to none by Almaktoum and one by Vella. Naturally, the gold had slipped out of his hand, and Almaktoum, who had earlier shot rounds of 48, 47 and 46, walked away with the gold with a 46 in the final, and along with it the Olympic quota place.

Vella, who had won the silver in double trap and gold in trap in Perth the previous week, took the silver once again at 186, one point behind Almaktoum.

Rathore tied for the bronze with the world champion and world record holder Daniele Dispigno, at 185. As a face saving effort, Rathore won the bronze by winning the tie-shoot 11-10, after some drama.

``I had it in my hand,'' said Rathore, as he rued the missed gold and the quota place. But, he quickly vowed that he would win an Olympic medal, and not just be content winning an entry for the Olympic Games.

``There was enormous pressure shooting at home, as everyone expects you to do well. I lost my concentration a bit, thinking that the quota place was already with me. It is disappointing but you learn from such experiences,'' said the 33-year-old Rathore.

Ian Patel (right), the trap gold winner, is congratulated by Manavjit Singh Sandhu who finished third.-Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM

Russell Mark, the Olympic silver medallist, was the only other shooter apart from Vella and Rathore to shoot a 49 in the preliminary rounds, but failed to make the final. It was one of those rare occurrences when all the six finalists had a shot of`141.

The story of trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu ran almost on similar lines, except the fact that he could not consolidate on his lead of 72 out of 75 on the opening day. Yet, it was creditable on the part of the 26-year-old to have claimed the bronze in another world class field.

Manavjit had led along with Adam Vella and Ian Peel of Britain on 72 at the end of a very windy first day, as he shot rounds of 23, 24 and 25. However, he could only muster scores of 23 in the fourth and fifth rounds. It was no different in the final as Manav shot another 23. It was perhaps pressure that told on his nerves on the second day.

The 45-year-old Ian Peel had an impeccable touch of assurance, as the Sydney Olympics silver medallist shot a perfect 25 in the final, following rounds of 25 and 24 in the morning, as he beat Vella to the gold by two points.

Manav won the bronze with a one-point lead over Alberto Hernandez of Spain.

``The fact that only one of the six had a quota place made it difficult for me. Peel was three points ahead and the only way for me to beat him was him shooting badly. He shot brilliantly. I lacked that bit of luck as well,'' said Manavjit, even as he announced confidently that he would get the quota place in the Asian Championship to be held in Malaysia later in the season.

Unlike the World Cups, which offer only one quota place, the Asian Championship will offer two quota places in most of the events. It should be a good chance for Manavjit, Mansher Singh and Anwer Sultan, whose combined effort fetched the team gold for India on a countback after a tie with Italy.

Mansher who had won a bronze in the World Cup held at the same venue in 1997 could not shoot that well on the first day, as the wind played havoc with his targets, especially those that flew to his right. Mansher was better on the second day with a 24 and 25, following a below par 22, 24 and 21 the previous day. He ended joint twelfth with a 116 in a strong field of 77 shooters.

Anwer, who had shot very well to claim the bronze in the Commonwelath Games, was also troubled by the wind. He had rounds of 21, 24, 23, 22 and 24 for a 114 that put him joint 22nd. A shooter of considerable determination, the 40-year-old Anwer rued his luck, saying that the wind had made it a lottery, but revealed his resolve to do well in the future.

Incidentally, Anwer was the only Indian shooter to win a quota place for the Sydney Olympics, which he accomplished by capturing the silver in the Asian Championship in Langkawi.

The fourth medal for the Indian shooters was the team bronze in double trap behind Australia and Italy. Moraad Ali Khan and Gaurav Sondhi shot 129 and 123 respectively. Shooting for the Minimum Qualifying Score (MQS), Ronjan Sodhi came up with a 130.

In skeet, it was Arti Singh who asserted her class with a 72 out of 75, in the two-member Grand Prix women's event. She had identical rounds of 24. She bettered her own National record of 70 shot during the World Cup in Lonato where she had finished fourth with a total of 91.

In a high-quality fare, Cristian Eleuteri of Italy captured the gold with a 148 out of 150, as he pipped George Achilleos of Cyprus, Drew Harvey of Britain and Tino Wenzel of Germany by one point. The silver went to Achilleos after a tie-shoot, and that won him the quota place as well, as the Italians had already booked the maximum possible two quota places in skeet.

In the junior trap Grand Prix event, Birendeep Sodhi demonstrated his prowess with a string of 24, 24, 22, 21 and 23, for a 114 out of 125. The 19-year-old said that he had gained a lot by training with Adam Vella in Australia, and he was looking forward to more such stints to follow his idol into the big league.

In the double trap women's Grand Prix event, Shagun Chaudhary gained experience by shooting along with Magdalena Cawlikowska of Poland. Shagun shot 28, 27 and 28 in rounds of 40, as compared to 33, 33 and 32 by the Polish girl. It was possibly the first step towards bigger efforts in the international arena for the talented Shagun.

In the double trap junior event, there was only one entry. Asab Ali came up with a impressive 35, 41 and 37. As a reward to his performance, National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas saw to it, that the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee felicitated him, along with the others, during the Closing Ceremony.

As the Prime Minister remarked, more such international events would help the Indian sports persons compete with the best in the world and improve their overall standard.

Since the Olympic quota places were on offer, most of the best shooters of the world, from 41 countries to be precise, made it a point to compete in New Delhi, which made the whole exercise a grand success.

In the end, Rathore and Manavjit can take heart from the fact that they won medals in world class fields, and that their effort would be appreciated with a purse of Rs. 10 lakh each by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

Professional training, a confident approach and an efficient utilisation of the resources should help the Indian marksmen win many more laurels in the near future.

The results :

Trap: 1. Ian Peel (GBR) (121, 25) 146; 2. Adam Vella (Aus) (120, 24) 144; 3. Manavjit Singh Sandhu (118, 23) 141; 4. Alberto Hernandez (Esp) (118, 22) 140; 5. Petri Numela (Fin) (118, 21) 139 (2); 6. Vladimir Slamka (Svk) (119, 20) 139 (1); 12. T. Mansher Singh 116; 22. T. Anwer Sultan 114.

Team: 1. India (Manavjit Singh Sandhu 118, Mansher Singh 116, Anwer Sultan 114) 348; 2. Italy (Adriano Lamera 117, Rodolfo Visano 117, Marco Venturini 114) 348; 3. Australia (Adam Vella 120, Thomas Turner 115, Russell Mark 112) 347.

Double trap: 1. Ahmed Almaktoum (UAE) (141, 46) 187; 2. Adam Vella (Aus) (141, 45) 186; 3. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (141, 44) 185 (11); 4. Daniele Dispigno (Ita) (141, 44) 185 (10); 5. Binyuan Hu (Chn) (141, 42) 183; 6. Zheng Wang (Chn) (141, 41) 182.

Team: 1. Australia (Russell Mark 136, Adam Vella 141, Tom Turner 131) 408; 2. Italy (Emanuele Bernasconi 125; Daniele Dispigno 141, Marco Innocenti 132) 398; 3. India (Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore 141, Moraad Ali Khan 129, Gaurav Sondhi 123) 393.

Skeet: 1. Cristian Eleuteri (Ita) (123, 25) 148; 2. George Achilleos (Cyp) (124, 23) 147 (10); 3. Tino Wenzel (Ger) (123, 24) 147 (9); 4. Drew Harvey (GBR) (124, 23) 147 (3); 5. Antonis Nicolaides (Cyp) (122, 23) 145; 6. Abdulah Almutairi (Kuw) (122, 21) 143; 36. T. Amardeep Singh Rai 117; 51. T. Naveen Jindal 110 and Rao Inderjit Singh 110.

Team: 1. Britain (Clive Bramley 120, John Davison 122, Drew Harvey 124) 366; 2. Cyprus (Kyriacos Christoforou 120, George Achilleos 124, Antonis Nicolaides 122) 366; 3. Czech Republic (Leds Hlavacek 121, Jan Sychra 120, Bronislav Bechynsky 121) 362; 12. India (Naveen Jindal 110, Rao Inderjit Singh 110, Amardeep Singh Rai 117) 337.

Grand Prix:

Trap (women): 1. Corral Gay (Phi) 58; 2. Davypova Anastassiya (Kaz) 52.

Junior men: 1. Birendeep Sodhi 114; 2. Ankur Singh 96; 3. Victor Khassyanov (Kaz) 93.

Double trap (women): 1. Magdalena Cawlikowska (Pol) 98; 2. Shagun Chaudhary 83.

Junior men: 1. Asab Ali 113.

Skeet (women): 1. Arti Singh 72; 2. Le Grelle Diana (GBR) 69.

Junior men: 1. Kenneth Vail (US) 119; 2. Yuriy Sheptytsky (Ukr) 116; 3. Alok Singh 106; 4. Yaroslav Golchenko (Kaz) 99; 5. Karan Badhwar 95.