Shooting down reputations

KIRTI PATIL

DOUBLE trap exponent Major R.V.S. Rathore, trap marksman Manavjit Singh and skeet ace Amardeep Singh Rai are dedicated shooters, while Gaurav Sondhi and Morad Ali Khan (double trap) and Saravdeep Mann (skeet) are extremely talented but moody.

R. V. S. Rathore, the Double Trap winner.-M. LAKSHMAN

Put the two types together, and we have a heady cocktail of shooters. Given that clay pigeon shooting is more a skill sport and is highly competitive, even a top 10 finish in the coming World Cups, in Sydney and Shanghai, will do a world of good for them.

Their performances in the shotgun Nationals augur well for the future. Except for Manavjit's triumph in Trap by a fairly good margin, the race for every other medal went to the wire. The contests became keener as the up and coming shooters shook the foundation of the established ones.

The 45th National trap and skeet championship opened a new chapter, ending an era that was dominated by Mansher Singh. Arriving on the scene in 1983, Mansher ruled trap shooting for 19 years till 2001. He was the National titlist for 15 years, twice he settled for silver, and missed two championships due to injury.

In the 2001 Bikaner Nationals, Mansher had struggled in stormy desert conditions. This year, in peaceful, perfect sunny weather in Delhi, Mansher failed to get even a place in the medals bracket. He tried his hand at double trap, but there was hardly any space for him to fit in.

For a player who has an enviable record of winning at least one medal in all the 17 Nationals he has taken part in, the 2002 event indicated that he was past his best and that younger shooters were ready to take control.

Manavjit seized his deserved place, bagging a gold medal with a fairly good score of 143. While the Punjab marksman underlined his superiority with consistent scores, including a perfect 25, there was a hint of hope for a brighter future in trap shooting.

The return of Morad Ali Khan, an executive with Tata Steel, and the emergence of S. M. Faizal, were welcome developments. The talented Morad had been out of action for about three years due to job commitments, but he has decided to make a comeback. Morad went to Kuwait for a month-long training stint to get back into the shooting mode.

The kind of shooting Morad exhibited in both trap and double trap justified his selection in the World Cup squad. He opened the day with 64 and then added 23 and 24 for a five-round aggregate of 111. In the final round, he missed five 'birds' for a total of 20 and later attributed it to a lack of match temperament.

The score of 131 placed him tied for the fourth place with Mansher. "The lack of competition and practice affected my rhythm in the tie-shoot," Morad said. He missed the third target while the beaten Mansher redeemed some pride by grabbing the fourth place.

Manavjit Singh, who triumphed in the senior Trap event, is flanked by the winners in the junior section, Shagun Chowdhary (left) and Birendeep Sodhi.-M. LAKSHMAN

Faizal, on the other hand, appeared to be the best prospect for the future. With 67 on the first day, the 22-year-old Faizal announced his intentions. Then he shot scores of 20 and 24 to give himself a chance to win the silver medal.

This being his first year in the senior league, Faizal got psyched by the pressure and shot 21, allowing Zorawar Singh (110) to even up after 150 shots. Both had scores of 132, but in the tie-shoot for silver, Faizal shot both the birds while Zorawar missed the second.

Their good show also helped Indian Airlines win the team championship, scoring 324 out of 375. Delhi had to settle for silver, with a score of 292.

It was a big mistake on the part of Delhi to keep Morad out of its squad. Mansher (108) was the only shooter who got past the 100-mark as Karan Kumar (96) and Irshad Kazim (88) put up a poor show. Kazim, in fact, made a huge fuss to get himself put into the third group as it would bring him luck.

About Morad, the Delhi officials gave a reasoning that they had not expected him to shoot so well, in his comeback. Agreed. But, then there was no point in leaving him out in the double trap event, which was played in Meerut.

There has to be some reason for the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to include Morad in the World Cup team for the double trap event.

Morad was on fire as he registered scores of 41, 42, 45 for a total of 128, four shots ahead of the defending champion Rathore and two adrift of the cavalier Gaurav Sondhi. Whatever happened in the final round was a matter for introspection, for Morad, but his score would have definitely helped Delhi oust the traditional champion Army, in the team championship.

Army won the trophy with an aggregate of 326 out of 450, thanks to the efforts of Rathore (124), Hem Raj (117) and Dil Bahadur Thapa (85). Delhi had a total of 305 through Mansher Singh (116), Vikram Bhatnagar (97) and Azam Khan (92). Had Morad been in the team, Delhi would have had 36 more points to boast and the title.

Due to the indifference of the Delhi officials, the state has lost a good shooter to Uttar Pradesh. Morad, after winning the individual bronze medal, expressed his desire to join UP, and the state welcomed him.

Shooting at the Meerut District Rifle Association range in Phalera, surrounded by paddy fields and potato crops, it was a different experience for most of the shooters.

Amardeep Singh Rai took the skeet gold after a tie-shoot.-M. LAKSHMAN

The vintage clay pigeon relaying machines were being put to extreme tests. It was an appreciable performance by the mechanics and the loaders who managed to keep the machines working. The 1982 models, imported for the Tughlakabad range, for the Asiad, were left to rust for six years before being implanted here.

In the individual event, Major Rathore recovered from a slow start and finally needed a tie-shoot to claim the gold medal. The studious and steady Rathore shot 124 in the initial rounds. His only chance then lay in doing better than Morad and Sondhi, in the final round. As luck would have it, Rathore shot 43, Sondhi 41 and Morad 37, and all calculations went topsy turvy. In the heat of the race for the gold medal, an excellent performance by Ronjan Sodhi, who shot a remarkable 47 in the final round, almost went unnoticed.

Rathore and Sondhi had tied with 167 each. Under pressure, both missed the second bird on the first station. Then they both picked up six in a row, before Sondhi blundered on the fifth station. He missed both, something that even Rathore could not believe. The Armyman then shot one of the two pigeons and retained his title.

It was travelling time again, as the skeet machines in Meerut malfunctioned after only a day's official practice session. Back in Delhi, the skeet shooters got into the process of proving their credentials. Like in trap, in skeet also the veterans were sidelined by emerging talent. Defending champion H. S. Sandhu even failed to make it to the final six, while Harinder Singh Bedi finished sixth.

Amardeep Singh Rai of Chhattisgarh won the gold with a score of 139, following a tie-shoot with Saravdeep Mann of Haryana. Navin Jindal finally made the grade of the medal winners, pushing veteran P. S. Sodhi to the fourth place.

Trap:

Men: 1. Manavjit Singh (Pun) (119+24) 143; 2. S. M. Faizal (IA) (111+21) 132; 3. Zorawar Singh (IA) (110+22) 132.

Team championship: 1. Indian Airlines (S. M. Faizal, Zorawar Singh, Birendeep Sodhi) 324 out of 375; 2. Delhi (Mansher Singh, Irshad Kazim, Karan Kumar) 292; 3. Uttar Pradesh (G. R. Khan, Nayab Khan, Gaurav Sondhi) 290.

Junior men: 1. Birendeep Sodhi (IA) 103; 2. Asaf Ali (UP) 85; 3. Ankur Singh (UP) 76.

Junior women: 1. Shagun Chowdhary (Raj) 30 out of 75; 2. Meenakshi Singh (UP) 21; 3. Seema Tomer (IA) 16.

Double trap:

Men: 1. R. V. S. Rathore (Army) (124+43) 167; 2. Gaurav Sondhi (UP) (126+41) 167; 3. Morad Ali Khan (Del) (128+37) 165.

Team championship: 1. Army (R. V. S. Rathore, Dil Bahadur Thapa, Hem Raj) 326 out of 450; 2. Delhi (Mansher Singh, Azam Khan, Vikram Bhatnagar) 305; 3. Uttar Pradesh (Gaurav Sondhi, G. R. Khan, Shyam Singh Yadav) 304.

Junior men: 1. Asaf Ali (UP) 93 out of 150; 2. Alok Singh (IA) 81; 3. Najam A. Khan (UP) 77.

Skeet:

Men: 1. Amardeep Singh Rai (Chhattisgarh) (117+22) 139; 2. Saravdeep Mann (Har) (116+23) 139; 3. Naveen Jindal (Chhattisgarh) (112+23) 135; 4. P. S. Sodhi (Del) (116+19) 135.

Team championship: 1. Chhattisgarh (Amardeep Singh Rai, Naveen Jindal, Rajpal Singh Kochher) 339 out of 375; 2. Haryana (Saravdeep Mann, Shivinder Behl, Yadvendra Singh) 299; 3. Army (P. Chauhan, Bhag Singh, Manohar Singh) 298.

Junior men: 1. Alok Singh (IA) 88; 2. A. D. Peoples (UP) 80; Devesh Rai (Del) 76.

Women: 1. Arti Singh (Del) 66 out of 75.