Shotgun Sandhu

Trapping the trap gold is six-time champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu. Shigetaka Oyama (left) took the silver and Naser Meqlad of Kuwait the bronze.-Trapping the trap gold is six-time champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu. Shigetaka Oyama (left) took the silver and Naser Meqlad of Kuwait the bronze.

Former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu rose to the occasion to win his sixth Asian title with a solid performance, particularly on the third day when he shot 49 out of 50 in the last two rounds of qualification. He followed that up with splendid fare in bright and pleasant weather in successive finals of the Asian and Grand Prix events. Kamesh Srinivasan reports.

Having delivered two of six medals for India in the London Games, Indian shooting has been sporting a healthy image. In fact, four of the 10 medals, including the only gold and two silver, were won by shooters in the last three Olympics.

From taking baby steps to achieving international stardom in the SAF Games, Indian shooting has been polished and kept vibrant by intense competition even at the Asian level.

The country’s first individual silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore had gained in confidence with good performances in the Asian Clay Shooting championship before he struck it big in Athens in 2004. It may have been renamed as the Asian Shotgun Championship, but clay shooting in Asia continued to provide the platform for Indian shooters to excel.

India had swept the honours in trap, double trap and skeet in the last edition in Kuala Lumpur, and the pressure was on the host to assert its supremacy in the Asian Shotgun Championship staged at the picturesque New Moti Bagh Gun Club in Patiala.

Former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu rose to the occasion to win his sixth Asian title with a solid performance, particularly on the third day when he shot 49 out of 50 in the last two rounds of qualification and followed that up with splendid fare in bright and pleasant weather in successive finals of the Asian and Grand Prix events.

It was an absolutely classy field, particularly with a clutch of brilliant shooters from Kuwait. There was a World champion in Khaled Almudhaf and the London Games bronze medallist Fehaid Aldeehani apart from the two-time Asian Games gold medallist Naser Meqlad. There were also two World junior champions, Talal Alrashidi and Abdulrahman Al Faihan.

“I had read a report that said that Indians had not done well. I was determined. It is a test of character to return to competition after the Olympics, because it takes so much out of you. We have always done well in trap, but the pressure was to do it at home in front of your own people,’’ said Sandhu who shot 21 out of 25 in the Asian final and then 23 in the Grand Prix final.

There could have been another gold in women’s trap, but for Olympian Shagun Chowdhary becoming unnerved in the end, and missing the last two birds. The gold slipped away, but Shagun has the promise to build on the silver medals. She had finished fourth in the last World Championship and should be vying for some big medals soon.

In skeet, defending champion Man Singh, who had shot an Asian record 149 out of 150 in the last edition, struggled. He was in line for the silver medal before losing the three-way shoot-off on 141 and ending up fourth. Three-time World Champion and the reigning Asian Games gold medallist Abdullah Alrashidi was solid in taking the gold with a total of 144.

There was some consolation for the host in skeet, as national champion Allan Daniel Peoples shot a perfect round in fading light to take the gold one point ahead of four others, including the qualification leaders Abdullah Alrashidi and Valerio Luchini of Italy.

In women’s skeet, the 20-year-old Saniya Sheikh, without much training, missed the medals by one point. Coach Marcelo Dradi was happy with her performance in the final and expressed confidence that she would qualify for the Rio Olympics.

In double trap, it was left to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to salvage some pride with a bronze medal, while Asian Games gold medallist and two-time World Cup Finals champion, Ronjan Sodhi, was off-colour and missed the final. Rathore was happy to compete hard despite a surgery on his leg a few days earlier, and announced that the Rio Games were up for grabs owing to the new rules that put everyone at the starting line all over again.

The organisation of the championship was absolutely world class. The President of the National Rifle Association of India, Raninder Singh, led by example, doubling up as a competitor in trap, apart from ensuring the smooth conduct of the championship, including the Maharaja Yadavindra Singh India Open Grand Prix.

Indian shooting thus had a fitting climax for the season, promising a bright start soon with a new set of rules, including a zero-start for finalists.

THE RESULTS Men:

Trap: 1. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 138 (117); 2. Shigetaka Oyama (Jpn) 135 (114); 3. Naser Meqlad (Kuw) 134 (114). Team: 1. India 338; 2. Kuwait 332; 3. Japan 314. Grand Prix: 1. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 140 (117); 2. Khaled Almudhaf (Kuw) 138 (115); 3. Naser Meqlad (Kuw) 137 (114).

Double trap: 1. Juma Almaktoum (UAE) 186 (139); 2. Fehaid Aldeehani (Kuw) 184 (136); 3. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore 183 (136). Team: 1. UAE 401; 2. India 396; 3. Kuwait 392. Grand Prix: 1. Juma Almaktoum (UAE) 182 (4) 139; 2. Fehaid Aldeehani (Kuw) 182 (3) 136; 3. Mohd. Asab 181 (137).

Skeet: 1. Abdullah Alrashidi (Kuw) 144 (120); 2. Saif Bin Futais (UAE) 141 (12) 117; 3. Zaid Almutairi (Kuw) 141 (11) 118. Team: 1. Kuwait 351; 2. India 345; 3. Kazakhstan 343. Grand Prix: 1. Allan Daniel Peoples 143 (118); 2. Saif Bin Futais (UAE) 142 (2) 117; 3. Valerio Luchini (Ita) 142 (1) 120.

Women:

Trap: 1. Sarah Alhawal (Kuw) 84 (61); 2. Shagun Chowdhary 83 (64); 3. Sirani Sepideh (Iri) 78 (1). Team: 1. India 177; 2. Iran 171; 3. Thailand 156. Grand Prix: 1. Federica Caporuscio (Ita) 68; 2. Shagun Chowdhary 64 (1); 3. Sepideh Sirani (Iri) 64 (0).

Skeet: 1. Nutchaya Sutarporn (Tha) 88 (69); 2. Afrah Mohammad (Kuw) 87 (6) 66; 3. Chalalai Na Sakul (Tha) 87 (5) 68. Team: 1. Thailand 200; 2. Kuwait 190; 3. Kazakhstan 183. Grand Prix: 1. Simona Scocchetti (Ita) 71; 2. Nutchaya Sutarporn (Tha) 69; 3. Afrah Mohammad (Kuw) 66.