Winning gold at diamond’s expense

On the mark...Manavjit Singh Sandhu of India competes in the men’s trap final at the World Cup in Tucson.-Pic: ISSF

“This gold is a good indication that my technique is fine, for I have been experimenting a lot over the years. Without trying, I could not have gained control over my shooting,” says Manavjit Singh Sandhu, who won the trap gold in the World Cup in Tucson (USA). By Kamesh Srinivasan.

He may not have won an Olympic medal yet, but Manavjit Singh Sandhu has mastered the art of beating Olympic champions. The former World champion was in irrepressible form, as he beat two-time Olympic champion Michael Diamond to win the trap gold in the World Cup in Tucson, US.

This was Manavjit’s second gold medal in a World Cup, following his triumph in 2010. Quite noticeably, the 37-year-old shooter, a DSP with Punjab Police, had not made a World Cup final in the intervening years.

“I have been shooting well for some time, and it all fell in place. It was an amazing experience and I am very happy,” said Manavjit following his triumph in Tucson.

“I am confident of peaking at the right time. This gold is a good indication that my technique is fine, for I have been experimenting a lot over the years. Without trying, I could not have gained control over my shooting,” said Manavjit, who opted to return to his training base in Italy from America to continue with his preparations for the hectic season ahead.

He was pleased to beat the five-time World champion, Michael Diamond, 13-9 in the final, particularly after the Australian, who had won the Olympic gold in Atlanta and Sydney, had shot a perfect 15 in the semi-finals.

“Diamond is a great champion. In the final, I was ready for the challenge. He missed four in a row early. It was a very good opportunity for me, and I was prepared not to give it away,” said Manavjit, who missed only two birds as against six by Diamond in the gold medal match.

With the modern rules and a testing format — in which the top six shooters start on zero in the knock-out phase after five rounds of qualification — in place, there are too many hurdles that can trip even the best of champions.

Manavjit was quite smart in clearing the hurdles after having qualified in third place with a score of 121 out of 125. In the semi-finals, he was tied on 14 with the Athens Games champion Alexey Alipov of Russia and Aaron Heading of Britain. He beat both in tie-shoot to earn the right to challenge Diamond for the gold.

“I have been shooting well. It is probably a natural progression to get such a good result,” said Manavjit.

Manavjit has done very well over the years in the World Championships, wherein he became a champion in 2006, apart from winning the gold in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. He knows that it will be important for him and Indian shooting to deliver good results in all the three meets.

“I am definitely shooting in the right number of competitions. It is important to build the technique now so that one is ready for the latter half of the year,” said Manavjit.

This is one reason why he has decided to stay put in Italy and train with coach Marcello Dradi rather than spend time with his three-year-old son Ameir back home in Delhi. He knows his responsibility and is prepared to sacrifice his family life this season.

Manavjit, a six-time Asian champion and the Doha Asian Games silver medallist, does not get excited about the results. He has been working diligently and sharpening his shooting skills, while the results only give him a hint that he is on the right track.

“The main target is always the Olympics. It is a good feeling to be on the right track,” said Manavjit, who has competed in three Olympics (Beijing, Athens and Atlanta).

The big scores have eluded him at the Olympics. He had shot identical 116s in his first two Olympics and improved to 119 in London where he was placed 16th.

“You have to shoot good scores. There is no other way to win, no matter what the format and rules are. I have settled down, and have been shooting 120-plus scores consistently. Now I am able to control my shooting,” said Manavjit, who, in a rare experience, missed a medal at the last National Championship in Delhi.

Manavjit Sandhu’s gold medal, close on the heels of pistol shooter Heena Sidhu’s silver in the Fort Benning World Cup in the early part of the season, comes as a sparkling reassurance to the sports lovers of the country that the shooters will continue to strike it rich at the international level.