Multiple stoppages due to technical difficulties, a weapon malfunction and player protests marred proceedings during the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol final at the Ahmedabad Military and Rifle Training Association range in Khanpur on Friday. However, the interruptions hardly mattered to an in-form Anish Bhanwala, who blazed his way to a maiden National Games gold medal.
The first ranking match saw Ankur Goel (18) and Rajkanwar Singh Sandhu (13) qualify for the medal match. Olympic medallist Vijay Kumar was level on scores with Sandhu at the end of the competition series, which saw the jury trigger a shoot-off (SO) between the two. After the first series of SO ended 4-4, a second tiebreaker saw Vijay complaining about a weapon malfunction. Although Vijay equalled Sandhu’s showing with two hits again, the qualification was awarded to Sandhu as three of Vijay’s points had to be subtracted owing to the earlier pistol glitch.
Meanwhile, Anish drew loud cheers from the crowd as he registered the perfect score – 20 – in the other ranking game. He qualified alongside Gurmeet (15).
The SIUS electronic scoring systems often showed random scores even before a shot had been taken. On one occasion Anish’s name appeared third, setting up a shoot-off with Gurmeet. The error was quickly rectified by the on-field National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) technical officials upon Anish’s request. A while later, the whole scoring screen turned black causing a frenzy among the shooters, spectators and scorers.
In the women’s 10m air rifle, the Karnataka duo of Yukthi Rajendra and Tilottama Sen took an early lead. But home favourite Elavenil Valarivan jumped to the top spot, moments after the second competition series.
This event, too, had its share of technical gaffes after it was announced that Nancy had been eliminated with Shriyanka Sadangi. As she went and sat in the players’ area, a clarification was issued and Arya Rajesh Borse had to depart as an earlier shoot-off score had somehow crept into her total tally.
After Mehuli Ghosh of West Bengal finished third with a score of 261.6, it took 13 shots to decide the gold medal winner. The scores eventually settled 16-10 in favour of Elavenil over Tilottama.
“I was so excited to shoot because it has been so long since I got to shoot in an event of this magnitude. The fact that this was my home ground and I had so many known faces around made it all the better. Tilottama is a very good shooter. I have seen her for the past few months, and she has been shooting at the top level,” Elavenil said after the match.
The men’s round, meanwhile, saw Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil shoot high-10s consistently to maintain a healthy lead from the very first series. Immediately after the first two eliminations, Patil shot a 9.9 but that didn’t hamper his chances. Patil eventually prevailed in a 12-shot gold medal match, beating World No. 13 Arjun Babuta 17-7.
Babuta won immense appreciation for holding his nerve throughout the two-day event. He squeezed into the final after finishing eighth in the qualification and overcame a sloppy start on the final day as well.
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, although 10m air rifle isn’t his ‘pet’ event, won bronze. His final score read 261.8.
“Whenever in a tight spot, I start thinking about what to eat today. Anything to take my mind off. I think today I will be relishing the food being served in the players’ dining hall,” Patil joked after the game.
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