Saurabh Chaudhary's Tokyo shot story ends in anticlimax

Some of India's most celebrated Olympic stories are those of individuals bouncing back. Saurabh Chaudhary is just 19 and has it in him to reload for 2024 Paris.

India's Saurabh Chaudhary reacts during the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event, at the Summer Olympics 2020, in Tokyo.   -  PTI

Saurabh Chaudhary, 19, headed to Tokyo Olympics as a strong medal prospect in the individual and mixed team events of 10m air pistol, but it was not to be. He finished seventh in both events.

Win or lose, the country's best pistol shooter — like many in the sport — is not given to extreme displays of emotion at the range. The poker face stayed intact at Asaka.

READ: Saurabh Chaudhary finishes 7th

"Range mein target hai, pistol hai, hum hain, goli hai, aur kya alag hai? (There is a target in the range and we are there with pistols and bullets. What's different?)" he told reporters on Tuesday when asked about his first Olympics experience.

The mixed team event had ended and his matter-of-fact reply gave nothing away on whatever feelings raged inside. Even the Youth Olympics had a similar athletes' village, he said, talking about Buenos Aires 2018, where he won a gold medal.

So, what really transpired in the shooting hall for the talented marksman who keeps things simple by sticking to the basics?

In the individual event on Saturday, although Chaudhary started off with a low 95 in the first series, he picked up pace, and at a point between series three and five, went on to shoot an astounding 23 10s on the trot.

Having topped qualification, it only seemed a matter of time before he would clinch a medal. However, Chaudhary ended up shooting four nine-pointers in the first five competition shots ahead of the elimination stage to find himself languishing at the bottom of the table. The next five shots even saw him register an 8.8.

Only a misfire from South Korea's Kim Mose off his second shot in the elimination stage ensured Chaudhary didn't finish at the bottom of the pile. The damage, however, was already done.

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The 28 inner-10s in the first series — the most by any marksman on the field — coupled with a perfect series (100/100) suddenly became inconsequential as the competition moved on for medals.

In the mixed team event, Chaudhary, paired with Manu Bhaker, dropped only four points in the first stage of the qualification round to help India finish ahead of the pack. What's more, the teenager became the first shooter at this edition of the Games to score a perfect 100 in a series twice. Jorge Grau Potrille of Cuba hit triple digits once in the individual event.

Moving on to the second stage, Chaudhary had a decent series of shots: a 96 followed by a 98. Bhaker, on the other hand, faltered to drop 14 points in total and the Indian challenge ended in the event.

Amid the disappointment, fact is Chaudhary is a 14-time gold medallist in International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) events and already a formidable force in the sport.

Some of India's most celebrated Olympic stories are those of individuals bouncing back.

For instance, the country's only individual Olympic gold medallist till date, Abhinav Bindra, finished 11th in Sydney Olympics 2000, seventh in Athens 2004, before taking top honours in Beijing 2008.

Mirabai Chanu, who got a rousing reception on her return to India after winning the silver medal in the 49-kg weightlifting category in Tokyo, had failed to register a lift in the clean and jerk in Rio Olympics.

As a new Olympic cycle begins, with three years to go for Paris 2024, Chaudhary is set to reload. 

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