Last five shots upend Narang

Competing in his second event, the 50-metre rifle prone, the 33-year-old Gagan Narang was cruising into the final, but only till the 55th shot of the 60-shot series. Gagan missed the final by 1.7 points.

Gagan Narang... adding to the list of disappointments.   -  PTI

The best of shooters continued to struggle to break the jinx of no medals for India in the Rio Olympics. And Gagan Narang has not proved an exception, so far.

Competing in his second event, the 50-metre rifle prone, the 33-year-old Gagan was cruising into the final, but only till the 55th shot of the 60-shot series.

A 9.5-point shot shook him and the next four shots did not help the situation, as Gagan slipped to the 13th place in a field of 47 shooters, with a total of 623.1. The 102.4 in the sixth series was the lowest . He had shot 104.7, 104.4, 104.6, 103.0, 104.0 till then.

Gagan missed the final by 1.7 points. Coach Stanislas Lapidus who had guided him to the World Championship medal and the Olympic medal in London in air rifle, pointed out that Gagan had been placed in the seventh place till the 56th shot.

‘’The last five shots threw me out of the final. I gave it my best. I tried hard and gave it all I had,’’ said Gagan, grappling to cope with the anti-climax.

The versatile Gagan still has another event, the rifle 3-position, on the last day of the shooting competition on Sunday.

But, it was prone in which Gagan had won the Olympic quota. Owing to health reasons there was a phase when he was unable to be at his best in the air rifle and the 3-position events. He was out of the Indian team as well. As someone who has won many medals in the Commonwealth Games over the years, Gagan had ‘’strategically’’ opted to qualify for the Olympics in the prone event as it does not put pressure on his body.

He had spent long hours getting the barrel-matching ammunition and was prepared to fight it out in the final against some of the very best in the world, who had the best of weapons and ammunition.

‘’I had to get the right barrel and ammunition. You can’t run the race with your hands tied’’, recalled Gagan, about the efforts that went into getting the right material for the battle.

‘’I wanted to shoot a good score and make the final. I was not seeing the scoreboard, but the pressure was immense’’, conceded Gagan.

"Maybe it was the wind. It was not steady. I have to go back and run it in my mind. But, I have another event to go. Fingers crossed. It is about getting it all right, in one day’’, said Gagan, as he looked ahead with all the positive energy he could muster.

With some of the finest shooters like Abhinav Bindra, Jitu Rai, Manavjit Sandhu and Heena Sidhu slipping out of the race in different ways, the experienced Gagan, competing in his fourth Olympics on the trot, had looked the saviour for Indian shooting.

But hope springs eternal. This too will pass, and things may look up soon for India in terms of winning medals.

Along with Narang, Chain Singh also failed to qualify in the same event. Chain never seemed to be in the reckoning after losing the plot in his second and fourth series, which fetched him scores of 101 and 102.4.

His subsequent efforts at salvaging the situation could not save him from a free-fall on the leaderboard. Singh shot a series of 104.1, 101.0, 104.4, 102.4, 103.9, 103.8 to finish 36th with 619.6.

In skeet, Mairaj Ahmad Khan shot rounds of 24, 25 and 23 to be in the 10th place with a score of 72 in a field of 32 shooters.

Marcus Svensson of Sweden led with a perfect 75 after three rounds. Two more rounds will be shot on Saturday, and the top six will make the final.

In rapid fire pistol, Gurpreet Singh shot 289 at the halfway stage, to be in the tenth place, with the leader Christian Reitz of Germany on 296. He had rounds of 100 and 99 in the 8-second and 6-second series, but 90 in the 4-second series.

In an event in which Vijay Kumar won the silver medal in the London Olympics, Gurpreet — who had shot the air pistol earlier — could make it lively on the morrow, in the second stage from which the top six will make the knock-out.