India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.
August 25, 2002: Anjali Bhagwat crowned champion of champions
In an unprecedented yet historic moment for Indian shooting, Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat won the ‘Champion of Champions’ title - a mixed competition for leading male and female rifle shooters in the 2002 Munich World Cup final. Anjali's feat was no flash in the pan given that she was ranked world number one for three months that year by the world body, a unique feat for any Indian in any sport.
It was a fitting climax to a season of heart-warming performances when Anjali had cornered two silver medals from three World Cup appearances.
Sportstar Archives: Anjali's unique feat
In the women's event, with the champions of the four World Cups apart from the reigning world champion in the fray, not to forget the two-time world champion Sonja Pfeilschiefter, Anjali was not exactly a favourite for a medal. The fact that she beat two world record-holders and a host of world class shooters in finishing second behind Russian Lioubov Galkina was indeed a fabulous effort.
It was a display of her mental toughness that the then 32-year-old CISF Inspector from Mumbai was able to retain her composure after the euphoria of the four gold medals at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and the ensuing celebrations at home.
The Champions Trophy competition is restricted to the medal winners in the World Cup final.
There were World and Olympic champions in both the men's and women's section. There were nine in all, four men and five women, vying for the top honour and a prize purse of 2500 Euros.
There was Jie Li of China, the men's air rifle winner. There was Matthew Emmons of the US, the men's 3-position gold medallist. There was Olympic champion Rajmond Debevec of Slovenia. And there was the seasoned Artem Khadjibekov of Russia, among the men.
On the women's side there were three Chinese apart from Galkina and Anjali.
The competition was based on an elimination basis. After the first four shots, the shooter with the lowest total score was eliminated. It was a Chinese woman who got eliminated first, and the men, who were under tremendous pressure because of the big crowd, got eliminated one after the other.
In the combined air rifle event, the field was left with Galkina, Jing Gao and Anjali, when it was the Russian's turn to bow out. That left Anjali and Gao. The scores were brought to nought, and the two were given three shots each to prove their worth for the big prize. Gao shot 10.4, 10.1 and 9.5 while Anjali shot 10.5, 9.5 and 10.6.
It was as good a finish as the Indian had come up with and Anjali got a standing ovation from the gathering.
Anjali represented India in three consecutive Olympics, and was a finalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a first for any Indian women shooter and also the first Indian athlete to make an Olympic final since P.T. Usha in 1984. She won 12 gold and 4 silver medals in the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Shooting Championships. She collected 31 gold, 23 silver, 7 bronze medals and set 13 new records in international competitions through her illustrious career.
(Compilation based on articles published in the The Hindu and Sportstar )
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