An impish smile firmly in place, a beaming Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar was nothing like what he had seemed a few minutes before – a picture of concentration, blocking out everything in the world except himself, his rifle and the target 10m away. Having won bronze in his maiden Asian Games outing, the 22-year old with two medals on a day was clearly enjoying the spotlight.
That spotlight had been firmly on the men and women with the guns to kickstart India’s medal run at the Asian Games here much before it actually began. And while the girls duly opened the medal tally with a silver in the 10m air rifle team, the boys went a step further, not just getting India’s maiden gold in this edition of the Games but doing it in style, with a new World Record to boot. That the record they broke had been held by host China made it sweeter as the Indian national anthem played for the first time here on Monday.
“It feels really good. The team gold is extra special because it came here and we actually did not expect it to be one. You can see how vocally the crowds here cheer for their athletes, which is understandable but it makes the win even more special. Now that we have done it as a team, we will try to do it individually also next time,” Tomar said after winning his individual bronze to go with the gold.
For someone who openly professes his preference for the 50m 3-Position as a favourite event, to outgun favourites Rudrankksh Patil and Divyansh Panwar was a happy moment. That the medal came after a shoot-off with Patil not so much, though. “I was initially trailing a bit, then I took lead and then I shot a 10.1 to equal scores with Rudrankksh to get into a shoot-off. That shot was difficult because there were a lot of things going on in my mind. The good thing was at least a medal was assured for India.
“The only thing I thought was ‘wo jeete ya mai, medal to India ka hai. But mai jeetun to thoda better hai (whether he wins or I, the medal will be for the country. But it will be better if I win),” he laughed. “On the lane, there is no friend, everyone is a competitor. But outside the range we have a very healthy competition. But honestly, there was no pressure, only focus on staying calm and getting my shot out,” he added.
Patil, who had been favourite to win, admitted he was disappointed “not with the result or going out in the shoot-off but with the first 15 shots that put me in the shoot-off in the first place. If I had done better, I would not have been in that position at all. I shot well in the shoot-off but not up to it, it’s something I will learn a lot from going forward,” he admitted.
A student of national coach Suma Shirur at the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy in Bhopal, Tomar is now focussed on doing well at the Olympics, in the long term. In the short, he is aiming to add to his medal tally here in the 3P event, with a change of colour. “The advantage of participating in two events is that if you don’t do well in one, you always have the other to look up to. And if you do well, there is double confidence moving ahead to win more. The good thing is my shooting, including during the qualifications, has been very consistent. The target is always the Olympics but we try to keep winning and doing well in everything in between, like these events, keeping our sights firmly on the Olympics,” Tomar, who is yet to earn a quota in either event, said.
In the 25m rapid fire pistol, however, the Indian trio of Vijayveer Sidhu, Anish Bhanwala and Adarsh Singh had to settle only for a bronze in the team event, tying with Indonesia on 1718 points but getting on the podium by virtue of 45x to Indonesia’s 37x (closest to the middle). China took gold with a World record total of 1765 points, followed by South Korea with 1734 points. The 22-year old Sidhu, the only Indian to reach the final in the individual category, finished 4th as China completed a 1-2. Kazakhstan’s Nikita Chiryukin finished 3rd.
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