Heena Sidhu wins shooting gold to secure Rio Olympics berth

Sidhu topped the qualification round with a score of 387 before she shot 199.4 in the final to finish with gold medal at the Dr. Karni Singh Range.

Heena Sidhu is the ninth shooter to win an Olympic quota for the country so far.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

World record holder and Asian champion Heena Sidhu clinched the Olympic quota in style with an authoritative performance in women’s air pistol in the Asia Olympic qualifying competition at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tughalakabad, on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Heena topped the qualification with an impressive score of 387 out of 400, and had little difficulty in proving her class in the final in which only four shooters were eligible to fight for the two quota places on offer. The final featured three Chinese Taipei and one Korean shooter who were ineligible to win any quota as both the countries had already reached the two quota limit.

Indeed, it was a relief for Heena who had come close to clinching the quota earlier in the World Championship, the World Cup in Korea, apart from the Asian Championship in which the Olympic qualification status was revoked by the IOC.

‘’I expected to win this quota. I would have been ashamed had I missed it here’’, said Heena, easily one of the best in the world.

For husband and coach Ronak Pandit, it was an emotional relief, and he conceded with moist eyes that he was not good at handling the pressure, as efficiently as Heena.

It may be recalled that Heena had been given a replacement quota for the London Games, by surrendering a rifle quota, and was expected to win an early quota for Rio, following her world class achievements which included a World Cup Final gold with a world record, when she beat the then reigning World Champion with a huge margin.

The young Yashaswini Deswal and the Asian Games medallist Shweta Singh shot 378 each and missed the final by two points. They were pretty close to having a fling at the quota.

Elsewhere, the inexperience of the rifle prone shooters stood out, while the women’s trap shooters tried hard and missed making the final narrowly, against stiff competition.

Shreyasi Singh was the best of the lot, and had to go through a shoot-off after being tied on 69 with three others for the last two places in the final. She missed the first bird, after having shot 24, 22 and 23 in the qualification phase.

Olympian Shagun Chowdhary could not recover from a bad start and shot a series of 21, 23 and 23 while Rajeshwari Kumari fumbled in the third round as she had a series of 24, 23 and 21. With the leader Yukie Nakayama of Japan, who had already won an Olympic quota, leading on 71 and three others on 70, it was indeed a bright fight for the lone quota place in the event.

Two Chinese, Li Qingnian and Chen Fang tied with Yukie Nakayama after the semifinals, and that ensured the Chinese the Olympic quota.

In men’s trap, former world champion Manavjit Sandhu was in a precarious position following rounds of 23 and 22, while Prithviraj Tondaiman (49) and Kynan Chenai (47) had a better fare. Three more rounds and the knock-out phase will be shot on Thursday, and one can expect six-time Asian champion Manavjit, who has competed in the last three Olympics, to roar like a lion and get back into the reckoning for one of the four quota places.

In men’s 25-metre rapid fire pistol, Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar struggled a bit with the 4-second series and logged a score of 285, at the half way stage, that put him in the seventh place. Neeraj Kumar (279) and Harpreet Singh (278) were relatively badly placed, but could script a different tale in the second phase on Thursday.

The results:

Men:

50m rifle prone: 1. Kim Jonghyun (Kor) 206.3 (625.1); 2. Attapon Vea Aree (Tha) 206.1 (623.4); 3. Kim Hyeonjun (Kor) 185.2 (624.4); 14. Swapnil Kusale 617.2; 17. Sushil Ghalay 616.6; 24. Surendra Sinh Rathod 615.9. MQS: Chain Singh 622.9; Sanjeev Rajput 618.3.

Women:

10m air pistol: 1. Heena Sidhu 199.4 (387); 2. Chie Chen Tien (Tpe) 198.1 (382); 3.Gim Yun Mi (Kor) 177.9 (381); 11. Yashaswini Deswal 378; 12. Shweta Singh 378. MQS: P Shri Nivetha 378; Malaika Goel 377.

Trap: 1. Yukie Nakayama (Jpn) 12(2) 13(2) 71; 2. Li Qingnian (Chn) 12(1) 13(1,3) 70; 3. Chen Fang (Chn) 13 (13(1,2) 69(1); 4.Sarah Alhawal (ISP) 11 (12) 69(1); 8. Shreyasi Singh 69(0); 12. Rajeshwari Kumari 68; 14. Shagun Chowdhary 67. MQS: Snehlata Singh Rajawat 63; Seema Tomar 63.