ISSF World Cup 2019: Abhishek Verma shoots gold, secures Olympic quota

This is India’s fifth 2020 Tokyo Olympic quota after Anjum Moudgil, Apurvi Chandela, Saurabh Choudhary and Divyansh had secured berths in the earlier World Cups and last year’s World Championship.

Abhishek Verma with the men's air pistol gold, flanked by Artem Chernousov (L) and Han Seungwoo of Korea.   -  Special Arrangement

The shooting range in Beijing continues to be a favourite hunting ground for India. At the place where Abhinav Bindra had won the country’s only individual Olympic gold in 2008, the Indian shooters were busy collecting more Olympic quota places for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Close on the heels of the young Divyansh Singh Panwar winning the silver and Olympic quota in men’s air rifle, lawyer Abhishek Verma did better by clinching the men’s air pistol Olympic quota with the gold medal.

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India thus climbed to the top of the medals table with three gold and one silver, ahead of host China which has two gold, two silver and a bronze.

The Asian Games bronze medallist came up with a dominant fare in the air pistol final, as he led from start to finish in winning the gold with a 2.3 points margin over Artem Chernousov of Russia. Abhishek had qualified in the fourth place with the second best score of 585 out of 600, in a highly competitive field of 97 shooters.

It was a big jump from the 24th place in the World Cup in Delhi in February when , the 29-year-old shot 576. He had stepped it up in the Asian Air Gun Championship later with a silver medal, even though a qualification score of 577 was nothing much to crow about.

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Apart from winning the Asian Games bronze medal on debut last year, Abhishek had also made it to the World Championship final with a score of 583, but had finished eighth and missed the Olympic quota then.

Anjum Moudgil, Apurvi Chandela, Saurabh Chaudhary and Divyansh Singh Panwar were the others to win the Olympic quota earlier.

Two other Indian shooters, Shahzar Rizvi (576), who had won a gold and a silver medal in the World Cups last year, and the World junior champion Arjun Singh Cheema (571) were not at their best this day.

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It did not matter, as India could win only two Olympic quota places in the event, which were secured by Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma.

Incidentally, Saurabh was competing in the MQS section, as the national federation had opted to keep him out of the main team in an attempt to help others secure the second Olympic quota in the event. Saurabh shot 580, following a series of 96, 94, 97, 98, 99 and 96.

In women’s 25-metre sports pistol, Manu Bhaker had shot 291 in the precision stage to be in the 14th place, four points behind the leaders Monika Karsch of Germany and Anna Korakaki of Greece, the World and Olympic champion.

Asian Games gold medallist Rahi Sarnobat (288) and Chinki Yadav (284) were not that well placed, but a lot would depend on the performance of the shooters in the rapid-fire section on the morrow. The top eight will qualify for the final.

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Meanwhile, world record holder Anjum Moudgil, competing in the MQS section in the women’s rifle 3-position event, put together a total of 1163, following 394 each in kneeling and prone, apart from 375 in standing.

The three girls in the main team, Gaayathri Nithyanandam (1167), Sunidhi Chauhan (1156) and Kajal Saini (1157), aspiring to win the Olympic quota, came through the elimination round to make the qualification stage.