ISSF World Cup: Indian shooters hit big, miss small

Saurabh Chaudhary was the hero of the Indian shooting team as he provided a fitting climax for the host by powering the mixed air pistol team to gold.

Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary after winning the mixed team gold at ISSF World Cup.   -  ISSF Photo

Saurabh Chaudhary was the hero of the Indian shooting team as he provided a fitting climax for the host by powering the mixed air pistol team to gold, with another teenage sensation, Manu Bhaker, in the shooting World Cup that concluded on Wednesday.

It was the second gold for Saurabh who had earlier won the air pistol gold with a world record and bagged the much sought Olympic quota for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

It was the lone Olympic quota for the host, but it had to be conceded that India was eligible to win only 12 of the 14 Olympic quotas on offer, as Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela had won the maximum possible two women’s air rifle quota places in the World Championship last year in Korea.

The race for Anjum and Apurvi is to retain the Olympic quota places, in the face of stiff competition on the domestic front from talented youngsters like Elavenil Valarivan and Mehuli Ghosh.

Read: Saurabh Chaudhary lone Indian to secure Olympic quota place

It was perhaps this healthy competition that has pushed Apurvi to her maiden gold in a World Cup, with a world record. She stands to get merit points for Olympic selection for the world record as well as the gold, apart from the Olympic quota. It could help her stay ahead of the pack, and compete in her second Olympics.

Coach Deepali Deshpande was equally happy with the excellent shooting of Anjum in air rifle, even though she is known more for her expertise in the 50-metre rifle (3-position) event in which she has a world record qualification score against her name.

The focus of the Indian shooters will be to get more Olympic quota places in the forthcoming World Cups not just in rifle and pistol, but also shotgun.

Saurabh was expected to win the Olympic quota, as he had shown his class in winning the Asian Games gold last year, apart from the World Championship junior gold and the Youth Olympics gold.

Manu was indeed special, but had to grapple with the pressure, as each individual handles it in a different way. She made the 25-metre sports pistol final in a spectacular fashion with 590 out of 600, but was dejected to finish fifth. She missed the air pistol final by one point, when she struggled to reach 573, taking many 9s and 8s along the way.

The gold in mixed event should do a world of good to her confidence. She had won the World Cup women’s gold last year itself, and thus has the calibre to win the Olympic quota in the forthcoming World Cups in Beijing, Munich and Rio de Janeiro.

India won three of the 10 gold medals to finish on top, on par with Hungary, which has the former coach of the Indian team, Laszlo Szucsak in its team.

China, of course, was a class act, it not only won 10 medals including six silver, but picked up a lion’s share of five Olympic quota places out of 14. That should be a sobering thought for India, to stay focused on its task.