Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil, after what transpired during the 10m air rifle event at the ISSF World Cup in Bhopal on Friday, is certainly going to appear in Yu Haonan’s nightmares for quite some time now.
Haonan, Rio 2019 ISSF WC gold medallist, had held on to the third spot from the close of the first series in the ranking round of the 10m AR individual event, never losing his place to any shooter in the field.
Until, of course, Rudrankksh, the reigning world champion, rediscovered his mojo to eventually claim the bronze medal.
The Thane lad had got off to a horrid start, registering a 9.9 and 10.1 in the very first series. Collective “ooh”s and “aah”s rang across the stands as the audience, these days, isn’t accustomed to seeing Rudrankksh shoot a low-10, let alone a nine-pointer. Last October, Rudrankksh’s worst score in the entirety of the gold medal match at the World Championships was a 10.3! Even in the mixed team event at the MP State Shooting Academy on Thursday, 10 of his 12 shots in the bronze medal match accounted for 10.5-plus points. There were no nines.
The two poor hits saw him accumulate only 51.5 points at the end of the first set of five shots; he was seventh on the standings then. Hriday Hazarika, the other finalist from India, shot 52.1 and moved two places clear of the danger zone.
After the second series, Rudrankksh was still seventh and struggling. But there was good news. He had scored 0.9 more than the last series. The third series saw him fetch 52.3 to move up the table. He was now, fifth, one place below his compatriot.
After 20 shots, Rudrankksh had jumped to the fourth spot with an epic series worth 53.5 that included two 10.8s, one 10.7 and two 10.6s. Olympians Istvan Peni and Jiri Privratsky, seventh and eighth, were eliminated.
Hazarika and another Olympic athlete in Naoya Okada were the next to exit. Although India lost a personnel, loud cheers rent the air for Rudrankksh had just slipped past Haonan. The cries of “India, India” clearly got into the head of the 23-year-old China shooter during the last series as he ended up shooting a 9.5. Patil had just managed to beat him by 0.3 points. A Chinese one-two saw Sheng Lihao beat Du Linshu 17-13 in the gold medal match.
“There was a lot of pressure, yes, initially. But gradually, I was getting used to the situation. Still, I could feel my heart rate increase and hands shake. I was sure my heart would pop out any moment now (laughs). I was tired after yesterday’s matches. There was less time for recovery,” Rudrankksh says.
Earlier, Rudrankksh scored a solid 631.0 to qualify for the final. To put matters into perspective, the qualification cut-off in the 10m air rifle discipline in Tokyo’s Summer Games was 629.2, in Rio 2016 it was 625.5. Even Hazarika’s qualification score had read 630.4.
In the women’s event, Ramita was the only Indian to make the final, having qualified with a fabulous score of 632.3. Although she put up a terrific fight, she lost the battle for bronze to Kazakhstan’s Alexandra Le by 0.7 points. Huang Yuting, winner of three medals at the 2022 Worlds, took home the gold, while Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Mary Carolynn Tucker won silver.
Results: Medallists in 10m air rifle – (Men) Gold: Sheng Lihao (CHN), Silver: Du Linshu (CHN), Bronze: Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil (IND); (Women) Gold: Huang Yuting (CHN), Silver: Mary Carolynn Tucker (USA), Bronze: Alexandra Le (KAZ)
Medal tally: 1. CHN: 5 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze; 2. IND: 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze; 3. AZE, GER, HUN and USA: 1 Silver