Jitu strikes gold at ISSF World Cup

Rai, who had been nursing an abdominal injury, beat China’s former World and Olympic Champion Pang Wei by 4.8 points for the gold

A 2014 file photo of Jitu Rai during the 10m air pistol final match at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.   -  PTI

World Championship silver medallist Jitu Rai announced his return to the competition circuit by winning the men’s 50-metre free pistol gold in the shooting World Cup in Bangkok on Friday.

The 28-year-old, who had qualified in the third place behind two Chinese with a score of 562, beat one of them, Pang Wei, by 4.8 points for the gold, as he tallied 191.3 in the 20-shot final.

It was the second World Cup gold for Jitu who had won the air pistol gold in Maribor in 2014. It was also the fifth World Cup medal for the army marksman, who had won the Asian Games gold in the same event in Incheon.

Jitu was behind Giuseppe Giordano of Italy and Tomoyuki Matsuda of Japan in the first half of the final and shot ahead into the lead after 12 shots, and kept marching ahead of the pack.

Jitu had missed the SAF Games in Guwahati apart from other national and international events recently owing to an abdominal surgery. Jitu’s golden return would calm the nerves of the Indian shooting fraternity which has high hopes on him for the Rio Olympics.

The other Indian shooter in the fray, Prakash Nanjappa who has also won an Olympic quota place, shot 549 and finished 17th in a field of 44 shooters.

The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has allowed only the Olympic-qualified shooters to compete in the World Cup, as against the earlier policy of fielding the best in various events and helping them tune themselves for major international events like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championship and the Olympics.

Thus, none of the Indian shooters were fielded in the women’s 25-metre sports pistol event in which Zhang Jingjing of China beat Park Hyun Joo of Korea for the gold, after qualification topper Gundegmaa Otryad (588) of Mongolia settled for the bronze ahead of Chia Chen Tien of Chinese Taipei.

Results:

Men: 50m free pistol: 1. Jitu Rai 191.3 (562); 2. Pang Wei (Chn) 186.5 (564);
3. Wang Zhiwei (Chn) 165.8 (563); 17. Prakash Nanjappa 549.

Women: 25m sports pistol: 1. Zhang Jingjing (Chn) 8 (19) 580; 2. Park Hyun Joo (Kor) 4 (16) 584;
3. Gundegmaa Otryad (Mgl) 8 (15) 588; 4. Chia Chen tien (Tpe) 2 (12) 583.