National C'ship: Manavjit beats NRAI president for gold

Former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu defeated the president of the National Rifle Association of India, Raninder Singh, 14-13 in the gold contest.

The trap medallists from left, Raninder Singh (silver), championManavjit Singh Sandhu and Kynan Chenai, get the medals presented bydefending champion Darius Chenai.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

He has won the national championship numerous times, but this was special for former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, as he beat the president of the National Rifle Association of India, Raninder Singh, 14-13 in the gold contest. After the disappointment of missing the trap final in the Olympics and the subsequent criticism that he had not been at his best in four Olympics, the six-time Asian champion Manavjit Sandhu put things together to focus on the simple task of shooting good.

Of course, as the coach Marcello Dradi pointed out, only Zorawar Singh Sandhu shot 121, while the next best was 118, which did not speak highly of the performance of the country’s best shooters, competing in a strong field of 184.

However, there was no dearth of competition, especially from Raninder Singh who managed to defend his silver medal won in the last edition at the same venue.

‘’No chance’’, said Manavjit, when teased whether he did not want to concede the title, which may not mean much to him. Manavjit was all praise for Raninder, who got past Prithviraj Tondaiman 2-1 in the shoot-off to make the knock-out phase after being tied on 116 for the last berth.

Manavjit, in fact, was so competitive that he was able to catch the referee M. Padmanabhan, that he did not get the right sequence when he missed the seventh bird in the gold match. After the repeat of a series of birds to get the sequence and score board right, Manavjit shot 10 birds on the trot, before missing the 11th. Raninder had missed the eighth and 12th, which virtually gave the gold to Manavjit even as both finished strong.

For someone who rarely gets to shoot and train, Raninder really made a statement with his gun, as he went after each target with intensity, even though he was relaxed overall.

The young Olympian Kynan Chenai earned the distinction of being presented the bronze medal by his father, the defending champion, Darius Chenai, who had shot 109 and lost the race.

‘’I win the gold once in eight years. That is good for me’’, said Darius, recalling his two national championship gold medals won in 2008 and 2015.

Interestingly, there was not much change in the members on the podium, as Manavjit had won the bronze last time, and Kynan replaced his dad, as Raninder remained remarkably stable at the silver spot.

‘’It is tough after the Olympics, and you need to pace yourself’’, said the experienced Manavjit who has won two World Cup gold medals.

Zoravar Singh Sandhu and Birendeep Sodhi who had done the best in qualification, failed to progress to the medal rounds, and both lost the shoot-off for the bronze medal match, on being tied on 10 with Kynan and Adhiraj.

‘’In the final, you should at least shoot 12’’, said Marcello Dradi, quite concerned about the low scores.

In the junior section, Lakshay Sheoran, a 12th standard student of Indus Public School in Jind, Haryana, did his coach Paramjeet Singh Sodhi proud by winning the gold for the second time in the space of three years, as he beat Manavaditya Singh Rathore, in the shoot-off after the two tied on 13 in the gold match.

Manavaditya missed the bird and Lakshay punched the air in celebration after nailing his target. Akash Saharan who missed the gold match by one point clinched the bronze by outclassing Vibhu Sharma 13-9.