The men’s Air Rifle final evoked maximum interest with the gallery filled with young shooters and their parents and Indian Air Force’s Ravi Kumar gave them plenty to cheer with a stellar performance to win the title for the first time. The-26-year-old has won all-rounder performance awards in the previous nationals, but on an eventful Friday, he dashed the hopes of his own Air Force colleague, Deepak Kumar.

Kumar led from start to finish with an aggregate score of 206.5. Eight contenders advanced to the title round, having made the qualification cut with scores in the 621.8-626.2 range and with Deepak Kumar leading the tally in the 60-shot qualification round.

Olympian Sanjeev Rajput, who had qualified with a score of 623.3, was absent in the final and was given a score of zero. "All we heard was that he had left the city. He was not present at the range in the morning and at the time of the finalists’ introduction. There is a complaint against him for alleged sexual abuse. Probably he did not want an unpleasant scene at the range with the presence of the woman who has filed a case (at the Chanakyapuri Police Station, New Delhi) at the venue. He had qualified and hence his name is there in the final score sheet. He finished eighth and he cannot go lower than that,’’ said an organising committee official.

Based out of the Air Force station in Hindon, Ghaziabad, Ravi Kumar is not a tyro. He won the bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games two years ago, but a severe damage to his left shoulder after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow kept him out of last year’s nationals in New Delhi. "Good comeback" was the buzz word at the range as many of his Air Force colleagues and other shooters congratulated him.

Ravi Kumar began with a 10.7 effort on target and hit another 10.7 in the 16th single shot series. Deepak Kumar was the only one to get nearer to the bull’s eye with a score of 10.8 in the single-shot ninth series led by 124.2-124.1. Ravi Kumar maintained his consistent form and took the lead at the conclusion of the 14th series. It was a close affair, though, with Deepak Kumar running up good scores.

"I am very happy. I was laid low by a shoulder injury in the last one and half years. So it’s a nice comeback to win the gold medal in the air rifle for the first time. I had to take a long period of rest before I started preparation for four-five months. I took part in the North Zone shooting championship in New Delhi in October and won the air rifle title," said Ravi Kumar, whose aim now is to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Result (final): 10m Air Rifle (Men): 1. Ravi Kumar (Air Force) 206.5 (625.8) ; 2. Deepak Kumar (Air Force) 205.8 (626.2); 3. Dharmendra Singh (Army) 184.0 (622.6); 4. Akhil Sheoran (Uttar Pradesh) 161.2 (621.8); 5.Chain Singh (Army) 141.5 (622.3); 6. Hriday Hazarika (Assam) 120.0 (622.9); 7; Shivraj Sawant (Maharashtra) 97.6 (624.2); 8. Sanjeev Rajput (Haryana) 0 (623.3).

Result (final): 10m Air Rifle (Men-Team): 1. Air Force (Ravi Kumar, Deepak Kumar, Satyam Chauhan) 1870.9 ; 2. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) (Chain Singh, Satyendra Singh, Imran Hasan Khan) 1861.8; 3. Uttar Pradesh (Akhil Sheoran,Perveen Kumar, Amit Rana) 1860.3.