Young and fearless, yes. But, Shapath Bharadwaj is youngest and the best! The 14-year-old Shapath Bharadwaj shot 85 out of 90 after three rounds of double trap to lead by three points ahead of the much accomplished Ankur Mittal and Asian Games gold medallist Ronjan Sodhi in the 60th National shotgun championship at the JDA Range on Friday.
The ninth standard student of St. Mary’s Academy in Meerut Cantonment, Shapath shot a series of 28, 29 and 28 to lead a field of 114 shooters in the men’s section. A glimpse into the strong mindset of the gutsy lad was quickly available, as Shapath missed the first bird in the second round and went on to smash the remaining 29.
Obviously, he was the best in the junior section as well as he led ahead of Priyanshu Pandey (81) and defending champion Ahvar Rizvi (80), in a relatively smaller field of 77 shooters. With two more rounds to go on Saturday before the top six fight in the knock-out phase, a lot of work still needs to be done for Shapath who had shot 139 in the International Grand Prix in Porpetto, Italy, on way to the junior gold in July this year.
Ankur Mittal, who had won the individual bronze in the recent Asian Shotgun championship in Abu Dhabi had an ascending series of 26, 27 and 29, while two-time World Cup Final gold medallist, Ronjan Sodhi had a steady sequence of 26, 27 and 27.
Defending champion Mohd. Asab who had missed the Olympic quota quite agonisingly for the Rio Games, was on 81 along with Priyanshu Pandey. Ahvar Rizvi who had captured everyone’s imagination in the last edition with his exceptional performance at the same venue, started well but slipped in the third round in a series of 28, 27 and 25.
Former national champion Ajay Mittal, the young Shardul Vihan, Sanjay Singh Rathore and Prithvi Singh Chahal were on 79. Interestingly, Yoginder Pal Singh, the guru of Shapath who had tutored him diligently this far, had rounds of 26, 24 and 26 for a total of 76.
It is indeed a matter of pride for the teacher if his ward overtakes him in such a resounding fashion. Sangram Dahiya, another member of the national men’s squad, was below par as he had a descending series of 28, 25 and 23. Sangram, along with Yoginder Pal and Ankur Mittal had won the team silver for India in the Asian shotgun championship.
Bhowneesh Mendiratta, who had won both the men’s and junior silver medals last year was below par with a mixed bag of 25, 27 and 21. It should be a lively contest on the morrow when the big guns try to salvage pride by asserting their experience against the smouldering young guns, spearheaded by the chubby kid, Shapath.
Having missed the Junior World Cup in Gabala, Azerbaijan, this season, Shapath will be a lot keen to consolidate on the strong platform he has built so far. The scores in the qualification phase of the national championship will serve as the basis for keeping the shooters in the reckoning for selection to represent the country next season.
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