Shooting Nationals: Jai Singh beats Jitu Rai to gold medal

Unfancied Jai Singh of Army beat the internationally accomplished Olympic quota winners Jitu Rai and Prakash Nanjappa to the gold in 50-metre free pistol in the 59th National Shooting Championship at the Dr. Karni Singh Range here in Tughlakabad, on Thursday.

Jai Singh being congratulated by Jitu Rai (left) and P N Prakash (right) after winning the 50m Free pistol men event in the National Shooting Championship.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Unfancied Jai Singh of Army beat the internationally accomplished Olympic quota winners Jitu Rai and Prakash Nanjappa to the gold in 50-metre free pistol in the 59th National Shooting Championship at the Dr. Karni Singh Range here in Tughlakabad, on Thursday.

After having qualified in the seventh place with a modest 547, Jai Singh handled the final with considerable composure even though Jitu Rai caught up with him and took the lead as well towards the climax.

The gold looked to be slipping away when Jai Singh shot 7.7, yet tied with Jitu, who shot 10.2, before the last two shots. Jitu faltered with shots of 8.5 and 8.6 whereas Jai Singh shot 10.4 and 8.2 to seal the gold, 1.5 points ahead of the Asian Games gold medallist and the World Championship silver medallist.

“I did expect to shoot a good final but not this good to get the gold or beat Jitu”, said Jai Singh, coached by Mohammed Kalamuddin in free pistol.

It was an interesting contest with Hindi songs being played aloud in the background and the sizeable gathering, of a few hundred spectators, cheering lustily right through, even as the shooters tried to focus on the target in fading light on a winter evening.

Omkar Singh, Arun, Amit Pilaniya, Om Prakash and Ravinder placed fourth to eighth in that order, even as they viewed the refurbished electronic targets with suspicion, unable to digest the dramatically fluctuating scores.

“It is good that someone new is winning the gold. I am very happy for Jai Singh. For me, it was a very bad final. I have not had much practice. I never think that I am the best and would win all the time’’, said Jitu, quite a sportsman, who has been grappling with injury and health issues in recent weeks.

In women’s 25-metre sports pistol, World Cup gold medallist Rahi Sarnobat, trained in recent months by Ronak Pandit, showed her class as she beat her perennial rival Anisa Sayyed 7-1 to the gold with a confident fare.

Even though the young Olympian, Rahi, who stayed away from the international circuit to repair her technique, had a below par fare in the duelling session of the qualification phase, she handled both the semi-finals and the eventual gold contest with assurance.

“We had changed her technique. She was a little doubtful about it coming good in competition during the qualification stage. But, I said that forget the medal, just try it. She did and it worked in the final’’, said Ronak, the proud husband of Heena Sidhu, another talented shooter who is also gunning for the Olympic quota place in air pistol.

Olympian Annu Raj Singh, basically a specialist in air pistol, took the bronze ahead of Pushpanjali Rana, while such seasoned shooters like Sushma Singh, Sonia Rai and Anita Devi who have all won the national title, placed fifth to eighth, along with Shreya Gawande, the junior gold medallist.

Results

Men: 50m free pistol: 1. Jai Singh 189.5 (546); 2. Jitu Rai 188.0 (559); 3. Prakash Nanjappa 168.9 (551).

Juniors: 1. Deepak Malik 542; 2. Om Prakash 539; 3. Sumedh Kummar Devlalivala 538.

Women: 25m sports pistol: 1. Rahi Sarnobat 7 (19) 574; 2. Anisa Sayyed 1 (14) 576; 3. Annu Raj Singh 7 (11) 573; 4. Pushpanjali Rana 3 (12) 570.

Juniors: 1. Shreya Gawande 570; 2. Gauri Sheoran 567 (16x); 3. Chinki Yadav 567 (14x).