Shotgun Nationals: Schoolboy Ayush joins Mairaj in the lead

Ayush Rudraraju, a tenth standard student who trains with Olympic gold medallist and national coach Ennio Falco, wound up the day with a perfect round of 25, much to the cheer of the fellow shooters following the fortunes closely.

Ayush Rudraraju and Olympian Mairaj Ahmad Khan who led on 96 afterfour rounds of skeet in the National shotgun championship in Jaipur.   -  Special Arrangement

The juniors continued to make a healthy impact in men’s skeet, as Ayush Rudraraju led on 96 along with Olympian Mairaj Ahmad Khan after four rounds in the 60th National shotgun championship at the JDA Range here on Tuesday.

The tenth standard student of Oakridge International School in Hyderabad, who trains with Olympic gold medallist and national coach Ennio Falco, Ayush wound up the day with a perfect round of 25, much to the cheer of the fellow shooters following the fortunes closely.

Incidentally, Ayush, who has competed as a junior internationally only once last year in Suhl, Germany, had started the competition with a perfect round of 25, before slipping to two successive rounds of 23.

On the other hand, the experienced Mairaj, with a World Cup silver medal against his name apart from a fine performance in the Rio Games, shot consistent rounds of 24, for his 96. Sheeraz Sheikh who had shot a third round of 25, missed two in the last round of the day for a total of 95. Former Asian champion Man Singh, along with Baba PS Bedi and the young Mohd. Hamza Sheikh, was on 94.

Some of the leading shooters like the defending champion in the junior section Arjun Singh Mann, Amrinder Singh Cheema, former men’s national champion Parampal Singh Guron were following the pack a point or two away.

Defending champion in the men’s event, the young Anantjeet Singh Naruka, was not at his best as he garnered a total of 88, slipping miserably with a third round of 20. Another youngster who had followed Anantjeet to capture the men’s silver in the last edition at the same venue, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, was relatively better placed with a total fo 91.

The strongly built Ayush, with an admirable intensity of concentration, led the junior pack and was followed by Mohd. Hamza Sheikh (94), Indereshwar Singh Sekhon (93), Arjun Singh Mann (93), Subhash Chintalapati (91), Sukhbir Singh Harika (90), Divyaraj Singh (89), Anantjeet Singh Naruka (88) and Hakikat Singh Grewal (88).

A lot can change during the fifth and last round, before the knock-out phase in both the men’s and junior sections. In the last edition, Man Singh had ended with the bronze after having topped the qualification with 123 out of 125. Mairaj, who had secured the Olympic quota by then, had gone without a medal after qualifying with 122, as the juniors called the shots in the knock-out phase.

As the president of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Raninder Singh had observed on the eve of the skeet competition this time, there could be a healthy bunch of juniors fighting the professionals in the knock-out phase.

Some of the juniors practising skeet have been taking the initiative to train with Ennio Falco in Italy at their own cost and that has given them the edge to graduate quicker into the big league, as compared to the juniors practising trap and double trap in the country.

It should be a vibrant competition on the morrow when everyone jostles to make the top-six for the knock-out phase, which is a totally different ball game with everyone starting on zero, leaving the qualification scores behind for the record books.