Jakarta: Sixteen-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary created history on Tuesday to become the first and youngest Indian to win 10m Air Pistol Gold on debut with a Games record of 240.7 points in the Shooting competition at the 18th Asian Games at Palembang. This is Saurabh’s first senior event.
His compatriot Abhishek Verma won the bronze medal with 219.3 points. While Japan’s Tomoyuki Matsuda, who led for most of the final, won silver with a tally of 239.7 points.
Sanjeev Rajput made a record of sorts by registering India’s best-ever finish in the 50m rifle 3 positions event with a silver medal.
He fired 452.7 to finish second behind Zicheng Hui of China, who came out of nowhere to clinch the gold medal with a score of 453.3. Takayuki Matsumoto of Japan bagged the bronze with a score of 441.4.
In the morning of Tuesday, Saurabh earned another distinction of earning the first shooting gold for the country in this edition of the Games and only their eighth shooting gold across all editions of the Asian Games.
Saurabh had won the Asian Championships in the same event in 2017 and also finished fourth at the World Championships that year. Abhishek Verma also made his competitive debut at a major event.
The only Indian to have won a medal in this event earlier was Vijay Kumar who had claimed a bronze in 2010 at Guangzhou (China).
Saurabh and Abhishek had beaten more experienced duo of Jitu Rai and Om Mitharval at the national selection trials to be selected for this prestigious competition and they completely justified their inclusion by winning the medals.
Displaying tremendous self-belief, Saurabh led a very strong field of 40 shooters in the qualification round and made the cut for the final with 586 points two points ahead of former Olympic Champion Jin Jongoh from Korea.
Saurabh had earlier set a world record, scoring 243.7 at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Germany, where he won a gold medal in the same event.
Verma, a qualified lawyer, started hitting the big targets when he needed them most as he fired 10.7 to move to the second position, pushing Saurabh behind, as six contenders were left in the play-offs.
However, a slight loss of concentration( 9.1) in the next shot made him slip to number three, as Saurabh once again, came back to the silver medal position with a 10.6, as four contenders were left
And then luck played a role as Matsuda shot 8.9 on his penultimate shot to slip from the top position. The young Indian scored 10.2 and 10.4 on his last two shots to secure the top position.
Sanjeev, 37, bagged his fourth medal at the Asian Games. He had won a silver and bronze in the 10m air rifle team event in 2010 and 2014 respectively, and a bronze in the 50m rifle 3 positions team event in 2006.
The Indian was on top after the first 10 shots in the kneeling position, but muffed shooting a rare 7.8 in one of his next five shots to slip to the second position. However, he maintained his composure and got the lead back after the next 15 shots in the prone position, taking a healthy three-point lead over his nearest contender – China’s Chang Haoran.
The standing position round was more of a roller coaster, with Haoran and his compatriot Hui Zicheng giving Sanjeev some tough competition. Rajput scored 10.5 on the penultimate shot before the eliminations to lead by 0.3 points right before the last five shots.
With six shooters left, he fumbled and shot an 8.4 to slip to the third position. He then shot a 10.4 to go back to the silver medal position, in the process assuring himself of a medal. Sanjeev had finished seventh in the qualifiers after scoring 1160, while Haoran had finished first with a score of 1174 points.
So far, Indian shooters have won six medals 1 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze – in just three days so far.
(With inputs from UNI)