Indian shooters made a significant impact at the Asian Games, securing three medals, including a team gold. They showcased their excellence with a total of five podium finishes in just two days of competition in Hangzhou, firmly establishing their prowess in marksmanship.
A confident Indian 10m air rifle team led by teenage world champion Rudrankksh Patil gave the country its first gold medal at the Games, securing the top place on the podium with a world record score on Monday (25).
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar then earned the country an individual bronze — India’s fourth in shooting so far — in the event after a third-place shoot-off with compatriot Rudrankksh, who finished fourth.
The triumvirate of Anish Bhanwala, Vijayveer Sidhu and Adarsh Singh totalled 1718 to win bronze in men’s 25m rapid-fire pistol event. In the individual section, Sidhu settled for the fourth position.
The trio of Rudrankksh, Olympian Divyansh Singh Panwar and Aishwary aggregated 1893.7 in the qualification round to beat back the challenge of the shooting powerhouse China and South Korea on way to the team gold.
In one of the most dominating displays seen by Indian air rifle shooters in multi-discipline events, the 19-year-old Rudrankksh shot a superb 632.5, Tomar 631.6 and Panwar 629.6 to aggregate the world record score as South Korea was pushed to second spot (1890.1), while the Chinese team was a distant third with an aggregate score of 1888.2.
“We (the team) gave our best and won gold. We did not know it initially, but were told that it was world record. We said it must be gold then,” Rudrankksh said later.
“It was not easy but we have beaten China in team event,” Tomar said.
“I am a bit disappointed that I did not win an individual event gold. But I am really happy that I won a team gold. My two team-mates are the best shooters in 10m air rifle.”
India would be slightly disappointed at missing a gold, or a sliver, in the individual category following the red-hot form shown by both Tomar and Rudrankksh in the qualification round.
However, both the Indians could not recreate the magic of the qualification round in the eight-shooter finals with Tomar, after a dogged battle with Rudrankksh, edging out the teenage shooter to win bronze in shoot-off for third place, scoring 228.8.
Tomar was in contention for silver with Park Hajun after that but a rank bad final shot of 9.8 eliminated him, even as the South Korean went on to take the second spot behind China’s Sheng Lihao, who won gold with a world record score of 253.3.
Tomar, however, said he was consistent throughout save for the 9.8 shot.
“I am very happy with my performance. I was very consistent throughout, even in the qualification. This is my first Asian Games and my first medal in these Games.
“Sometimes there will be bad shots and that is part of the game,” he said.
But he admitted that there was pressure during the shoot-off with Rudrankksh for the bronze medal.
“There was lot of pressure during the shoot-off but I could shoot 10.8.”
Tomar also competes in 50m rifle 3P positions, and asked about it, he said, “competing in two events is an advantage. If I don’t do well in one, I can compensate with the other. If I do well in both, that is doubly good.
“My target is always the Olympics. I will try to do well in the events in the run-up to the Olympics so that I can keep my focus ahead of Paris Games.”
Asked how the team beat China, he said, “Shooting is a game of points, we cannot say anything. Sometimes you score higher points more, sometimes you don’t.
“Does not matter whether it is China or not. We all three can win the gold medal. We did not know whether we were in the lead or not (during the competition), we only try to shoot our best.”
Rudrankksh and Tomar had made it to the eight-shooter finals following their superb display in the qualification round, while Divyansh missed out thanks to an Asian Games rule that allows only two marksmen from a country to enter the finals.
Rudrankksh entered the finals placed third, while Aishwary was fifth after the qualification round. Divyansh was placed eighth and, had it been a World Cup or a World Championship, or any other continental shooting competition, all three Indians would have been in the eight-shooter final.
However, Divyansh had to make way for Kazakhsran’s Islam Satpayev, who was placed ninth but still qualified for the finals because of the rule.
Sheng Lihao of China topped the qualification round with a score of 634.5, a qualification Asian Games record, while South Korea’s Park Hajun was second at 632.8.
Rudrankksh, at 632.5 was third entering the finals, while Aishwary was fifth at 631.6 among the qualifiers.
The Indian trio was just unbeatable on way to team gold with Rudrankksh, true to his form, shooting superb series of 104.8, 106.1, 103.8, 105.5 106.7 and 105.6. Aishwary had a series of 104.1, 105.5, 105.3, 105.7, 105.7 and 105.3 in qualification.
Divyansh, who represented the country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, shot a series of 104.8, 104.3, 104.6, 104.7, 106.3 and 104.9.
Rudrankksh said he has learnt a lot after finishing out of the podium.
“This is my first Asian Games and a bit disappointed that I could not win a medal. I gained a lot of experience. If I keep on winning, you will face problems in future. I would not learn anything if I don’t face this kind of situations.
“It’s not that I am absolutely out due to bad performance, it was at least fourth position.”
“There are three major shooting countries in the world, China, India and Russia. These three countries are winning medals in rotation.”
India’s foreign coach Thomas Farnik agreed with Rudrankksh that the Asian Games would be a learning curb for him.
With the kind of scores, the Indians shot, it left other competitors just doing catch-up for the team gold.
Rudrankksh’s father, Balasahab Patil, told PTI following his son’s exploits, “My son was determined to give his best at the Games. He has great confidence in his abilities and before leaving for Hangzhou, Rudrankksh said he would aim to bring the first gold for the country.
“He had ironed out all the minor issues in his shooting before leaving for Hangzhou. He trained extremely hard in these last two months.”
Rudrankksh was not included in the ISSF World Championship-bound squad to Baku by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) as the federation wanted to maximise the country’s chances of bagging more Paris Olympic quota places for the country by sending other marksmen.
Rudrankksh has already clinched an Olympic quota place for the country by virtue of winning the World Championships gold in Cairo last year.
In fact, while the World Championships were on in Baku last month, he shot way better that the gold-medal winner in the Azerbaijan capital in simulated conditions created for him at the Karni Singh Ranges in Delhi.