Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Putting behind last two days disappointments, Indian shooters led by teenager Manu Bhaker hit back strongly to win three of the four gold medals up for grabs on the penultimate day of the World Cup Final (WCF) Rifle/Pistol in Putian, China on Thursday.
Never before had India won three gold medals in the annual ISSF showpiece.
Manu Bhaker along with Elavenil Valarivan and Divyansh Singh Panwar came up with superlative performances to enable India finish the day at the top of the medals tally with hosts China forced to play catch-up with two gold medals to their name.
It started early in the day, Manu Bhaker won her first WCF gold in 10m Air Pistol. Elavenil then followed it up with a scintillating pillar to post victory in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle before 17-year old Divyansh Singh Panwar, chalked out a thrilling 0.1 point victory in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle.
Manu had a tight qualification round and was behind at the start of the finals as well. She took the lead after the 11thshot of the 24-shot final and then kept getting stronger to finish a massive 2.8 points ahead of silver winning Serbian and two-time former world champion Zorana Arunovic.
Manu’s score in the final was 244.7. Reigning Asian Games champion Wang Qian of China won bronze. The second Indian in the field, Yashaswini Deswal, also reached the final to finish a creditable sixth in her first WCF.
Next Elavenil Valarivan, returned a solid 631.1 in qualification to finish second overall comfortably.
In the final, she took the lead from the first 5-shot series and despite a 9.4 on her 23rdshot which gave Chinese Taipei’s Lin Ying-Shin a sniff of a chance, closed out with a 10.4 to win by 0.1. She shot 250.8 on the day to Lin’s 250.7.
Here too, a second Indian on her maiden WCF outing, Mehuli Ghosh, reached the final but finished sixth. Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil, the third and fourth Indians who made the cut for this event, could not progress beyond the qualification rounds.
Then it was the turn of Divyansh Singh Panwar and he recorded a narrowest possible 0.1-point victory in his 10m Air Rifle final over Hungarian star Istvan Peni, but his was a more closely contested final than Elavenil’s.
Divyansh was placed third after the first two 5-shot series and only took the lead after the 12thshot. After that he had an exhilarating battle with Peni with the lead changing hands at least a couple of times.
Going into the 24thand final shot, the difference between the two was 0.5 with Divyansh ahead. Peni shot a 10.5 but Divyansh’s 10.1 was enough to give him gold.
There was also the 10m Air Pistol final on the day and here too both Indians in the field, Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary reached the finals. Abhishek in-fact topped qualifying with a 588. They however finished fifth and sixth respectively with China’s Pang Wei winning gold.