Shot in the arm
Palembang, August 21
Saurabh Chaudhary, all of 16, became the youngest Indian shooter to win an Asian Games gold medal as he trumped a field comprising multiple world and Olympics champions in the 10m air pistol finals here today.Another Indian making his international debut, 29-year-old Abhishek Verma, secured the bronze in the same event.The seasoned Sanjeev Rajput then won the silver in the 50m rifle 3 positions. The 37-year-old looked set for the gold before having a modest standing series in the finals. It is the first individual medal for the former Navy man at the Asian Games, having won team medals in the previous three editions.Rajput had a huge three-point lead after the kneeling and prone series. He had an average end to the finals but bounced back just in the nick of time to clinch silver. It was still a good result for the Yamunanagar shooter, who had also won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.With a rape case going on against him, he happens to be jobless, having been sacked as assistant coach from the Sports Authority of India last year. “I hope to get a job now. Let’s see. I shot an 8.4 in the end. That cost me the gold. The competition, the weather (hot) and wind conditions were very tough,” said Rajput, who shot 452.7The gold and bronze went to China’s Hui Zicheng and Japan’s Takayuki Matsumoto, who scored 453.3 and 441.4, respectively.
However, the day belonged to Chaudhary, son of a farmer based in Kalina village in Meerut district. Competing in his first senior event, Chaudhary showed maturity and calmness well beyond his age to snatch the lead from 2010 world champion Tomoyuki Matsuda with the penultimate attempt of the 24-shot final. The 42-year-old Matsuda from Japan misfired on the 23rd shot to settle for silver with an overall score of 239.7.Chaudhary aggregated 240.7 to become the fifth Indian shooter to win an Asiad gold. Chaudhary also set a Games record. His last two shots were 10.2 and 10.4, giving him the decisive lead. Matsuda’s last two shots were an 8.9 and 10.3.In the qualification, Chaudhary had pipped legendary Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh, a four-time Olympics and three-time world champion.Expectations were high from Chaudhary as he had broken the world record on his way to winning the gold in the Junior World Cup a couple of months ago. But not many thought that he would win an Asiad gold, emulating Jaspal Rana, Randhir Singh, Jitu Rai and Ronjan Sodhi, at such a young age. “I did not feel any pressure. It doesn’t help,” said Chaudhary, who picked up the sport three years ago.Chaudhary, a student of Class XI, will be off to the World Championships after the Games. He learned the tricks of the trade at Amit Sheoran’s academy at Benoli near Baghpat, 53km from Meerut. “I like farming. We don’t get much time off from training but whenever I do, I go back to my village and help my father,” said Chaudhary.Bronze medallist Verma also picked up the sport three years ago. The 29-year-old lawyer-cum-shooter didn’t begin well but saved his best for the last to win bronze. In the fifth series, he shot a couple of 10.7s to get himself into medal contention. He consolidated from there, producing a solid finish.Meanwhile, in the mixed trap event, Shreyasi Singh and Lakshay finished sixth in the final.