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If the start is anything to go by, then a long season awaits Indian shooters as they embark on the journey to seal quota places for next year’s Rio Olympics. In the season’s first rifle/pistol World Cup that got underway in Changwon, South Korea, Indian marksmen, led by Beijing Games gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, came a cropper and failed to qualify for the final after recording dismal scores in the qualifying round.
Gagan Narang was India’s best-placed shooter at 44 in the 10m air rifle category on Friday with a total of 619.9 in the elimination round.
Bindra was placed 46 having garnered 619.8 points, whereas Sanjeev Rajput was 50th after amassing 619.2 points. The slots for the final, where the top-eight shooters qualify, closed at 626.
Three Rio spots were up for grabs on Friday, which India failed to take advantage of. Veteran shooter Peter Sidi of Hungary, who won the gold medal, secured the Olympic place. The Indian shooters could have booked their Rio berths had they finished in the top five, considering that the silver and bronze medallists — world No. 1 Yang Haoran and Zhu Qinan — had already booked their quota places.
Instead, the quotas went to Korea’s Kim Sang Do, who finished fourth with 164.7 points in the final, and fifth-placed Nicolas Schallenberger of Germany with 143.4 points.
Long pre-season stint
Bindra, who likes to call himself a ‘hobby’ shooter, is the national champion in 10m air rifle, having won the title at the National Championships last December. He has had a long pre-season training in Germany but this was his first major competition of the year.
Narang too has endured a tough last few months and has struggled to find form. There were fears the Indian shooters might show some rustiness in the beginning but the poor scores they recorded have come as a surprise.
“Disappointing day in Korea. Head back home and restart the process. Such is life,” Bindra tweeted about his performance. Three medal events are scheduled for Saturday, which will also offer quota places. Jitu Rai finished fifth in 50m pistol elimination series with a score of 567 whereas Prakash Nanjappa was placed 10th. Om Prakash too will be in contention for India.
Medals will also be on offer in the women’s 10m air rifle event, which will see Glasgow CWG gold and silver medallists Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul in action. Veteran shooter Anjali Bhagwat too will be hoping to spring a surprise. In the women’s 25m pistol finals, hopes will be pinned on Rahi Sarnobat, Anisa Sayyed and Annu Raj Singh.