First there’s the ungainly penguin walk – some stifle a giggle calling it an astronaut’s amble, it’s painful no matter what you call it — as finalists troop into the air rifle shooting range. It’s the lowers and the stiffened jackets that the shooters wear. Then there are the hundred gun-parts, some of which get strewn around even in the tray of the most meticulous of operators on a range. Multiply the complexity of managing that three times over, for each of the kneeling, prone and standing positions in 50m 3P. Elizabeth Susan Koshy, 21, and the youngest of the finalists at the Asia Olympic Qualifying Competition clearly had a lot on her mind on Sunday.
You can practice and rehearse for all of that, and Koshy would well have, though she looked as harried as any other finalist in the 7 min transition time between kneeling and prone and just a touch more hassled during the 9 min changeover between prone and standing. What she was acutely aware of but couldn’t help was how her long(er) neck would force an extra adjustment of the clicks on the sighting-stand, and play havoc with her scores, costing her the Olympic quota.
You can train for these things, but it can all unravel on final’s day and make you kick the floor, even as you file away the nightmare as a lesson learnt.
Moving from prone (shooters down on their bellies and gun close to the ground) to standing has an assortment of things to take care of – putting away the mat, dragging in the stand, zipping up the jacket, hemming tight the sleeves, before you even get down to adjusting the gun. Because of her body-type, Koshy needs more than one click of adjustment to the sight riser to settle into a comfortable shooting stance. A sighting shot can hence drop to 5 before it jumps back to 10. Koshy struggled at this juncture – though she was going in a close-third (306.3) behind Iran’s Mahalagha Jambozorg (306.6) and Korean Kyerim Lee (309).
The standing’s where Koshy, considered a good finalist, was expected to make up and shoot up on the table – it’s traditionally her best, though she had been facing a few troubles lately in transitioning. But after the furious nine minutes (imagine a F-1 pitstop where the driver has to refuel and switch tyres and basically do it all), Koshy’s sighting shots were scattered on far right (three 8s), though a stray 10.6 gave her a false assurance that the sight riser had settled and she was ready to go into the standing face-offs.
However, she’d been far from steady in the preps. On her first shot, she’d hit 9.3 and drop to fourth and disaster would strike in the same series as her third shot was a lung-puncturing 7.9 that drew the gasps.
Three quotas were up for grabs, but Koshy would’ve needed solid luck to bounce back from that 7.9. In its stead, she got an equally dispiriting 8.9. Her next would be a mocking 10.7, a shot that showed cruel hopes of how well she could shoot, but with the others shooting steady 10s and Singaporean Xiang Wei Jasmine hammering a 10.8 to go with her consistent scores, Koshy would fall back. Her last three shots of 9.4, 9.6 and 9.4 were underwhelming, and the standing scores – on a suddenly windy day with the red flags fluttering and the temperatures dropping that makes the click-adjustments all the more crucial – would prove to be her undoing.
“I guess I wasn’t naturally aligned going into the standing. I need to practice transitioning more. There was so much pressure inside me and here even a very slight change in muscles can hurt. I need to settle down somehow in limited time,” she rued, even as India went a second straight day without a quota.
A pity since Elizabeth Susan Koshy is one of the stronger survivors of the marathon-rifle three position event. On Sunday however, it was the transitioning like in triathlons that killed her hopes of heading to Rio.