Ace pistol shooter Jitu Rai on Tuesday staged a remarkable comeback to clinch the bronze medal in the 10m air pistol event for India’s third podium finish in the ongoing ISSF World Cup in New Delhi.
The 29-year-old Rai shot at total of 216.7 in the eight-men final to finish third on the podium. However, Chain Singh could not swell the host country’s tally after finishing seventh in the final of men’s 50 rifle
prone. Singh shot 141.9.
The Asian Games and World Championship silver medallist was languishing at seventh position after the end of the first competition series that included an 8.8, but clawed his way back with two 10.6 and a 10 in the second competition series.
At the end of that series, Rai was placed sixth with a total of 98.7 at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.
He managed to maintain the status quo even as the final entered the elimination stage. He shot two 10s in the following shots to continue his gradual ascent.
The army man roared back into contention with a couple of 10.6 and ensured a bronze with a 9.9, finishing ahead of China’s Zhanyi Xu (197.9). With a lead of 0.1 point over Vietnam’s Xuang Vinh Hoang, Rai was in the hunt for a silver but an 8.6 meant he had to be contend with the bronze.
“I was down in the beginning, it went very badly. I had doubts if I would be able to win. But I had made up my mind to give my best and fight till the end and I fought till the end. One by one I climbed up the ladder,” Rai said after his win.
He said the few bad shots initially, in a way, had a positive impact on him as they helped “ease the pressure”.
“I don’t think much about the scoreboard as they can affect my mind. I was only focused on the job at hand, what I need to do. I was not thinking about qualifying for the final. After I had two-three bad shots, the pressure had eased too. Like you get to learn from your mistakes, I also learnt from my initial mistakes. The pressure just eased after that and it was good for me,” he said.
“This is my third international medal after the Olympics. Won a silver medal in the World Cup final and was crowned the champion of champions. Had a gold in another World Cup prior to that.”
Having shot his way back into contention today after a poor start, Rai said he had a similar experience in a World Cup in Changwon, Korea.
“I had a similar experience in Korea. I played very well and hit 10 shots continuously to rise from last position. I am not scared of last position but I don’t give up till the end.”
The gold went to Japan’s Tomoyuki Matsuda with a world record total of 240.1 points, while Vietnam’s Xuan Vinh Hoang claimed silver with 236.6 points.
The other Indian shooters in the fray in the air pistol event — Omkar Singh and Amanpret Singh — failed to cross the qualification stage finishing 14th and 19th, respectively.
In the day’s other medal event, Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang could not clear the qualification hurdle, finishing 15th.
Rai was sixth in the pistol qualification stage with 577. In 50m rifle prone, Japan’s Toshikazu Yamashita won gold with a world record 249.8, China’s Yukun Liu bagged silver with 249.3, a junior world record, while the bronze went to Daniel Romanczyk of Poland with 226.6.
Pooja Ghatkar had won India its first medal on the opening day of the competition while Ankur Mittal bagged the double trap silver on Monday.
The duo of Rai and Heena Sidhu had triumphed in the mixed team pistol event but it is not recognised by the ISSF as it is a test event.