The Nelson – 111 – is said to bring bad luck in sport. To break the hex, David Shepherd used to hop when a batting side reached that score, and Aussie-rules football radio commentator Rex Hunt sends airwaves into an exaggerated frenzy when 111 points get scored.
Paused at 111 after his qualifying round, shooter Kynan Chenai Darius must’ve wondered whether he was poised for take-off or heartburn.
As it turned out, he broke the jinx as India’s young trap shooter grabbed gold, as his one-bird lead of 111-110 over Malta’s Burgia Ryan proved decisive.
The two boys went neck-and-neck in the final, blasting 17 birds each, but Kynan’s cushion helped the 17-year-old Hyderabadi pip his rival 128-127 at the Balewadi range on Tuesday. Bizarrely, the scoreboard froze when the one-two from the pack were locked at 123-all, but needing to make good his last three shots, Kynan held his nerves in a manner that would have made his mentor — veteran shooter Mansher Singh — proud.
Kynan, who is doing his A Levels at boarding school in Ooty, had taken up the sport half a decade ago, guided zealously by his father Chenai Darius. But it wasn’t until earlier this year when he won the Indian colts event, that he saw the tide turn from his earlier run of ordinary scores, making him one of India’s fastest-improving trap shooters. “There’ve been ups and downs in my juniors career. But all the hard work was worth it,” he said, kissing his medal.
Training alongside Mansher Singh and Manavjit Sandhu in Italy before the Beijing Olympics, Kynan took rapid strides, having benefitted from his stint under Marcello Dradi, whose association with Indian trap and skeet marksmen yielded some fine results.
He finished sixth amongst seniors this year, and was all diligence in Italy, but Kynan also made many friends here with his easy affability. As Aussie McNabb said going into the final, “He’s a nice guy, I wouldn’t be sad if he won gold.”
What would get the boy to really whoop with joy is Mansher’s measured approval. “It’s the first big international medal for Kynan. More than the score, I’m happy he could win a high-pressure final. When you win at an early age, you know you belong,” said the four-time Olympian. “He should start training more scientifically now, but all without changing his natural ability.”
The veracity of Admiral Nelson’s queer ‘one eye, one arm’ legend is still debated, but Kynan Darius sure took his 111 the whole distance today, and much will be said in coming days of this boy’s innate hand-eye coordination.