Shooter Gagan Narang provided the spark to India’s Olympic campaign by clinching the bronze medal in the men’s 10 m air rifle event while his compatriot Abhinav Bindra surprisingly failed to qualify for the finals at the Royal Artillery Barracks here today.
Giving the country its first medal in the current Olympics,29-year-old Gagan Narang lived upto expectations to claim the bronze,the third shooting medal in India’s Olympic history,but his overall performance was below his personal best.
While Gagan Narang managed to be consistent enough to win the medal in his third Olympic appearance,Beijing Games gold medallist Bindra,who was also touted as a serious medal contender,finished a disappointing 16th in the qualification round.
But the day clearly belonged to Gagan Narang who shot 598 in the qualification and held his nerve in the tense tie-breaker to claim the bronze medal in a virtual neck-and-neck contest. Gagan Narang had a total score of 701.1.
Spurred on by the vociferous support of a sizeable Indian supporters and officials at the venue,Gagan Narang was done in by two poor scores of 9.7 (second round) and 9.5 (eighth round),which ultimately pegged him down to the third position.
Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania bagged the coveted gold medal with a total of 702.1 while Italy’s Niccolo Campriani took the silver with a score of 701.5.
Gagan Narang,who had taken part in the Athens and Beijing Games,and missed final berths by a whisker,was understandably relieved to have fulfilled his dream of winning an Olympic medal.
“It is like a huge stone is off my chest. I had not managed to qualify for the finals in the last two Olympics and that was really painful,But now I am happy to have finally won an Olympic medal,” Gagan Narang told reporters here.
Gagan Narang,who won four gold medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi followed by two silver in the Guangzhou Asian Games a month later,said he was not really satisfied with his performance and should have returned with a better score.
“I am not really happy. My coach is also not happy with the score. Scoring 600 is always challenging,but I made a few technical mistakes at certain points. But then an Olympic medal is an Olympic medal,” he said.
Asked whether the celebrations back home would serve as a distraction for him in the two other events,he said “I don’t know what is happening back home. I am trying to stay focused for my two other events.
“It (his effort) has been vindicated. In Beijing,I missed going to the finals due to a technicality.”
“I think only a little credit goes out to me but my parents and sponsors have put in a lot of hard work which paid off.”
On how he coped up with the pressure,Gagan Narang said,”Pressure was immense. I shot two nines today. I could have done better. But I am happy with my medal. It means a lot to a lot of people who have worked for this.”
Gagan Narang finished third in the qualifications with 598 and started the finals well by shooting 10.7 in the first round.
He then had a poor shot of 9.7 in the second round,though he made amends by reeling off scores of 10.7 10.4 and 10.6 in the subsequent rounds.
With pressure mounting on him to be consistent,Gagan Narang produced a 10.7 in the very last round to ensure that he remained in the medal bracket.