Neither Apurvi Chandela nor Ravi Kumar have fond memories of the Asian Games. Four years ago, they travelled to Incheon on the back of promising performances at the preceding Commonwealth Games in Glasgow — where Chandela won gold in the women’s 10m air rifle and Kumar finished just short of clinching bronze in the men’s event.
Months later, neither could live up to the expectations at their first Asiad. Kumar managed a bronze in the team event, but in the individual event, he crashed out a dismal 20th. Chandela’s results too weren’t flattering, finishing at the 12th position. On Sunday at the Jakabaring Shooting Range in Palembang, the two put their dismal show at Incheon behind, as they teamed up for the 10m air rifle mixed team event and won bronze — India’s first medal at the 2018 Asian Games.
True to the nature of the team event, they backed each other through intense phases. Like during the qualification stage, Chandela slowed down towards the end, but Kumar maintained the intensity to ensure they shot a decent 835.3 to finish behind only South Korea. In the final, Chandela shot impressive scores even as her partner dropped pace.
“Ravi has been shooting impressive scores in the qualification rounds in individual events in the last six months,” quips Ravi’s coach Manoj Kumar. “This showed in the team qualification too. The last four shots did not go well for them as they gave away a two-point lead. Apurvi shot brilliantly in the final to recover.”
This was the pair’s first medal in the mixed event in four competitions, since competing together at the World Cup in Guadalajara in Mexico earlier this year. At that point in time though,
Ravi had slowly begun to hit his stride, while Chandela too was working hard to overcome a mental block that had affected her game since the debacle at the Rio Games two years ago.
“Even now, motivation is sometimes difficult to find,” says Rakesh Manpat, 25-year-old Chandela’s coach. “Negative thoughts somehow always creep in. And now that she’s at the Asian Games, what happened at Incheon keeps coming back to haunt her. The only difference is that she’s learned to handle the pressure.”
At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Chandela finished with a bronze medal in the individual category, the same as her 28-year-old partner. She followed that up with a commendable fourth-place finish at the Munich World Cup a month later. For this mixed event, the pair had specifically dedicated a decent number of hours for training.
“As compared to the individual event, this is one of the most difficult events for shooters,” Manoj Kumar notes.
“For qualification rounds, a woman shooter is positioned on the left, her partner on the right. They then switch places in the final. In practice, we had sessions with Ravi shooting on the left for the final round as his individual scores were bit high during the last six months.”
The pressure factor, however, is the most crucial aspect during the mixed event. Not only do shooters have to handle their own performance, but they also have to keep a tab on what’s happening in their partner’s lane. On Sunday, they played well in tandem, and winning a bronze medal early in the competition leaves them in a relatively relaxed state of mind ahead of their upcoming individual events.