This was Ankur Mittal’s moment. After years of toil and anonymity, this was when he’d finally announce himself on the big stage. A World Cup silver medal in double trap, in a field that comprised the Rio Olympics silver and bronze medallists apart from other world heavyweights, was no mean feat. But even before the smoke that curled out of his barrel disappeared in the air, Mittal was already forced to rethink about his future – like most other double trap shooters who competed in the World Cup here on Monday.
Exactly a week ago, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) recommended to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that double trap, along with two other events, be dropped from the Tokyo Games programme. It has affected hundreds of shooters who specialise in double trap. They will now be forced to shift to trap or skeet, the two other shotgun events.
“It’s (the change to trap) inevitable,” the 24-year-old muttered in a resigned tone. “You spend a lifetime learning one form of shooting and suddenly, you unlearn it all and chase another event.” You can sense the frustration at the ranges. Mittal (74 points) lost the gold medal in an intense battle with Australia’s James Willett (75). It had every bit of drama that the double trap shooters proudly described while making a pitch for their event to stay in the Olympics.
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It began with Mittal’s entry in the final. He’d shot mediocre all day, which was frustrating to watch for many who’d expected him to do well at his home range. “He knows the conditions here so well — the wind and other elements — that he can shoot the targets down even blindfolded,” a coach said before the Mittal’s qualifying round.
Instead, the Haryana-based shooter could bring down only 24 out of the 30 targets in the first series. Only three others in the field of 20 had shot worse. He gradually raised his game, improving with every series, before shooting each of the 30 birds in the final one. Mittal was the only shooter to get a full score in the final series and from being nowhere in contention, he stormed into the final in fourth place at the expense of Rio Olympics silver medallist Marco Innocenti of Italy.
He carried on in the same vein in the final, where he stumbled upon Willett and Britain’s James Dedman. The trio was inseparable, smashing the pink discs mercilessly and staying level after 50 shots with 47 points each. It was a three-way tie for gold as the rest, including India’s Sangram Dahiya who exited at sixth place, fell away.
These were the three fresh faces of double trap who would’ve possibly led their country’s challenge at the Tokyo Olympics. Mittal was refreshingly aggressive and brave, undaunted by the pressure of playing in front of the home crowd. Until the penultimate series, when he finally flinched.
“That was the reason I missed those three shots,” he acknowledged. “But I am happy with the way I shot, especially after the way I began.” Mittal won’t immediately switch to trap. There’s still this year’s World Championships and the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year where he’ll compete in double trap. That’s the plan for most other shooters as well, who will reluctantly change their event post 2018 CWG. “There’s no other option left with us, is there? It’s pretty disappointing,” Willett said.
There’s been worldwide outrage following the decision to scrap double trap from the Olympics. Willett says there were efforts from Australia to persuade the ISSF. Italy, it is learnt, voted against the changes while London Olympics double trap gold medallist Peter Wilson wrote to the ISSF, calling their decision “morally wrong.”
Willett, 21, comes from Mulwala in New South Wales. At his family farm, he has constructed a double trap range for around $80,000 (approx Rs 50 lakh). “I don’t know what will happen to that range. For the time being, I’ll still practise double trap for the CWG and World Championships. But after that, maybe I’ll modify it for trap events. It’ll only get costlier,” he said.
Dedman, too, is considering a switch from double trap to trap, which the shooters say will require a complete technique change. In trap, 15 machines fixed at specific angles fling discs using a computer-controlled programme. In a random sequence, 10 left, 10 right and 5 straight targets are set for the shooters. Double trap is less complicated and requires just three stations, from where two targets are thrown simultaneously but from different angles.
“It’s tough (to change from double trap to trap). Just the mental side of it. You’re coming from the bottom again. You built up the rank in double trap and you start all over again,” Willett said. It’s something Mittal would relate to. He’s been toiling to make a mark in double trap for the last six years. And when he finally did, his event itself is battling for survival.
Power cut at finals range
The organisers of the World Cup were left red-faced when power supply at the finals hall went off for almost one hour during the mixed gender final of the 10m air pistol. The power failure occurred just three minutes before the final was scheduled to begin. Shooters waited patiently, sipping coffee, watching TV shows on their mobile phones or taking a nap. The reason for the outage was a short-circuit, according to an NRAI official. The supply returned an hour later.
In the final, the Indian pair of Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai won the gold, although it won’t be counted in the overall tally since this was just a demonstration event. Tejaswini Sawant, meanwhile, finished seventh in women’s 50m rifle 3 positions event with a score of 402.4 in the final.