Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker’s fourth mixed team gold medal of the year in the 10m air pistol took India to the top of the table at the ISSF World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. They defeated compatriots Abhishek Verma and Yashaswini Deswal 16-15 in the final after being 7-15 down at one stage.
India thus topped the tally with nine medals — five gold, two silver and as many bronze — with the other five gold medals on offer won by five different countries.
Chaudhary and Bhaker had topped the qualification relay 2 with a combined score of 394 in two series with both shooting 197 each, including 100 each in the second series. Verma and Deswal finished in second spot in relay 2 with a combined score of 386 with Verma shooting 194 and Deswal shooting 192 to make the final an all-India affair.
“Both of them have played as a team in all the World Cups this year and this also helps. Saurabh and Manu both shooting 100 in the last series of qualification relay 2 gave them confidence ahead of the final. A final is all about shooting as a pair and making sure that one does not shoot too low a score which makes it difficult for the other shooter. Saurabh and Manu complemented each other,” Jaspal Rana, Indian team’s pistol coach, said.
Saurabh had been practising for the team format going into the World Cup. “Before Rio, we practised for a series of 40-50 shots and he shot more than 20 shots equalling 10.8. The only challenge in this format is less time for preparation and we saw that in Saurabh’s initial shots, where he struggled for two shots as one needs to adjust to the range lighting and sighting,” added his coach Amit Sheoran.
Challenge of changing formats
While the mixed team events were introduced by the world body in 2017, last year saw ISSF introducing elimination formats in them for both pistol and rifle events. A country was allowed to enter a maximum of two mixed teams and the new regulation requires each team member to shoot 40 shots in 50 minutes with the top five teams advancing to the final.
But in the same year, ISSF changed the format again citing crowded fields and introduced the eight-team elimination round 2, where the top eight teams after a six-series qualification competed in quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, a format which saw the pair of Divyansh Panwar and Anjum Moudgil winning the mixed team title at the Beijing World Cup in April.
After that, ISSF again changed the format of mixed team events for the Munich World Cup where two-member teams shot a total of 60 shots in qualification relay 1 with the top eight teams in qualification 2 again shooting 40 shots to decide the top two teams for the gold medal match and the third and fourth-placed teams for the bronze medal match.
Deepak Kumar, a World Cup medallist in the event, believes the format poses different challenges.
“It creates some pressure for shooters, who take their time. We have seen that with some of the European shooters and even Divyansh, who normally shoots much better in individual competition and had won the mixed team gold in Munich, took some time here. So it needs time to make your mind understand and prepare for this format,” he said.
“Technically, I believe the earlier format where the female shooter shot first made things more complicated as the second shooter would sometimes shoot his shot early, which resulted in a penalty. But in this new format, it’s mostly about your shooting. The series scores depend on the combined scores.”
Apart from the changed format in the relay 2, the shooters also get preparation time of only three minutes as compared to eight in individual events.
It meant less time for sighting and rifle adjustment ahead of the final.
Indian team coach Manoj Kumar worked out a way to deal with this issue.
“We worked on reducing the body vibration in sighting and rifle setting process. The key was to keep the knee and the legs a bit tight so that the muscles don’t relax during the final. As the preparation time is less, shooters need to settle in the final as quickly as they can, which is not the case sometimes in individual events. Before Rio, when Deepak trained for individual events, we told him to practise for 30 shots or more and targeting and visualising for only a score of 10.5 or more on all the 30 shots,” said Manoj.
India at Pistol & Rifle world cups this year
Delhi World Cup: (3 gold) India topped the medal tally along with Hungary with three gold medals each
Beijing World Cup: (3 gold) India topped the medal tally with three gold medals and one silver medal followed by China with two gold, two silver and one bronze medal
Munich World Cup: (5 gold) India topped the medal tally with five gold medals and one silver medal followed by China with two gold medal, two silver and five bronze
Rio World Cup: (5 gold) India topped the medal tally with five gold medals, two silver and two bronze medal followed by China with one gold, two silver and four medal.
Medal tally in world cups this year: 16 gold medals, four silver and two bronze medals.