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Friday, April 16, 2021

ISSF World Cup: Yashaswini Deswal pips Manu Bhaker to make it 1-2 for India

Yashaswini Deswal shot 238.8 to comfortably finish on top of the podium in the eight-women final while Manu Bhaker managed 236.7 to settle for the silver medal.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi |
Updated: March 21, 2021 8:07:21 am
Yashaswini Deswal is now a Tokyo Olympics quota holder. (ISSF)

After finding answers to every question thrown at her at the firing point, Yashaswini Deswal, one of India’s 15 Tokyo Olympics quota winners, drew a blank when asked a seemingly straightforward query. “How did online shooting competitions help you?”

Last month, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) suspended Deswal and 21 others for taking part in an ‘unauthorised’ online tournament. After the decision came under criticism from within the fraternity, the suspension was revoked and Deswal returned to the team.

On Saturday, she struck gold.

The 23-year-old won the country’s first gold medal of the World Cup as India’s young shooters, especially in 10m pistol events, showed why they are rated so highly and considered favourites to medal at the Olympics.

Deswal, who topped the 22-shooter 10m air pistol qualification field with a total of 579, comfortably won the final by scoring 238.8 points. It was a low-scoring final – so much so that the lowest score recorded was a dreadful 1.5 by Mexico’s Alejandra Zavala Vazquez – but Deswal and her compatriot Manu Bhaker tried to make a match of it.

Bhaker, after being second in qualification, eventually ended with a silver medal with 236.7 points to give India a gold-silver finish in the event.

The reliability of pistol shooters, who were competing internationally after 16 months, was apparent in the men’s event as well where Saurabh Chaudhary (587 points) and Abhishek Verma (583) occupied the top two spots in the qualification and won a silver and bronze in the final respectively. The gold went to Iran’s Javad Foroughi, who edged out Chaudhary by 0.4 points.

Chaudhary, in fact, had clawed his way to the top from the second last position with just one shot remaining in the final and had a narrow lead of 0.3 points over Foroughi. But an uncharacteristically poor final shot of 9.8, coupled with the Iranian’s superb 10.5, ended his chances of winning the gold.

In the 10m air rifle finals, world number 1 Divyansh Panwar clinched a bronze, while his teammate Arjun Babuta finished fifth. In the women’s event, Anjum Moudgil – the lone Indian in the final – finished fifth as well.

After four finals on the second day of competition, India are second on the medals table with one gold, one silver and two bronze medals. The USA is on top with three medals but one more gold medal than India.

Two Indians COVID-19 positive

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has asked for a report from the NRAI on the alleged bubble breaches during the World Cup.

So far, at least three cases of Covid-19 have been reported at the tournament, including two Indian shooters who were to compete in the 10m air pistol event on Saturday. They were withdrawn from the competition and are isolating at the team hotel. Another international shooter was taken to a hospital after he tested positive on Thursday.

However, there have been reports of some shooters violating the bio-bubble rules. For instance, members of the Hungarian team went sight-seeing around New Delhi after arriving in the city earlier this week.

Rifle shooter Istvan Peni, who won a silver medal in the 10m air rifle event, said the team visited Qutub Minar, India Gate and Humayun’s Tomb but that was only because they were vaccinated and their plans were a couple of days before the event was to begin.

“In Hungary, all the athletes who will be going for the Olympics have been vaccinated. That is why we travelled to all the places,” he said. “However, once the competition began, we have been inside our hotel and have been tested multiple times for Covid-19 and it has been negative.”

There have also been reports of social events, not related to the World Cup, taking place at the hotel where some shooters are put up.

The Sports Authority of India expressed concerns over the situation. “Sports Authority of India has been made aware that during the ongoing Shooting World Cup in Delhi the Standard Operating Procedures are not being adhered to at the Games hotel and also some international players have ventured out to public places in the city, thereby breaching the bio bubble,” SAI said in a statement. “SAI has written to the National Rifle Association of India and asked the federation to submit a report on the same.”

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