Indian shooters continued their impressive run at the ISSF World Cup Final in Putian (China) as Divyansh Singh Panwar and Manu Bhaker won paired events, though with partners from other countries.
Panwar combined with Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia to top the 10m Air Rifle mixed team event, beating Apurvi Chandela and Changnong Zhang of China 16-14.
Manu paired up with world number one Russian Artem Chernousov to win the 10m Air Pistol title by a 17-13 margin over Saurabh Chaudhary and Olympic champion Anna Korakaki.
With the World Cup final featuring only the top two shooters from the four world cups of the year apart from defending champions and the top shooters in world rankings, most countries did not have a second shooter for the mixed team events and ISSF decided to pair shooters from different countries in 10m Air rifle and 10m Air Pistol mixed team events.
“Since Indian rifle shooters have competed earlier in mixed team events, most of them now know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Anjum and Divyansh had competed earlier and Apurvi and Deepak (Kumar) have competed together as a team. The fact that the draw for the mixed teams took place on the day of the event make it more challenging. Even though no medal were awarded, it was for the ISSF president trophy,” said Deepali Deshpande, the rifle coach of the Indian senior team.
Prior to the World Cup final, Panwar and Anjum Moudgill had won 10m Air Rifle title at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing in April. Two months later, at the Munich World Cup, they won their second mixed team world title beating Kumar and Apurvi in the new format where the top eight teams in qualification compete in elimination 2 with the result deciding the top two teams for the final and the bronze medal match. In Brazil last month, Chandela and Kumar won the title with Panwar and Anjum getting the bronze.
On Friday, Apurvi and Zhang finished fifth with a score of 627.9 in qualification while Panwar and Pejcic were seventh with a combined score of 627.7. But the two pairs topped the elimination relay 2 to make it to the final round.
In the decider, the teams pocket two points for winning every two-shot series and the ones to reach a total of 16 first emerge victorious. Panwar/Pejcic were trailing 0-6 at one time but made it 14-14 before taking the last series with a combined score of 21.2 (Pjejic 10.8 and Panwar 10.4) compared to Chandela/Zhang’s 20.8 (Apurvi 10.7 and Zhang 10.1).
In the final, Panwar was the only shooter who did not shoot below 10.0 even once and shot a score more than Pjeijic 10 times out of the 15 series to help the pair script a comeback. Chandela, who had shot 9.6 in the first series, which the pair won, too was in good form as she too did not a score below 10.0 in the remaining 14 series but Zhang’s four scores below 10.0, coupled with Sjejic and Panwar’s brilliance in the end, cost them the victory.
“Even though Divyansh and Apurvi were shooting with different partners, they showed a lot of composure and Apurvi did not let Zhang’s scores in some series bother her. Divyansh takes his time in the final and it helps him to shoot more 10s. It has worked for him and the team,” said Deshpande.
In the 10m Air pistol mixed team event, three Indians including – Bhaker, Chaudhary and Shahzar Rizvi – were in the top three teams. Rizvi paired up with Zorana Arunovic of Serbia to win the bronze medal.
This year, Bhaker and Chaudhary won the 10m Air pistol title in all four ISSF World Cups and coach Jaspal Rana counts Putian also as a good outing.
“The shooters have to make minor adjustments regarding the timings in qualification. Manu takes the usual time of 45-50 seconds per shot in individual competition and it helps her in mixed team event also. Same is the case with Saurabh. Manu was bit shaky earlier in the final but this format allows one to recover and she made a strong comeback,” said Rana. “The good thing is that both of them have won all the four world cups and reached the final here with partners from different countries. They had competed with different partners from other countries in Youth Olympics too. With only two world cups prior to the 2020 Olympics now, such experiences is vital for our shooters.”