At 22, Om Prakash Mitharval was competing in only his third World Cup, but ended up being the only Indian to qualify for the final in the 10m air pistol at Munich on Friday. His score of 582 – which was the highest score he’s shot in World Cup qualifiers – was good enough to place him sixth in the leaderboard (he had finished joint third with three more competitors but only had 16 inner 10s compared to eventual third placer Qi Feng Pu of China). At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast this year, he’d shot a 584 to top the qualifiers and went on to win bronze behind gold medal winning compatriot Jitu Rai.
The last time Mitharval had reached a World Cup final was in his maiden World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico in March, where he eventually finished fourth. In Munich though, he made a bad start in the finals, crossing the 10-point mark just once in his opening series and even shot a low 8.6. He did manage to avoid being the first to be eliminated though. Korean veteran and multiple Olympic gold medallist Jin Jong Oh had made an equally bad start but could not pull up in the elimination round. Heading into the second elimination, Mitharval was leading Rio Olympic bronze medallist Song Guk Kim of North Korea by 0.3 points. Mitharval extended the margin by scoring 9.9 in his first shot compared to Kim’s 9.1. The Indian needed a shot of at least a 9.8 to avoid elimination, but managed a weak 8.8.
History was created however, in the finals as Ukrainian veteran Oleh Omelchuk scored a 243.6 in the final to set a world record. The previous mark belonged to Shahzar Rizvi.
Jitu slow off the blocks
Jitu Rai is struggling a tad in reaching that psychological mark of 580 at World cups. On Friday, the armyman’s best efforts of 98 – 97 – 96 – 96 were bookended by identical letdowns of 95, with 5 nines each in Series 1 & 6 as he finished 28th. The 31-year-old has crossed 580 just once in a World Cup competition since Rio. This lone instance was at Munich last year – though his 582 was not enough to earn the finals spot, with 16 air pistol shooters crossing 580. Ironically, he’s qualified four times out of nine (see graph) with scores in 570s – all of which have been lesser competitions, where a lower score suffices to nudge into the final.
Earlier in the year at Changwon WC, Korea, 16 shooters went past 580, with Bulgarian Samuil Donkov topping at 586. At Munich, though 10 marksmen crossed 580, Russian Artem Chernousov was in singeing form – shooting with three series of 99, and a 100 for his 590. While he picked gold at CWG (with a modest qualifying score of 570 & a games record of 235.1), it was evident that the competition wasn’t exactly steaming. By sheer standings from Munich, Jitu will be in the Top 8 among Asians. However, he’s in for stiff competition from Shahzar Rizvi and OP Mitharval in ensuring selection for the Asiad.
Precision problem for Sarnobat
The 27-year-old finished 30th in the qualifying stage of the 25m pistol event, the highest among the three Indians competing. Despite not making it to the finals, she did put up a strong score in the rapid fire stage of the competition, shooting a strong 295 out of 300. Only three in the entire field of 95 shooters could better that score. Her tally also included a perfect 100 series, making her one of only 12 in the field of 95 to notch that score.
What pulled her back though, was her score in the precision stage of the competition, as she notched a weak 282, taking her aggregate to 577 – the cut off for the finals was 582 (with 21 inner tens) scored by Russian Svetlana Medvedeva. An inconsistent precision showing followed by a strong rapid fire session has been the recurring theme of her career. Since she won gold at the Changwon World Cup in 2013, she has failed to make it to the finals of any World Cup. That is until she returned to the South Korea event last month.
With the rapid fire stage her clear forte, she topped the qualifiers in Changwon with a total of 588, breaking the national record. In that, she scored a remarkable 297 in the rapid fire section, and later finished fourth in the finals. Her performance in the qualifiers followed the same trend in Munich, as she fell in the rankings during the precision stage but excelled in rapid fire. The latter though wasn’t enough to pull the 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist through.