The Army’s Jitu Rai has etched his name in the history of Indian shooting. Rai has become the first Indian to win two medals at the same World Cup tournament and also the first to win three medals in successive ISSF events. It is a unique sequence of results, one that may prove a hard act to replicate. The junior commissioned officer (JCO) narrowly missed out on winning the 50 metre pistol gold by 0.1 point on Monday, settling for silver.
On Thursday, though, he made sure he went one better by winning the 10-metre air pistol event by a comfortable margin. The 27-year-old shot 200.8 points in the final, a good 2.1 points more than the silver-medallist Pablo Carrera of Spain. Russia’s Anton Gurianov bagged the bronze medal. India’s Prakash Nanjappa, who also made it to the final, finished fifth.
Rai’s first-ever ISSF medal came only last week at the Munich World Cup, where he won the silver in the 10m air pistol competition. He was delighted to finally stand atop the podium.
“I am very happy today. Winning gold is, any day, better than a silver,” Rai told The Indian Express from Maribor, Slovenia. Rai had no inkling that he had achieved a first for Indian shooting — national coach Mohinder lal broke the news to him.
Fours year ago, Rai’s shooting career was in the doldrums. Following a string of bad performances, he was relieved by the Army’s Marksman Unit (AMU) a year after making it to the training facility on finishing fourth in the Young Blood Championships.
“My scores failed to improve so I was asked to return to my unit in Lucknow,” he says. A comback followed.\
“I had to train there but my hard work paid off as I was asked to rejoin the AMU on 19th July, 2012. I have been there since,” he recalls. His self belief only returned on winning his first individual medal — a silver in the 10m air pistol event in 2013. A regular place in the Indian team was a welcome addition. Even as texts flood his inbox, Rai says he will stay grounded.
“I know people will try to build me as a star but I don’t think i will change. It will certainly not affect me,” he says. “Yes there will be expectations, but that comes with good results.”
Shreya, Nivetha on podium
Meanwhile, Shreya Gawande and P Sri Nivetha won gold and silver in the air pistol event at the Meeting of Shooting Hope tournament in Plzen, Czech Republic. Shreya won the gold after shooting a total of 220.5 points to Nivetha’s 198.6. In the junior men’s category, Pershant Jakhar won the bronze medal with a total of 136.5 in the finals, while the trio of Jakhar (572), Sumedh Devlalivala (566) and Vishwajit Singh (564) won the team silver.