India’s biggest medal hope Jitu Rai got a wake-up call when he finished eighth in the finals as the much-fancied shooters drew a blank in the pistol events at the Olympics.
The 28-year-old Army man was not in his usual self as he shot 580, a poor score by his standard, to be ranked sixth in qualification round, and he continued to struggle in the final by not being able to hit the inner ring to languish at the bottom of the final list.
Needing 0.7 points to stay afloat, the World Cup Bangkok 2016 gold medalist Jitu shot 10.1 in his seventh shot to lose out by 0.3 points, and finish with an overall 78.7.
“He started badly and could not make up by hitting inner 10s. It’s past now, let’s focus on what’s next,” his Army coach Lalit Sharma told PTI blaming his poor start. Jitu for one did not speak to the media after the event.
The Olympic debutant, who has won at the Asian Games (gold and bronze in Incheon 2014), Commonwealth Games (gold in Glasgow 2014), World Cup (two gold, three silver and one bronze) and World Championships (silver in Granada 2014), will now train his eye on 50m pistol event on August 10.
Jitu is normally unaffected by pressure but a frenzied home crowd cheering for eventual silver medalist Felipe Almeida Wu at the Olympic Shooting Centre may have just affected his concentration.
“The few days break will make him relax. He will be back with a vengeance,” the coach added, without losing hope on Jitu who was seen as someone to replicate the unprecedented gold medal feat of Abhinav Bindra.
Earlier the shooters began their day on an ominous note after the reigning Commonwealth champion and runner-up duo of Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul failed to make the final finishing 34 and 47 in the qualification round.
Apurvi shot 411.6, way below the eighth placed finalist’s 415.9, while Ayonika cheered on by her parents managed 403 in the field of 51.
“She (Ayonika) was done in by the sheer pressure of Olympics, and will take it as an experience for future,” the Mumbai girl’s father Asim Paul told PTI.
Meanwhile, Xuan Vinh Hoang handed Vietnam its first gold medal in Olympic history by defeating the local favourite and world number one in a thrilling finish.
Trailing the Brazilian, Hoang stayed calm to produce an impressive 10.7 in the final shot to edge out Wu by 202.5-202.1.
Wu became the first Olympic medallist from Brazil in shooting since 1920, when Brazil won gold in 25m rapid fire pistol men, silver in 50m pistol men and bronze in 50m military revolver team men.
Wei Pang of China who claimed gold in this event at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, collected bronze and became the fourth multi-medallist in the 10m air pistol men event after compatriot Yifu Wang, Korean Jongoh Jin and Tanyu Kiriakov of Bulgaria.