Heena Sidhu had to stretch. The physical and mental demands of the 25m pistol event, not her favourite, are immense. And she had to brush off the slight disappointment of finishing second, behind India’s teen sensation Manu Bhaker, in the 10m air pistol a couple of day ago. But Sidhu, India’s premier pistol shooter, delivered under pressure to clinch gold in the 25m pistol with a Commonwealth Games record of 38.
“I am exhausted, those are my thoughts on today's performance,” she said on her triumph at the Gold Coast on Tuesday.
“The 10m air pistol final is a blur to me. I couldn't feel my fingers during that. I have been undergoing physiotherapy for this problem but for today, I told my physio not to touch me. I just let it be and to my relief it went off well. Thankfully, my trigger which has been giving me some trouble because of a tingling sensation was alright today. I didn't feel that tingling too much.”
A nerve problem has been bothering her trigger finger, and the Indian shooter was slow off the blocks on Tuesday. In the opening precision qualification round, Sidhu finished seventh out of 14 competitors with a score of 286 but made up ground in the second stage of qualifying. She surged to third in the rapid fire round to qualify with a score of 579. But she saved her best for the final.
Unlike the 10m air pistol, which is Sidhu’s bread and butter, where every millimetre counts and can add up to glory, the 25m pistol event demands relentless excellence. It works on a hit and miss basis: only a shot of 10.2 or over registers as a hit. Even a 10 is not worthy enough to count. Also in the final, the competitors get only 15 seconds rest between a series of 5.
Sidhu’s score of 38, in light of those exacting demands, effectively means she had 38 shots of 10.2 or more out of a total of 50. That’s white-hot precision under pressure.
On the other end of the spectrum, India’s Annu Singh, who is competing only in the 25m pistol event, started out hot but couldn’t keep up the accuracy in the final. Singh shot 293 in the precision qualifications to lead the table, and was second after the second qualifying round (rapid fire) with a score of 584. But the Indian finished sixth on the final leader-board, as she registered only 15 shots out of 30.
It was local hope Elena Galiabovitch who had surged into opening lead, with a score of 13 off the first 15 on Stage 1. Sidhu had been making sure that she kept up, and didn’t lose sight of the Australian. She scored a successive five out of five in the fifth and sixth series to go level at 23. Once she had nudged ahead into joint-lead, the 29-year-old Sidhu powered on. Galiabovitch found herself floundering on pressure pressing, registering only 12 out of 20 shots in the last four series to Sidhu’s 15.
Even though the 25m pistol is not Sidhu’s pet event, she has been working hard on to come good on it for the past few years. She had undergone a lot of core strength and pressure training to shimmer at Australia’s Gold Coast. And on Tuesday, she bagged her first individual gold in the 25m pistol event.
The girl from Patiala, who also has a degree in dental surgery, belongs to a shooting family and is married into another. Her father and brother competed in national shooting events and had set up a range in their backyard, while her uncle is into the gun business. In 2013, she married Ronak Pandit, who won a Commonwealth Games gold of his own at the 2006 Melbourne Games in 25m standard pistol (Pairs).
With his own career coming to an end, Pandit now coaches Sidhu and was the first to congratulate her when she calmly shot down any competition on Tuesday.
The triumph is another confirmation of Sidhu’s immense talent. And it will serve as a gentle reminder of her unfinished business at the Olympics. Having burst onto the national scene as a prodigious teenager, Sidhu has fallen unexpectedly short of her standards at the mega-event. At 2012 London Olympics she finished 12th in 10m air pistol. Four years later, at Rio, plagued by injury, Sidhu failed to qualify for both the pistol events: finishing 14th in 10m air pistol and 20th in 25m pistol.
With younger talents pushing experienced hands like Sidhu on the national and international stage, and the 2020 Olympics already on the horizon, it will be interesting to see just how far Sidhu can stretch in pursuit of that elusive glory.
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Updated Date: Apr 10, 2018 17:14:41 IST