New Delhi: Apurvi Chandela pulled the trigger 24 times on Saturday evening, and on 18 of those occasions, she peppered the 'inner-10' with scores of 10.5 or more, including a straight series of 11 shots. Unsurprisingly then, she opened the ISSF Shooting World Cup with a gold and a world record score (252.9) to boot.
With her back to a raucous home crowd and the Olympic quotas assured, Chandela started the event as one of the favourites in a strong, star-studded field after finishing the qualification in second spot. The beginning, though, was slightly below-par as she shot a 10.1 to start the final.
"That (10.1) was certainly not the start I was aiming for. It was a technical adjustment I made; tweaked my technique a little," she told Firstpost later.
After the first series of five shots, the 26-year-old was placed seventh among the eight finalists with a cumulative score of 51.9. Next, she shot four 10.5s in succession and a last-shot of 10.7 propelled her to the fourth position.
That gave her the momentum to mount the charge, and she continued to creep up the order with some steady shooting.
In between, she would break from her stupor and talk to herself, reminding her not to think of medals or records.
"I just kept telling myself that you have to stay in the moment and concentrate on the next shot. I was not thinking about the scores or medals, but was determined to stick to my technique. I knew if I could do that, the results will follow," said Chandela, who, along with fellow rifle shooter Anjum Moudgil, had secure the Tokyo 2020 quota last year.
Chandela's attention to the mental side of her craft stems from her inexplicable fourth-place finish at the Munich World Cup in May 2018, where she conceded the pole position on the penultimate shot with an accidental 5.9. Back then, nerves had got better of her, but less than a year later, she was determined to put that setback behind her.
"I have been working on certain meditation and visualisation techniques, especially from the start of the year, to control my nerves better. I am glad I could manage that today. When I came to know that I was on top, I did have some nerves, but I told myself to stay calm, it is just a matter of a few more shots," she explained.
A 10.6 put her just behind China's Zhu Yingjie — who was having an excellent final until then — and though she had two ordinary shots in between, Chandela's 10.5 kept her at tied second with China's Xu Hong.
The three Chinese, in fact, had formed a solid grouping around Chandela by that time. The giant scorecard showed the Indian Tricolour flanked with the Chinese red. The status quo was broken two shots later when she fired a 10.6 — not excellent, but just enough. A loud cheer went around the Karni Singh Shooting Range as Chandela tore through the Chinese cluster and perched herself at the top of the heap — a position she would not relinquish till the final shot of the day.
"The crowd made a lot of noise, and I could hear the chants for the nation. It motivated me to do well," she said.
One by one, the contenders began to bow out, and as the competition condensed, tension hung heavy in the air. The crowd chipped in too, but Chandela, unmoved in Lane C, quietly kept pulling the trigger at the 0.5mm blur, reminding herself to stay in the moment.
Two of her last four shots were 10.8s; overall, she hit the mark four times, and on a day when the magical 10.9 was hit just four out of 152 times, their importance can't be stated enough.
"At that point of time, the pressure can get to you. But I followed the processes that I do at training; nothing special. I was only focussed on my technique. There was nothing more to it."
Both Chandela and Zhao's last shots were 10.5s, but the 1.1-point gap that she had opened up with Zhao with a crucial 10.8 in her penultimate attempt ensured her a golden start and a world record, held incidentally by Ruozhu until this evening.
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2019 19:35:48 IST