Shooting once again captured the imagination of the nation during the Commonwealth Games. New stars were born and old guards rolled back the years to regain their vintage magic. Seven gold and a total of 16 medals ensured the Indian flag was flying high at the Belmont Shooting Centre in Gold Coast.
But hundreds of miles away from these scenes of jubilation, pistol shooter Shahzar Rizvi was training hard at the Karni Singh Range in New Delhi, dutifully following a practice program prepared by his coach Ronak Pandit. Denied a berth in the Commonwealth Games squad, Rizvi was focusing on the World Cup in South Korea. And this hard work paid off when he became the lone Indian to bag a medal at the event, finishing second in the 10m air pistol event.
“Missing out on the Commonwealth Games did hurt in the beginning but I shrugged off the disappointment. I knew the field in the World Cup in South Korea would be tougher than the Commonwealth Games. So my medal in this event is really satisfying,’’ says the 23-year-old. Rizvi finished with 239.8 points, just 0.2 behind the gold medallist Artem Chernousov of Russia.
“I was on the verge of elimination at one stage but I fought back with scores of 10.6 twice and then hit a perfect 10.9. I was happy that I could handle pressure at the big stage,’’ adds Rizvi.
Rizvi won a gold medal in the World Cup in Mexico earlier this year and his silver medal in South Korea is expected to see him take the top spot in the world rankings in the coming weeks, dethroning Tomoyoki Matsuda of Japan. Rizvi, a sergeant in the Indian Air Force (IAF), specialises only in 10m air pistol event and lost out on a berth for the Commonwealth Games because of the federation’s policy of only sending pistol shooters who take part in more than one event.
The likes of Jitu Rai and Om Prakash Mitharwal, who booked their flights to Gold Coast, take part in both 10m and 50m pistol events. “I am working on my breathing and follow-through techniques where I feel I need a bit of improvement,’’ feels Rizvi.
Other than Rizvi, the other notable performance came from the pairing of Mitharwal and Manu Bhaker, who made it to the final of the 10m air pistol mixed event after tallying a world record qualifying score of 778. However, the duo failed to continue their rich form in the final and finished fourth. Ravi Kumar made it to the final of the 10m air rifle event and was leading at one stage before faltering in his last few shots to lose out on a podium finish narrowly. Rahi Sarnobat, gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games 2014, after missing out the Gold Coast mega-event, made a stirring comeback by topping the qualification round in the 25m pistol, only to finish fourth in the final.
India had topped the medal’s tally in the World Cup in Mexico with four gold medals, which was followed by the roaring success at the Commonwealth Games. “I am not too perturbed by the lack of medals in this edition of the World Cup. The scores from most of the Indian shooters have been good. If you see the performance of Mehuli Ghosh, the silver medallist at the CWG in the 10m air rifle event, her scores in the mixed event was impressive,’’ said Joydeep Karmakar, the former rifle shooter and Ghosh's current coach.
“Most of the Indian shooters have been living out of their suitcases since March when they travelled to Mexico. It was followed by the Commonwealth Games and after returning from Australia, they barely had a couple of days before this event. So many of the shooters were jaded because of the frequent travelling. The only shooter who had a break — Rizvi — delivered the goods,’’ adds Karmakar.
The Changwon International Shooting Range, which hosted the World Cup, is also the venue of the World Championship. The event kicks off from 31 August, 2018 and will be the first tournament from which quota places for the 2020 Olympics will be available. “Since it will be the venue for the world championship, many of the top shooters of the world wanted to have a feel of the conditions and therefore the field at the Word Cup was very strong. The experience for the Indian shooters at this range will come in very handy when they return in August,’’ feels Ronak Pandit who has been coaching Rizvi and Heena Sidhu, the gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
The next event for the Indian shooters will be the World Cup in Munich starting from 22 May, which will once again feature all the top shooters in the world. To prepare for the tournament and acclimatise with the conditions, the Indian shooters will be training in Pfhorzeim in Germany. “Before the Asian Games and Olympic qualifications, this is the ideal preparation time where we as coaches can experiment and make minor tweaks to the techniques of the shooters ,’’ says Joydeep.
With the Asian Games and the Olympic quota places up for grabs, 2018 indeed is a crucial year. Hopefully the Indian shooters will strike form and trigger yet another gold rush in the months ahead.
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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 19:34:43 IST