Wednesday, Aug 18, 2004
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By Kamesh Srinivasan
ATHENS, AUG. 17. He looked good for the gold, but the wind took it away. Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the silver for India in the Olympic games after a below par performance in the preliminary phase to assert his undisputed class as one of the best shooters in the world in double trap.
The Indian shooting contingent, after the disappointing shows by Abhinav Bindra, Suma Shirur and Anjali Bhagwat, heaved a huge sigh of relief as Rathore shot a 179 out of 200, one point ahead of Wang Zheng of China, to finish second.
The windy conditions during the second round saw Rathore shoot a 43, but Rathore put up a spirited show with nerves of steel in the final.
Ahmed Almaktoum had already taken a virtually unbeatable lead, while Rathore showed great character to beat the rest.
He needed to shoot both the birds on the last attempt to deny the silver for the other three contenders. He did it in style and punched the air, even as the Indians greeted him with applause.
"I am happy that people will now believe we can win silver medals in the Olympics. Self-belief is the key to success. It will be great if people started focusing more on the Olympic disciplines,'' Rathore said after receiving the medal.
It was a nerve-wracking experience in the final as Rathore just missed one bird till he reached the 34th, while the rest of the pack, whom he was trying to catch up, were missing a lot. Though he missed five more birds, Rathore managed to retain the lead for the silver.
"I wouldn't like to go through it again. I probably died many times before winning the medal,'' said Rathore, who had stayed in Europe for nearly four months to prepare for the Olympics.
"He did very well. I am very proud of him. He showed his true character in the final. I had seen it in the Commonwealth Games and I saw it again today,'' said Russell Mark of Australia, who has been coaching Rathore for the last few months.
Mark had won gold in Atlanta and silver in Sydney and had also won the world championship in double trap. He had qualified for the Olympic games in Athens too, but could not make the Australian squad following the selection trials.
"Before the final, I knew that Rathore wouldn't get the gold as Almaktoum was in great form today. Rathore had beaten him three weeks back. That is the beauty of this sport. I thought that it was important for Rathore to get the best medal in that situation. He would win the gold some day,'' said Mark, who was quick to add in typical Aussie style that Rathore deserved to enjoy every moment and receive all the accolades for his great achievement.
"I knew that he would do it. He is brilliant. He has put shooting right on top with this fantastic effort. I am happy that we have graduated to the individual silver now from the bronze in the last two Games," said six-time Olympic shooter Randhir Singh, Secretary General, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), who was quite aptly invited to present the medals.
It was a moment to rejoice and it was understandable that both Rathore and the national coach Prof. Sunny Thomas were glued to their mobile phones as the whole of India looked to be in a hurry to congratulate them.
It has been a pleasure following the man who has been in this sport only for the last six years. He has the right attitude and has been learning with every outing. He was not cleared for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. He also missed the World Championship final in Lahti a fortnight earlier, by a mere two points, when he hit a rare 50 out of 50 in the first round.
Rathore had defeated the Olympic champion Richard Faulds, the Olympic silver medallist Russell Mark and a horde of world-class shooters with a 49 out of 50 in Bisley in the final of the Commonwealth Games to show that he had it in him.
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