Vijay Kumar stole the thunder from the world champion Alexei Klimov after the Russian had shot a world record, as Indian shooting delivered yet again in the London Olympics.
The subedar major from the Army, the 26-year-old Vijay capitalised on the new rule which put all the finalists on par, taking away the advantage of the qualification lead, with a solid performance. In fact, he was the only one to shoot a perfect five in the first series of the final, and with a bit of luck, could have fought for the gold.
To win a silver in an event in which an Indian qualified for the Olympics first time was remarkable. He had won the silver medals in the World Cups, but had kept a low profile in the run-up to the Games.
He had no medal in the event in the Asian Games in Guangzhou. In fact, in the 2006 Doha Asian Games, Vijay had finished fourth and was given the bronze, as the rules did not allow one country, China, winning all the three medals!
The Russian coach Pavel Smirnov, hired by the army, deserved all credit for tuning Vijay Kumar, whose discipline and simplicity of thought helped him achieve every sportsman’s dream.
Gagan Narang winning the Olympic bronze in air rifle was no surprise, as he had a brilliant track record in World Championship, Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games, apart from the World Cups and Asian Championships. He was pretty close to the gold, but the others pulled ahead better towards the end. He had stayed away from all distractions including the social media, on the guidance of coach Stanislav Lapidus of Kazakhstan.
Joydeep Karmakar placing fourth in rifle prone event in the Olympics, was a huge achievement considering the pressure he had to tackle on being given the Olympic quota place won by Army’s Hariom Singh.
Ronjan Sodhi deserved an Olympic medal, but the double trap marksman missed four of the last six birds, in losing out on the final in London. He, however, recovered his composure to shoot the World Cup final silver medal. It was a hat-trick of medals, following gold in the last two editions. The only shooter after Randhir Singh and Jaspal Rana to have Asian Games individual gold, Ronjan will be ready in Rio.
World and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra had changed his approach for the Olympics. He won the Asian Championship ahead of the Athens Games gold medallist Zhu Qinan in Doha.
He faltered towards the end in a noisy atmosphere in London. Sanjeev Rajput won the rifle 3-position gold in Doha, while Vijay Kumar (standard pistol) and Rajkumari Rathore (women’s rifle prone) also won gold.
World champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu started and ended the year by winning the Asian title in trap, with a dominant fare against high quality rivals, though an Olympic medal proved elusive.
Shagun Chowdhary missed the women’s trap gold in the Asian Championship to a bout of nerves in Patiala, and Arti Singh missed the final in the Lonato World Cup in women’s skeet.
Heena Sidhu was given a quota place for the London Games, after missing it by 0.9 point in Doha, but there was no such luck for Parampal Singh Guron who missed the final in skeet by one point with a brave 120 out of 125 in the Asian Championship.
It was indeed a splendid year for Indian shooting, which will attempt to jump on the opportunity opened up by the change of rules in the next Olympic cycle.