World champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu provided an entertaining fare in capturing the trap gold in the Commonwealth Shooting championship at the Karni Singh Range in Tughlakabad on Wednesday.
Shooting close to perfection and going into the final with a national record 124 out of 125, Sandhu was a picture of confidence and concentration, as he handled the added challenge in the climax with remarkable assurance.
The 34-year-old Sandhu did miss three in the final, in which the shooters have a single cartridge for each bird, but there was no threat to the gold medal after he had taken a four-point lead before the final, in a competitive field that had Athens Olympics bronze medallist Adam Vella of Australia and the former European junior champion Aaron Heading of England.
His score of 146 out of 150 bettered Sandhu’s own national record of 145 shot in Bangkok in 2005 on way to one of his four gold medals in the Asian Championship.
Expressing his happiness with a great start to the important season, Sandhu said that it was difficult for the layman to appreciate the difficulties of the final, particularly in the low light conditions in the afternoon, when a cloudy spell saw all the six finalists missing the 22nd bird.
Birendeep Sodhi won the tie-shoot 2-1 against Scott Morgan of Wales to bag the fifth place, after scoring 138. Anirudh Singh shot a 112 out of 125 and ended up 13th in a field of 17. With the score counting towards the selection for the Asian Clay shooting championship, Anirudh’s scores kept swinging from 24 to 20.
Neha Sapte asserted India’s depth in women’s air rifle, by capturing the gold against stiff competition from Sharmin Akhter Ratna of Bangladesh and Robyn Van Nus of Australia. Having opted to focus on the championship rather than her school examinations, Neha emphasised her class with the last four shots of 10.6, 10.5, 10.6, 10.5 to eventually win the gold with a 1.6 point margin.
Neha had made 395 in the qualification, one point ahead of Ratna and Robyn Van Nus, but lost the lead after the first two shots of the final. In fact, she was in the third position, but regained her No.1 place after the eighth shot and hung on with a solid finish.
Though it was a fitting reply to Bangladesh that had won the team gold ahead of the host, the other two Indians failed to impress. Priya Agarwal finished sixth and Suma Shirur lost the qualifying shoot-off among four, for the last two spots in the final by 0.2 points.
India captured the 25-metre centrefire pistol gold through Vijay Kumar, who followed a 286 in the precision round with a 294 in the ‘duelling’series. It was the fourth gold for him, and India swept all the three medals.
Interestingly, Samaresh Jung, making the line-up as a ‘zero’ shooter, came up with an impressive 589 out of 600 that should augur well for the Indian team in the World Championship, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
India took its tally to 17 gold, 12 silver and six bronze medals. With three more days to go, it has already reached its best collection ever in a Commonwealth meet in shooting. India had won 16 gold, seven silver and four bronze medals in shooting in the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.
Its best haul in Commonwealth Championship was the 13 gold won in Bisley, England, in 2001. The gold count had slipped to 12 in the last edition of the Commonwealth Championship in Melbourne in 2005.
25m centre fire pistol: 1. Vijay Kumar 580; 2. Mahender Singh 568; 3. Viraj Singh 567.
Trap: 1. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 146 (124); 2. Aaron Heading (Eng) 143 (120); 3. Adam Vella (Aus) 142 (120); 5. Birendeep Singh Sodhi 138 (119); 13. Anirudh Singh 112.
10m air rifle: 1. Neha Sapte 496.1 (395); 2. Sharmm Akhter Ratna (Ban) 494.5 (394); 3. Robyn Van Nus (Aus) 494.2 (394); 6. Priya Aggarwal 490.6 (391); 9. Suma Shirur 390.