Wins a bronze in the men’s 10m air rifle event; Moldoveanu claims gold

Gagan Narang shot the bronze medal in men’s 10m air rifle to infuse life into the Indian challenge on the fourth day of the Olympics, at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London on Monday.

Starting from third place with a qualification score of 598 out of 600, the 29-year-old endured a gripping final in front of a huge crowd which was encouraged to cheer every shot even as the other shooters trained their sights on target.

Narang displayed great character to deliver the third shooting medal for India in the Olympics after Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver in Athens 2004 and Abhinav Bindra’s gold in Beijing 2008.

“It has really taken a huge stone off my chest,” said Narang, who had missed the final in Beijing on the countback after shooting 595. Bindra had shot the gold then after 596 in qualification.

It was his third Olympics, and he had wished to be third time lucky. He joins wrestlers K.D. Jadhav (1952) and Sushil Kumar (2008), boxer Vijender Singh (2008), tennis ace Leander Paes (1996) and woman weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (2000) to win an individual bronze medal for India.

Defending Olympic champion and former world champion Bindra also looked set to make the final, but a 97 in the sixth series saw him miss the final by two points as he finished 16th in a field of 34, with a total of 594. He had a series of 99, 99, 100, 100, 99 and 97.

World championship bronze medallist Narang gunned for the gold, and was 0.3 points away after the sixth shot, but 9.9 and 9.5 on the next two pulled him down and out of the medals bracket.

But Narang’s resilience was evident as he fought his way back to ensure a medal with shots of 10.3 and 10.7. The strong Indian presence in the arena celebrated the final shot heartily as the hero of the last Commonwealth Games nailed the bronze medal 0.7 points ahead of Wang Tao of China. Narang’s last shot was the best among the eight, and his total of 103.1 in the final was second only to fifth-placed Peter Hellenbrand’s 103.8, but the one-point lead that world champion Niccolo Campriani of Italy and Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania enjoyed, proved decisive for the gold and silver.

Narang had shot 100, 100, 98, 100, 100 and 100 in the qualification phase.

He started and finished the final strongly with a sequence of 10.7, 9.7, 10.6, 10.7, 10.4, 10.6, 9.9, 9.5, 10.3 and 10.7.

He got to the second spot after the first shot, but was consistently placed third thereafter.

Great performance

“It is a great performance by Gagan. It is brilliant to shoot 598 in the Olympics.

“To win an Olympic medal is a great achievement. The colour does not matter. I am very happy for him. I had predicted a few years ago that he was capable of going all the way,” said Bindra. Talking about his own performance, Bindra said he tried to hang in there, but could not sustain his position at the top to make the final.

Quite interestingly, Moldoveanu had finished fourth in the last Games and jumped to the gold with a flawless fare.

Beijing silver medallist Zhu Qinan of China, who had won the gold in Athens, said that he was under pressure and thinking about the gold medal, to eventually be placed 10th with 595.

He dropped two points in the last series.

The result: Men’s 10m air rifle: 1. Alin George Moldoveanu (Rou) 702.1 (599 EOR); 2. Niccolo Campriani (Ita) 701.5 (599 EOR); 3. Gagan Narang 701.1 (598 EOR); 16. Abhinav Bindra 594.

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