He had the best possible start, but Ronjan Sodhi found the Olympic medal a mirage as he failed to make the final by three points in double trap at the Royal Artillery Barracks on Thursday.
The Asian Games champion and two-time gold medallist in the World Cup Finals, had prepared hard for the Games and looked good in the morning, but ended up with a total of 134 that placed him 11th.
On a bright, pleasant morning, Ronjan opened with a 48 but slipped to 44 in the second and 42 in the third.
He was particularly erratic in the first station, and missed as many as nine birds, including a double.
With the former Olympic champion Richard Faulds to his left, the constant cheering for the Briton seemed to distract Ronjan, who had trained for everything that was humanly possible except for the lively crowd which enjoyed the freedom of expression owing to the relaxed rules.
He had only 10 seconds to mount his gun after the shots of the previous shooter, and thus many times he had to shoot through the distractions.
Despite everything, Ronjan was on course before his world collapsed when he missed four of the last six birds, including the double. For a shooter of his class, this was difficult to explain.
Coach Marcello Dradi felt that there was nothing wrong with Ronjan’s shooting and that he needed the experience to do well in the Olympics.
“Olympics is completely different to everything else. You need some experience,” said Dradi, who had shot in his first Olympics in 1984. “Ronjan is a good shooter, we will now focus on the world championship,” Dradi said.
“I felt so good in the morning. I was actually wondering why I was not feeling the Olympic pressure. Even after the second round, I knew I would finish strongly. But everything happened in the last three stations. I did not prepare for the crowd distraction,” said Ronjan, quite disappointed that he could not make it to the final.
The world record holder Peter Wilson, the eventual gold medallist who sank to his knees after smashing the last two birds in a gripping final, was also being cheered on the adjacent arena during the last round of qualification which started in bleak conditions with a spell of rain.
Consequently, there was no dearth of distraction for the Indian lad.
“It was a technical error that he missed the double. Otherwise, he was not prepared to tackle the crowd cheering for the Brits,” said Moraad Ali Khan, who has also been mentoring Ronjan for sometime now.
Vijay begins well
In the men’s 25-metre rapid fire pistol event, Vijay Kumar also had a bright start as he shot 293 in the first stage to be a point adrift of leader Alexei Klimov of Russia, the reigning world champion.
Vijay has won two silver medals in World Cups, including one in the new format. There were four others on 293 and two on 292 while the rest were also breathing down their necks.
He started with a 99 in the 8-second series and followed it up with a 96 in the 6-second series and a 98 in the 4-second series.
The same pattern will be repeated on the morrow and the top six will make the final.
Unlike all other shooting events, the qualifying scores will not count in the final in rapid fire pistol, in which the shooters will be eliminated one by one till the gold medallist is identified.
Men: Double trap: 1. Peter Russell Wilson (GBr) 188 (143); 2. Hakan Dahlby (Swe) 186 (137); 3. Vasily Mosin (Rus) 185 (140); 11. Ronjan Sodhi 134.