The 26-year-old shoots with assurance and consistency; Cuban Pupo equals Final World Record

He is as gritty as they come from the Army.

Vijay Kumar lifted the sagging spirit of the Indian camp with a silver medal in 25m rapid fire pistol at the Royal Artillery Barracks here on Friday.

In the lottery of a new format in which the qualification scores do not count for the final tabulation, the 26-year-old Vijay was like a rock in the final in which the reigning world champion Alexei Klimov of Russia went without a medal despite shooting a world record 592 in qualification.

Competing in his maiden Olympics, the 26-year-old Vijay started brilliantly with a perfect five, as he shot the targets in four seconds with a touch of assurance, and kept up the tempo going till Leuris Pupo of Cuba had confirmed the gold with an unbeatable total of 34.

It was an anticlimax that Vijay shot only two when fighting for the gold, but even a five would not have helped his cause at that stage, as Pupo, in his fourth Olympics, had ensured the best medal by shooting four.

Vijay had qualified with a score of 585 that had placed him fourth among the six finalists. He had shot 293 on the first day of the competition, and followed that with a 292 in the morning, with scores of 98, 97 and 97 in the 8, 6 and 4-second series respectively.

In the normal course, it might have been difficult to catch up after conceding a 7-point lead, but in the new format it was just important to shoot a good score to make the top-six.

In the final, Christian Reitz of Germany and Zhang Jian of China were the first two to go out after 20 and 25 shots respectively. With the medal assured on a good performance, Vijay shot four, and pipped Klimov who had to go out despite shooting a perfect 5, in what proved to be his last series, as he was one point less than the Indian and the Chinese Ding Feng, while the Cuban was two points ahead of the other two. The Russian had shot two in the fourth series and was paying the accumulated penalty.

Vijay shot four to the three by the Chinese to ensure the silver, much to the delight of the huge contingent of Indian supporters. The effort of the army subedar, who hails from Himachal Pradesh, can be better appreciated if we note that three-time gold and two-time silver medallist Ralf Schumann of Germany went without a medal in his seventh Olympics, as he shot 577.

Vijay had figured in the 12th spot in the ‘super 25’ compiled for the event by the international federation, based on the performances in the last Olympic cycle. Only 18 shooters made it to the Olympic in rapid fire pistol.

He had won two silver medals in the World Cups in rapid fire pistol and finished fourth in the World Cup finals, but had not won a medal in the event in the last Asian Games. Quite interestingly, Vijay had been awarded the bronze medal in the Doha Asian Games, despite finishing fourth, as the rules did not allow the award of three medals to one country (China) then.

Vijay had also asserted his versatility in the last Asian Games when he won the individual bronze medals in air pistol and centre-fire pistol. He had won three gold medals in the Commonwealth Games at New Delhi.

Scaling Olympian heights, without making substantial claims in the world championship or the Asian Games, has revealed his strong nerves.

The results: Men: 25m rapid fire pistol: 1. Leuris Pupo (Cub) 34 (EWFR) 586; 2. Vijay Kumar 30 (585); 3. Ding Feng (Chn) 27 (588).

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