Annu Raj Singh rose to the challenge and shot a silver medal in the women's air pistol and bagged the Olympic quota place in the process, in the shooting World Cup in Fort Benning, US, on Monday.
Getting out of the shadow of the leading shooters in women's air pistol in the country Heena Sidhu and Harven Srao, the 27-year-old Annu Raj asserted herself in what was only her second final appearance in a World Cup.
Annu Raj was the joint leader after the qualification with a national record equalling score of 389 out of 400, following a sequence of 94, 97, 99 and 99. The lack of experience in the finals at the world level told in the end, as Olena Kostevych of Ukraine who had also shot 389 in the preliminary phase, won the gold by a 2.8 point margin.
Olena had won the bronze and silver in the last two World Cups in Sydney and Changwon, and thus had already won the Olympic quota place.
Annu Raj, who had made the sport pistol final last year in Sydney but had finished eighth, beat the European champion Celine Goberville of France by 0.3 points for the silver medal, following a score of 97.6 in the final.
Celine who had shot 388 in qualification, won the second quota place, while the sixth-placed Athina Douka of Greece won the third Olympic quota place in the event.
The Aligarh girl who had won team medals in combination with Heena Sidhu and Sonia Rai in the last Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, Annu Raj had not shot more than a score of 382 in a World Cup. In fact, she had finished 15th in the last World Cup in Changwon with that score.
Annu Raj became the fifth Indian shooter in the current cycle to fetch an Olympic quota place behind Gagan Narang, Hariom Singh, Sanjeev Rajput and Ronjan Sodhi.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra slipped after a good start and missed the final by one point along with Satyendra Singh, following a qualification score of 595, in men's air rifle. Abhinav had a series of 100, 100, 98, 99, 99, 99.
Shooting in the second batch in a field of 91, it was clear that Abhinav needed at least 597 to ensure a berth in the final and possibly an Olympic quota place along with it. Only three of the eight shooters with a score of 596 made the final after a shoot-off.
Satyendra Singh had shot in the first batch and compiled a sequence of 99, 100, 98, 100, 98, 100.
Peter Hellenbrand of Holland, Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania and Sergey Kamenskiy of Russia who had placed fourth, fifth and eighth respectively were awarded the Olympic quota places for London 2012 Games.
Meanwhile, the Union Sports Ministry made additional clearance of shooters, some of whom like Ayonika Paul and Kavita Yadav, had already made it to the US at their own cost. However, multiple Asian Games gold medallist, Jaspal Rana whose name was cleared in the last batch, was reported to be unwilling to dash across the globe at such short notice, as his event, rapid fire pistol, has been scheduled for May 20.
The results:Men: 10m air rifle:1. Pierre Edmond Piasecki (Fra) 700.8 (597); 2. Niccolo Campriani (Ita) 700.8 (599); 3. Zhu Qinan (Chn) 700.4 (597); 14. Abhinav Bindra 595; 17. Satyendra Singh 595; 43. P.T. Raghunath 591.Women: 10m air pistol:1. Olena Kostevych (Ukr) 489.4 (389); 2. Annu Raj Singh 486.6 (389); 3. Celine Goberville (Fra) 486.3 (388); 17. Heena Sidhu 382; 82. Sonia Rai 362; MQS: Harven Srao 376; Shweta Chaudhry 376.