Gagan Narang bagged the air rifle bronze medal in the 50th shooting World championship in Munich on Saturday with a score of 699. Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra could not defend his world crown, and finished 25th with a score of 593.
Narang took over the reins from the champion with a qualification score of 597 and followed that with a 102 in the nerve-wracking final to clinch the bronze ahead of Beijing Olympics silver medallist Zhu Qinan and two others, on the last shot, by a 0.1-point margin. Narang got 10 on the last shot to 9.8 by the Chinese.
This was only the fifth World championship medal for an Indian shooter after the gold medals of Abhinav Bindra and Manavjit Singh Sandhu, silver medal of Dr. Karni Singh and the bronze medal of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.
With the top six shooters in air rifle, in a field of 128, getting the Olympic quota place for the London 2012 Games, the Indian team opened its campaign in right earnest, with a medal and an Olympic quota place.
For someone who has world records, a perfect 600 in the qualification and a final score of 703.5, against his name, that he had accomplished on way to the gold in the World Cup finals in Bangkok in 2008, it was not a surprise that Narang was able to grind the elusive medal from the World championship.
It was particularly fitting after the disappointment of missing out on the final in the Beijing Olympics on the count-back with a total of 595, and more recently the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
Narang qualified with a series of 100, 100, 100, 99, 99 and 99. He was two points behind the leaders Nicolo Campriani of Italy and Peter Sidi of Hungary, and could not bridge the gap.
He, however, was able to fare better than three others who had also shot 597. In fact, Marco Nicolo of Italy and Denis Sokolov (10.8 last shot) of Russia tied with Zhu Qinan with a total of 698.9. The Chinese prevailed in the shoot-off to be placed fourth.
Matthew Emmons (597), the champion shooter of the US, famous for his bad last shots in two successive Olympics in the 3P event, lived up to his reputation yet again and came up with an 8.4 on the last shot and ended up sixth with a total of 698.5, a mere 0.5 points behind the bronze.
Abhinav Bindra had shot 594 in the trials for the World championship back home and the World Cup in Belgrade. He could not lift his form this day. He had a series of 99, 99, 100, 99, 98 and 98. He had shot a 597 on way to the gold in the last World championship in Zagreb in 2006 and a 596 on way to the gold in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The Indian team missed the bronze medal by two points to Italy. With Imran Hasan Khan shooting 590 for the 49th place, India had a total of 1,780.
The Indian juniors could not recapture the magic of Navnath Fartade who had won the air rifle junior men's gold in the last edition, and were flung far away down the list in a field of 95.
Air rifle: Men: 1. Nicolo Campriani (Ita) 702.5 (599); 2. Peter Sidi (Hun) 700. (599); 3. Gagan Narang 699.0 (597); 25. Abhinav Bindra 593; 49. Imran Hasan Khan 590.
Team: 1. China 1787 (153x), 2. Russia 1787 (148x), 3. Italy 1782, 4. India 1780.
Junior men: 1. Sergiy Kasper (Ukr) 595; 2. Serhiy Kulish (Ukr), 3. Alexander Dryagin (Rus) 593; 22. Rakesh Manpat (588), 71. Vivek Giri (576), 72. Parth Agrawal (575).
Team: 1. China 1774, 2. Ukraine 1772; 3. Russia 1771; 15. India 1740 .