A moment to savour for Narang

HYDERABAD Oct. 26. The railing restricting the spectators to the gallery earmarked for them, proved no barrier. Scores of well-wishers leapt over it to congratulate a shooter they considered one of their own. Basking in the limelight was Hyderabad's own Gagan Narang, who had just completed the last and most nerve-wracking shot to record a splendid 10.5 and clinch the 10 metre air rifle gold in the Afro Asian Games.

The adulation didn't send his head skywards, for one of the trademarks of the typical Hyderabadi is that he has his feet firmly on terra firma. Recounting the triumph, he said the wait for all the other shooters to complete had been excruciating but necessary to know what scores they had posted. "My pulse was racing," he said of the moment when he trained his sights on the target and zeroed in on India's first gold.

Here was a sweet moment he wished to savour, since the silver he won at the National Games at the same spot last year didn't as much as attract a cursory mention. Hugging his parents, who had backed him with much personal sacrifice, the friends were not far behind. Rifle Association of Andhra Pradesh (RAAP) Secretary Amit Sanghi was one of the early birds to embrace the champion.

National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas had brought him into the Indian squad in place of ace shooter Abhinav Bindra. "Narang did not disappoint me and I'm glad he came up trumps," the Dronacharya Awardee said. For one who has been in active competition for only about four years, Narang has shown immense promise.

"Gagan is capable of 595/600 and above scores. One thing he needs is increased exposure to international competition," Prof. Thomas added.

That's where Narang needs support. Right now he's on an Indian Airlines scholarship but better back-up is a must if he is to go places. He's indebted to the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh and the State's sports loving Chief Minister.

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