Abhijeet Konduskar finishes ninth

LAHTI (FINLAND) JULY 3. Finishing joint ninth in the World Championship was no mean achievement, but Abhijeet Konduskar was disappointed.

``I was ready to win this competition. It is very disappointing to finish like this. I am sorry. I had a string of 8s in the first series. I don't know what happeed,'' said Abhijeet, who is pursuing Engineering in the U.S.

The disappointment on the opening day of competition of the 48th World Shooting Championship for the Mumbaikar, the only participant from India on the day, was understandable as the gold in the junior event in free rifle prone went for 591, a score Abhijeet had achieved during the elimination round of the World Cup in Sydney earlier in the season. He had also shot that score during the trials in Delhi.

Abhijeet had rounds of 95, 97, 97, 98, 99 and 98 for a 584, with an average of 9.733.

``I checked my ammunition, but could not decipher the reason for those bad shots. It was not because of the wind, the shots went up'', said Abhijeet, who had recently rushed back to the U.S. to set his malfunctioning gun right.

``I am very happy with the way he performed. There was some wind and the conditions were tough. He finished very quickly. I am confident that he will score better in the Commonwealth Games'', said Prof. Sunny Thomas, who has immense faith in the talent of the boy. The 20-year-old Abhijeet had first come into the picture while winning the national title recently in Indore.

Looking at his fare in Collegiate competition, the national coach had not hesitated in drafting Abhijeet into the national squad straightaway. Better results may have to wait for a sunny day, perhaps.

Abhijeet's coach at the Ohio State Univiersity, Patrick D. Cherry was on hand to provide a morale-boosting support for his ward.

``He is such a dedicated and hard working boy, that I thought that it was my duty to be with him here. He couldn't do his best but being ninth in the world is not bad. He is capable of shooting 600 and he has done it in practice'', said Cherry.

All said, it was a creditable fare from the young man in a strong field of 61 shooters, on a cold and gloomy day. It even rained towards the end of the competition.

Zolton Torok of Hungary took the gold with a 591. He had a series of 100, 99, 97, 98, 100 and 97.

He had little trouble beating Joseph Hein of the U.S. and Christian Lejon of Sweden who had scores of 589 and 588 respectively. The eventual bronze medallist had a nervous last few minutes as he waited for Matej Simoncic of Slovakia to finish his last round, as he was the only one who could have beaten him to a medal at that stage. The Slovak with 489 after five rounds, shot a 97 to fall out of the medal race, and the Swedish jumped for joy in the stands, while the team coaches rushed to the media centre to update their website with their achievement.

Much later, the opening ceremony was brilliantly conducted on the ice-hockey indoor arena, in which the 100 participating countries marched with pride. The Indian team was represented by Jaspal Rana who held the flag, Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat, Abhinav Bindra and Samaresh Jung, while the rest were in the stands to applaud the charming Finnish dance and military exercise on the floor.

The secretary of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) said that he had given two sets of dates for the ISSF to decide about the shotgun World Cup to be held in New Delhi in March. He said that it would be held in the first week of March or from 19 to 25.

``We have enough number of ranges to conduct trap and skeet simultaneously'', said Mr. Sethi.

Abhinav Bindra and Mansher Singh reached here from Delhi and London respectively. The 19-year-old Abhinav said that he did not get his gun and baggage, as they had been misplaced. Mansher was quite relaxed and said that he was looking to shoot in a place where he had made his first World Cup final in June 1995. Mansher had shot an impressive 145 out of 150 in finishing sixth then.

Meanwhile, coach Tibor Gonczol was quite peeved about various aspects with regard to the Indian team. First of all, he was not too pleased with the last minute clearance of the team, the ticketing in different aircrafts, and some shooters staying in different places.

``Everything is left to the last minute, and it is very demoralising for the shooters. They come here to find that the accommodation has not been booked, and end up paying more than the normal price. Some of the shooters who have to go to Commonwealth Games from here have got tickets to go back home instead'', said Gonczol, unable to hide his displeasure at the haphazard handling of the team by the authorities.

On the positive side, Gonczol said with a smile that Jaspal Rana could just change his gun to a guitar, as he had started striking such a beautiful rhythm.

After all, form is temporary, class is permanent.

The results: Junior men: 50m free rifle prone: 1. Zolton Torok (Hun) 591; 2. Joseph Hein (U.S.) 589; 3. Christian Lejon (Swe) 588; 9. Abhijeet Konduskar 584.

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