Abhinav Bindra clinches India's first gold

DOING THE NATION PROUD: Abhinav Bindra won the air rifle gold at the World shooting championship, India's first-ever in the sport, in Zagreb on Monday. File photo: P.V. Sivakumar

DOING THE NATION PROUD: Abhinav Bindra won the air rifle gold at the World shooting championship, India's first-ever in the sport, in Zagreb on Monday. File photo: P.V. Sivakumar  

ZAGREB: Abhinav Bindra clinched the World Champioship gold, the first ever for the country in shooting, with a spectacular performance in the air rifle final on Monday.

The 23-year-old Delhi lad, a two-time Olympian, went into the final a joint leader with two others at 597, and shot a 102.1 in a nerve-wracking climax to emerge top from a strong field of 122 shooters from nearly 100 countries.

"He needed a 10.4 with his last shot to ensure the gold and he shot a 10.7. It was simply wonderful. To win the Olympic quota place with a World championship gold is fantastic. He has worked hard for it, and fought brilliantly today,'' said National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas.

"I have worked hard for this. It was my day. I have always believed that I could do this and am happy to have done it. I have been in the sport for ten years, and I know that the difference between winning and losing is not much. I didn't do anything very different today,'' said Abhinav, who has been battling with a career-threatening back problem in recent months.

"He was the World junior record holder and now he is the World champion. He is not competing in prone or the 3-position events. He will be consulting doctors in Germany on 27th to decide whether he would need a surgery to solve the back problem. It has been a courageous performance from him considering his physical condition,'' said Prof. Thomas.

Precious talent

For all his precious talent and phenomenal focus on the sport, Abhinav had nothing much to show except for two bronze medals in the World Cups in Germany that he captured in 2001 and 2003. He looked ready to set the record straight in the Athens Olympics when he made the final with a similar 597, but was unlucky not to finish among the medals then, despite shooting close to his best.

Abhinav had shot a miserably 97.6 in the final then. If anything, the bad memories did not dare plague him this time as he shot a spectacular series of 10.3, 10.3, 10.3, 10.0, 10.6, 9.3, 10.9, 9.2, 10.5 and 10.7 to win the gold with a 0.8 point margin.

There have only been two other instances of Indian shooters winning a World championship medal. Dr. Karni Singh had won the trap silver in a World championship in 1962 in Cairo and Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore had bagged the bronze in the shotgun World Championship in Cyprus in 2003.

Harveen takes bronze

Harveen Srao clinched a bronze medal in air pistol in the junior girls' section. The 20-year-old Chandigarh girl shot 382 out of 400 with a series of 91, 94, 99 and 98. She pipped Antoaneta Boneva of Bulgaria with the same score on the basis of her better last card. But for the poor start, Harveen could have won the gold, that went to Brankica Zaric of Serbia and Montenegro (384).

Quite interestingly, four years back, Shweta Chaudhary, a 16-year-old then, had shot a similar 382 in the World championship at Lahti, Finland, but had missed the medal on the count-back.

Shweta this time finished 25th with 374, following a sequence of 92, 93, 96 and 93 while Fatima Nausheen ended up 36th with 370.

The Indian junior girls finished fifth with 1126 and missed a medal by four points.

The Indian junior boys, however, did well to bag the country's first team medal in a World championship, by clinching the bronze in air pistol.

Amanpreet Singh (575), Bapu Vanjare (571) and Zakir Khan (570) missed the silver by one point to Russia. The trio was capable of challenging China for the gold, but Zakir was not his usual self.

Seniors disappoint

The senior marksmen Samaresh Jung, finished 31st in a strong field of 134 with 576. He shot a series of 96, 96, 98, 96, 95 and 95. Vivek Singh was one point behind but was pushed to the 44th slot while Ronak Pandit was 98th with 566.

Chinese Pang Wei, the 20-year-old won the gold and crowned himself as the World champion in his maiden international appearance.

The results:

Men: 10m air rifle: 1. Abhinav Bindra 699.1 (597); 2. Alin George Moldoveanu (Rom) 698.3 (597); 3. Zhu Qinan (Chn) 697.9 (595); 31. Gagan Narang 592; 37. Sanjeev Rajput 591.

Team: 1. China 1783; 2. Russia 1783; 3. Austria 1782; 4. India 1780.

10m air pistol: 1. Pang Wei (Chn) 683.8 (584), 2. Jakkrit Panichpatikum (Tha) 683.0 (582); 3. Vladimir Gontcharov (Rus) 681.1 (581); 31. Samaresh Jung 576; 44. Vivek Singh 575; 98. Ronak Pandit 566.

Team: 1. China (1747); 2. Russia (1745); 3. France (1733); 14. India (1717).

Junior men: 1. Pu Qifeng (Chn) 560; 2. Ventsislav Savov (Bul) 554; 3. Daemyung Lee (Kor) 552; 18. Amanpreet Singh 538; 32. Bapu Vanjare 528; 55. Nikhil Yadav 505.

Team: 1. China 1641; 2. Korea 1630; 3. Germany 1629; 9. India 1571.

Junior boys: 1. Pu Qifeng (Chn) 580, 2. Daemyung Lee (Kor) 578; 3. Mai Jiajie (Chn) 578; 6. Amanpreet Singh 575; 16. Bapu Vanjare 571; 20. Zakir Khan 570.

Team: 1. China 1726; 2. Russia 1717; 3. India 1716.

Junior girls: 1. Brankica Zaric (Scg) 384; 2. Liu Weiwei (Chn) 384; 3. Harveen Srao 382; 25. Shweta Chaudhary 274; 36. Fatima Nausheen 370.

Team: 1. China 1139, 2. Korea 1132, 3. Serbia and Montenegro 1130; 5. India 1126.

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