Li Du shoots down first gold; Suma finishes last

NUMERO UNO: Li Du (centre) of China who won the first gold of the competition with Russia's Lioubov Galkina (silver, left) and Katerina Kurkova of Czech Republic (bronze) in the women's 10m air rifle. - Photo: Vino John

NUMERO UNO: Li Du (centre) of China who won the first gold of the competition with Russia's Lioubov Galkina (silver, left) and Katerina Kurkova of Czech Republic (bronze) in the women's 10m air rifle. - Photo: Vino John  

ATHENS, AUG. 14. They attack in tandem, but this time, Suma Shirur shot ahead of her friendly rival Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat, though she was not too pleased about that.

Suma Shirur emulated Anjali's Sydney effort in making the final of the air rifle event, but had to be content with the eighth slot, while Anjali herself had to settle for the 20th spot, much to the shock of the Indian media that followed the event with considerable expectations.

The good points first. It was a splendid effort by the Railway employee from Mumbai, as the 30-year-old Suma recovered from an indifferent start, when she had dropped three points in the first 13 shots, to have made the final.

She fought hard in the third and fourth series, in putting up a 396 out of 400 on the board. In the process, she became only the third Indian woman after P. T. Usha and Anjali to make an Olympic final.

There were six shooters tied at 396 for three slots in the final, and Suma could make it on the countback because of her penultimate round of 100. She had a series of 99, 98, 100 and 99.

"I am happy with the way I fought. After losing those early points I told myself that come what may I am not going out without a fight. From that count, am happy to have made the final. I didn't do too well in the final, perhaps because it was my first big final and I lacked the experience.

"But the performance is encouraging, and I hope to build on it in future competitions. I have been training very well in the last few months, and expected to do well," said Suma, who had won the Asian championship in Kuala Lumpur in February, equalling the world record of 400 out of 400.

Anjali disappointed

Anjali was obviously disappointed with her fare, in returning a total of 393 out of 400, a low score that she has not seen against her name in the last four years.

"Everything was fine during the `sighter' shots. The first shot went to the right to the 9 and I didn't have the confidence to give a `click'. The second also went to the right to the 9, and I gave a few clicks. But, losing two points with the first two shots kept bothering me, and once I dropped four points in the first series, I knew that it was over for me.

"I thought nothing great was going to happen, and just went ahead shooting. Somehow, the killer instinct or whatever you may say, was just not there today, though I felt very relaxed and in control before the start.

"I had been practising very well, on the same match lane for the last three days, and didn't shoot a 9 yesterday. I am yet to recover from this setback, and should be all right tomorrow," said Anjali, struggling to control her disappointment.

Anjali had made the final as a wild card in the Sydney Olympics and shot a 394 then. In the last four years, she had always shot above that score, winning many laurels and beating everyone in the field at some meet or the other.

The three medallists, Li Du of China who pipped Lioubov Galkina of Russia with a last shot of 10.6 in winning the first gold of the 28th edition of the Olympics, and the world champion Katerina Kurkova of the Czech Republic had been beaten a few times by Anjali in World Cups and World Cup finals, but the Mumbai lady will have to wait for her 3-position event to possibly make amends.

Anjali had won a bronze in the World Cup final in the 3-position event in Sydney this season, and may be able to come up with something encouraging though the windy conditions here may be pretty difficult for her to overcome.

The national coach Prof. Sunny Thomas was not happy with the turn of events, though he acknowledged the effort of Suma in making the final.

"In the final, her shots were going all over the place. She shot only a 101.2 in the final, when she is capable of going up to 104 or so. As far as Anjali's performance is concerned, I was taken aback to see her score. I just couldn't believe it. But in sports, it does happen like that. You have no option but to swallow it'', said Prof. Thomas, in a philosophical tone.

Wang Yifu on target

Later, Wang Yifu gave China its second gold when he beat Russia's Mikhail Nestruev with a narrow come-from-behind victory on the final shot of the men's 10-metres air pistol competition.

Meanwhile, at the trap range, Manavjit Singh Sandhu returned a 71 out of 75 after three rounds to be in line for a final assault on the morrow, while Mansher Singh, who could not sustain a solid start, ended up with a score of 69 out of 75. Manav had rounds of 22, 25 and 24, while Mansher had scores of 25, 23 and 21. It would be interesting to see how well the two respond to a fresh challenge on the morrow.

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