India’s top guns - including a couple of teenagers, stormed the Chinese Shooting and Archery Administration Center on Thursday, winning three of the four gold medals up for grabs on the penultimate day of the ISSF World Cup Final Rifle/Pistol in Putian, China.
Never before had India won three gold medals in the annual ISSF showpiece.
Manu Bhaker, Elavenil Valarivan and Divyansh Singh Panwar’s exploits, meant that India finished the day right at the top of the medals tally with hosts China now trying to play catch-up with two gold medals to their name.
It started early in Putian on Thursday. First, Manu Bhaker demolished a classy field to nail her first WCF gold, winning the Women’s 10m Air Pistol. Elavenil then followed it up with a scintillating pillar to post a victory in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle before Divyansh Singh Panwar, all of 17, took out the best Air Rifle exponents in the world for a thrilling 0.1 point victory in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle.
All the victories were unique and were achieved in contrasting styles.
Manu had a tight qualification round and was behind at the start of the finals as well. She took the lead after the 11th shot of the 24-shot final and then kept getting stronger to finish a massive 2.8 points ahead of the silver winning Serbian and two-time former world champion Zorana Arunovic.
Manu’s score in the final was 244.7. Reigning Asian Games champion Wang Qian of China won bronze.
The second Indian in the field, Yashaswini Deswal, also reached the final to finish a creditable sixth in her first WCF.
It was then the turn of Elavenil Valarivan, who first returned a solid 631.1 in qualification to finish second overall quite comfortably. In the final, she took the lead from the first 5-shot series itself to never surrender it and despite a 9.4 on her 23rd shot which gave Chinese Taipei’s Lin Ying-Shin a sniff of a chance, closed out with a 10.4 to win by 0.1. Ela shot 250.8 on the day to Lin’s 250.7.
Here too, a second Indian on her maiden WCF outing, Mehuli Ghosh, reached the final but finished sixth. Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil, the third and fourth Indians who made the cut for this event, could not progress beyond the qualification rounds.
Finally, it was the turn of Divyansh Singh Panwar and he too savoured a narrowest possible 0.1-point victory in his Men’s 10m Air Rifle final over Hungarian star Istvan Peni, but he was a more closely contested final than Ela’s.
Divyansh was placed third after the first two 5-shot series and only took the lead after the 12thshot. After that, he had an exhilarating battle with Peni with the lead changing hands at least a couple of times.
Going into the 24th and final shot, the difference between the two was 0.5 with Divyansh ahead. Peni shot a 10.5 but Divyansh’s 10.1 was enough to give him gold.
There was also the Men’s 10m Air Pistol final on the day and here to both Indians in the field, Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary reached the finals. Abhishek in-fact topped qualifying with a 588. They, however, finished fifth and sixth respectively with China’s Pang Wei winning gold.
It was to bring the curtain down on a truly historic day for Indian sport shooting.
Friday, the final day of the Putian WCF has the two Mixed Team events on the schedule with India searching for more medals.