Winning the Olympic quota spot and finishing in the top two already assured Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil a special day in Cairo at the ISSF World Championship Rifle/Pistol on Friday. But the teenager added a icing to the cake by becoming world champion as well in thrilling manner.

With a stunning comeback in the gold medal match at the Egypt International Olympic City (EIOC) shooting range, 18-year-old Patil became the senior men’s 10m air rifle world champion. Patil also earned India’s second Paris 2024 Olympic Games quota spot.

The Thane teenager also becomes the second Indian man after Abhinav Bindra in 2006 to be crowned the 10m air rifle world champion.

Four quota spots are available in Olympic events at the World Championship this year. India had earned their first quota at the Shotgun World Championship is Croatia recently, thanks to Bhowneesh Mendiratta in men’s trap event.

Patil was trailing 4-10 against Italy’s Danilo Dennis Sollazzo in the new format of the gold medal match to decide the top two. The Italian stayed in the lead for the majority of the final but the Indian kept pegging back. A 10.8 to beat Sollazzo’s 10.7 made it 13-13 and from there Patil held on to clinch gold.

Here’s the match-winning moment:

Silver medallist at the Junior World Championships in Lima last year and a gold medallist at the Junior World Cup in Suhl earlier this year, this was Patil’s first medal of any hue at the senior level internationally. He had broken through to the senior squad in the beginning of the year and had registered seventh and 11th place finishes in the Baku and Cairo World Cups earlier.

Patil was detailed in the second qualification relay on the day and when he took his start, teammate Kiran Ankush Jadhav of the Indian Navy had already logged an impressive 630.6 in the first relay to lie third.

With the top eight making it to the next ranking round, Rudrankksh shot a superb a 633.9 to top the high-quality field of 114 shooters. Among those whom he left behind on the day were legends like Yang Haoran (double Olympic gold and double world champion) of China, reigning Olympic champion William Shanner of the USA, Chinese teenager and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Lihao Sheng of China and Olympic medallists Serhiy Kulhish of Ukraine and Alexis Raynaud of France, among others.

Arjun Babuta, who shot 625.3 to finish in 22nd place, missed the cut but two Indians made it.

In the 25-shot ranking round broken down into five series of five shots each, Patil had a steady start moving up to fourth place after 10 shots with a score of 104.2. Compatriot Kiran Jadhav, who had also made it to the top eight with a sixth-place finish overall in qualification, bowed out at this stage in eighth place along with Raynaud, who finished seventh.

Patil shot into the lead after the third series of shots logging 157 to be 0.1 ahead of Italian Sollazzo and 0.7 ahead of Yang Haoran as the fifth and sixth place shooters bowed out, assuring India of a Paris quota place. Patil continued to shine and a 10.8 for his 19th and a 10.3 for the 10th meant that he kept the lead after the fourth series as well. It was now 0.3 over the Italian and a full point ahead of Lihao Sheng who had caught up on countryman Haoran.

The Italian however had a strong final series and wrested the lead from the Indian at the end of it, but Patil still made it to the gold round, finishing 0.1 ahead of Lihao, who bagged bronze. Patil finished with 261.9 to Sollazzo’s 262.7.

Stunning comeback

The gold medal match, in this new format, then turned out to be a dogfight. The two shooters shoot a single shot each and the winner is awarded two points while an equal score means they split a point each. The first to 16 points wins. Patil and Sollazzo split points thrice in the shoot-out including in the first two rounds.

Then at one point, the Italian was 8-4 ahead, then 10-4 and then 13-9, but Patil was never letting him go out of sight. After winning a close round to narrow the gap to 11-13, the Indian shot a 10.8 in the next to Danilo’s 10.7 and the scores were level 13-13. Patil fired 10.7 and 10.5 in the next two to Danilo’s 10.4 and 10.2 and climb on top of the Men’s 10m Air Rifle world at the age of 18.

Tough miss for women

In women’s 10m air rifle, Mehuli Ghosh missed the top 8 cutoff by just 0.3 points, placing 10th. Meghana SAJJANAR missed out by 0.8, placing 13th, while Elavenil Valarivan finished 19th with 628.7.

Day’s other results

India’s juniors continued to impress as Udhayveer Sidhu and Esha Singh finished on top of the pile after the first qualification round of their 25m Pistol Men and Women Junior events. Udhayveer shot 290 in the first Precision round while Esha shot 294.

In the Junior Men’s 25m Pistol, among the other Indians, Unish Holinder was lying 13th with 282 while Sameer logged 280 to lie 19th. Also in the Junior Women’s competition, Naamya Kapoor shot 283 to be in 18th spot, Vibhuti Bhatia 280 to be 21st, Khushi Kapoor 279 to be 24th and Divanshi shot 278 to lie in 25th position.

In the 50m Rifle Prone Mixed Team Junior competition, the pair of Nishchal and Surya Pratap Singh went down 6-16 in a bronze medal match to USA’s Katie Zaun and Rylan Kissell. They had on Thursday earned qualification to the match, by virtue of finishing fourth in stage two of qualification, with a score of 411.2. The second Indian pair of Nupur Kumrawat and Pankaj Mukheja bowed out in eighth place at that stage after coming through stage one along with their compatriots.

In the 50m Rifle 3 Positions Men Junior, India’s Sartaj Tiwana finished seventh with a score of 580 to qualify for the ranking round. Pankaj Mukheja and Surya Pratap Singh were 13th and 28th with scores of 577 and 570 respectively.

More to follow