The sight of Indian teenagers taking down the experienced Serbian pair of Zorana Arunovic and Damir Mikec, the latter a Tokyo Olympics silver medallist, in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team gold medal match, was probably the high point of the day, as young guns helped India sweep the mixed team competitions in Air events, on day two of the ongoing International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup Rifle/Pistol stage in Cairo, Egypt.
First, R. Narmada Nithin and reigning world champion in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle, Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil, won the 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team to give India their first tournament gold. Then Varun Tomar, who had won bronze in the individual men’s Air Pistol on Sunday, and Rhythm Sangwan, clinched the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team competition, to ensure India finish on top of the medal tally with two gold and one bronze medal. There are six more finals left in the tournament.
Narmada and Rudrankksh shot a stunning 635.8 in the Olympic event, to top the 38-team 60-shot (30 shots each) qualification round. That effort took them to the gold medal match, where they defeated Hungary’s Eszter Denes and Istvan Peni 16-6.
Both the champions were effusive in their praise for each other. Rudrankksh said after the final, “I am very happy. Narmada shot brilliantly. I dedicate this to all our well-wishers,” before excusing himself to prepare for his individual event coming up on Tuesday. Narmada was a little more forthcoming saying, “I am very excited as this is my first international medal at the senior level so happy that it began with a gold. Could not have done it without Rudrankksh. He was just outstanding today.”
Taking aim at the Egypt International Olympic City Shooting range, the Indian pair took to their firing points in the second qualification relay, after a second Indian pair of Tilottama Sen and Hriday Hazarika had shot a score of 628.8 in the first and were lying fourth. Tilottama and Hriday eventually finished seventh as the top four made the medal rounds. Eszter and Istvan shot 631.0 to finish second, thereby earning the right to face Narmada and Rudrankksh for a shot at gold.
The Hungarians found the Indian pair too hot to handle on the day though and were outgunned fairly comfortably in the end. World Champion Rudrankksh, still a teenager, showed his mettle in the final. His lowest among the 11 single-shots required in the decider was 10.3, with a perfect 10.9 in the sixth series as the icing. Narmada too shot very well, with just three scores in the high 9s. This was the pair’s first international gold together and also their first gold medal at a senior ISSF World Cup stage.
Germany’s Lisa Mueller and Maximillan Dallinger came third, after they beat the Swiss pair of Nina Christen and Christoph Duerr 16-12 in the bronze medal match.
Rhythm and Varun make it two in two
Indian teenagers also made the decider of the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team competition, when the pair of Rhythm Sangwan and Varun Tomar, topped their qualification round with a combined score of 583. They were joined in the gold medal match by the experienced Serbian pair of Zorana Arunovic and Damir Mikec who shot 582 in qualification to finish a point behind the Indians. A second Indian pair of Divya T.S. and Sarabjot Singh shot 577 to finish fifth.
It turned out to be the proverbial dogfight with both pairs sharing the first six single-shot series. Varun Tomar, who had won bronze in the individual men’s air pistol on Sunday, then started to become the difference in the match with his consistency. He missed the 10-mark just three times out of 13, while Damir had six and Zorana and Rhythm eight scores each below the 10-mark in the decider.
The Indians led 10-6 and then 12-8 and then finally 14-10 before sealing the deal in the 13th series.
Both shooters were relaxed after the final. Varun said, “I am feeling great. It has been a good tournament for me. I just kept calm and followed the process as instructed by the coach.”. Rhythm also shared her feelings saying, “I gave my best and tried to relax myself as much as possible. I am happy that it turned out well.”
On Sunday evening, Veronika Major had won the Women’s 10 Air Pistol gold defeating Serbia’s Zorana Arunovic 16-6 in the gold medal match. India’s Manu Bhaker finished fifth and Divya T.S., playing her first senior world cup, ended seventh. In qualification Divya had finished above Manu with a score of 576 to qualify in third place. Manu had shot 572 to clinch the eighth and final qualification spot.