Akhil Sheoran dominated the Men’s 50m Rifle 3-Position final to bag India’s fourth gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday.

The 22-year-old, who was participating in his first World Cup, was fourth after the kneeling position and rose to second at the end of prone. He then fired two 10.8s to take the lead in the elimination phase in standing position and went on take the gold with a total of 455.6, a good 3.6 points ahead of silver winner Austria’s Bernhard Pickl. Istvan Peni won Bronze with 442.3.

Sheoran’s gold once again underlined the progress made by India’s young brigade as he joined first-timers Shahzar Rizvi, Manu Bhaker and Mehuli Ghosh in finishing at the top of the podium.

Bhaker had also qualified in fourth place for the Women’s 25m Pistol Final, shooting a score of 581. She, however, finished fifth in the finals. Anna Korakaki, the reigning Olympic Champion in the event, took the gold.

But it was the Men’s 3-P final that kept the spectators glued as Shearon surged ahead during the elimination rounds.

Earlier, in the qualification round where each shooter shoots 40-shots in each position, the experienced Rajput shot a solid 1176 out of a possible 1200 to qualify second behind Hungarian Rifle legend Peter Peni who shot 1178. Akhil was fourth with 1174 while young Swapnil Kusale, competing in his first World Cup, shot 1168 for seventh place to ensure that it all three Indians qualified for the eight-man final.

Rajput had the best Prone round among all qualifiers with a 398 out of 400 while both he and Akhil had the strongest Kneeling round among the eight with scores of 392 each. Swapnil had the strongest Standing round among the three Indians with a 390 which was the second best in the position among all qualifiers.

Rajput misses out

In the final, Rajput was strongest off the blocks, being in second spot after the first 10 kneeling shots with Akhil in third and Swapnil in joint fourth place. At the end of it Rajput was 0.6 clear of second placed Austrian Pickl. Akhil was in fourth and Swapnil in fifth place with Istvan Peni looming in third spot.

Rajput got even stronger in the 15 shot Prone round and by the end of it was 1.1 clear of second placed teammate Sheoran, who also had a strong Prone round to make his move up. Peni was 2.6 behind Rajput in third place.

The wind at the tent-range got into its elements at the start of the final 15 Standing position shots and after the first five shots, it was Akhil Sheoran who was one point clear of the field with Peni moving up to second and Rajput after a horrid 5-shot series which had three scores in the 8s, down to fourth.

Kusale bowed out in sixth place in his first World Cup while Sheoran came up with a 10.8 in the 42nd shot to virtually seal the deal. Rajput had left too much to do and even a 10.8 in the 43rd shot could not get him into the podium as he finished fourth, ending with 430.9 in the final.

With two shots left, Akhil was almost 2 points clear and held his nerve to close out in style with a 10.8.