Teenager Saurabh Chaudhary continued his rich vein of form as he clinched the men’s 10m air pistol gold with a world record score in his first-ever World Cup on Sunday in Delhi, and assured India of a berth for this event at 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The 16-year-old from Uttar Pradesh shot a stunning 245 in the final to finish on the top of the podium with a massive lead of 5.7 over his nearest rival from Serbia.
Later, Manu Bhaker finished fifth in the women’s 25m pistol final and could not earn a Olympic quota.
Chaudhary, the Asian Games and Youth Olympics champion, held steady in the top spot throughout the final with a consistent showing in front of a vociferous home crowd at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.
Tied on the top spot after the first series, he had a slender lead of 0.6. However, he continued to outscore the field even as Damir Mikec of Serbia and and Pang Wei of China – the silver and bronze winners – fluctuated. The Indian extended the lead from 2.6 when the eliminations began to 5.3 in the penultimate series.
His comfortable lead also meant that when he had a couple of scores below 10, his position in the gold medal spot didn’t waver.
Earlier In qualification, Chaudhary shot 587 out of the possible 600 in the men’s 10 m air pistol to qualify third overall for the finals. The 16-year-old was the only Indian to reach the final in the category after Abhishek Verma and Ravinder Kumar slipped in the final series of their qualifying relay.
Chaudhary won the Asian Games gold in an extremely competitive field on his senior debut. His rise has been meteoric since then. He won the Youth Olympic Games gold in December to add to his gold medals at the Asian Games, Asian championship as well as the Junior World Championship.
At the latest section trials, he kept the momentum sweeping both senior and junior categories. He actually scored 4.6 points above the world record to win the trial. At the KSS Shooting Championship in 2017, the then 15-year-old beat Jitu Rai in the 10m air pistol final, after getting silver medals in the junior and youth event on the same day.
Disappointment for Bhaker
After her impressive second-placed finish in the qualification rounds, there were high expectations from 17-year-old Bhaker but she paid the price for one poor series where she slipped from joint-second to fifth and eliminated.
Being well-placed to finish in the top two and earn an Olympic quota, Bhaker shot just two out of five in the seventh series and had to bow out, with a shake of her head and disappointment writ large on her face. She had overcome a shaky start to push herself into the reckoning for a medal before that series ended her quest for a second senior world cup gold medal.
After two days of competition action, India have won two gold medals out of the four on offer so far with Hungary winning the other two. Olympic quotas have now been assured in women’s 10m air rifle (two) and men’s 10m air pistol (one). No Indian shooter qualified for the final of the men’s 50m three-position rifle event.
Clarification: The article originally said Saurabh Chaudhary is from Haryana, it’s now been corrected to UP.