Sanjeev Rajput earned India an Olympic quota place in the 50m 3-positions rifle event, winning a silver medal in the event at the year’s fourth and final International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup Rifle/Pistol stage in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
This is India’s eighth quota place for the upcoming Olympic Games in shooting.
He was on course for a second ISSF World Cup gold medal (after his first in Changwon in 2011) but missed out on the top-podium finish by a whisker at the end. With one shot left in the final, Rajput was leading 453.2, with Croatia’s Peter Gorsa trailing at 452.2, but a 8.8 resulted in the 38-year-old winning silver at the end. Changhong Zhang from China won bronze. The Indian had a wry smile before joining in the celebrations with his fellow medallists.
This former Indian Navy marksman had staged a remarkable comeback after a poor finals start, which saw his first three shots in the 9s. However, Rajput was not to be denied his fourth Olympic quota place and fourth ISSF World Cup medal, as even in qualifying earlier he made it through after a scoring equipment malfunction had kept him on tenterhooks for most part of it.
It was duly rectified later, enabling him to comfortably make it through to the finals with a score of 1180 and in second place in the 57-strong field.
In the finals he began the first kneeling position poorly but recovered sufficiently to move up to fifth after 10 shots. By the end of the 15th and final shot in the position he was at fourth, something which he maintained till the end of the second prone position series of 15 shots.
He had some ground to cover and responded with an tremendous standing position series - a 10.9 on the 36th and an encore on the 43rd seeing him head into the final shot with gold for the taking, but it was not to be.
The World Cup silver continues to mark Rajput’s comeback as he had won the gold medal at the 50m rifle 3 positions at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and a silver at the Asian Games in 2018. The Asiad silver was his first individual medal at the event and came when he was 37-years old.
In 2016, Rajput had won India its 12th Rio Olympic quota place at the Asian Olympic qualifiers but was left out of the squad at the last minute as he had finished 0.66 points behind Gagan Narang in the qualifying system. He was also sacked as assistant coach from the Sports Authority of India last year because of a sexual harrasment case against his name.
Earlier in the tournament, youngster Elavenil Valarivan won her first senior World Cup medal on Wednesday, triumphing in the 10m air rifle event. Compatriot and world championship silver medalist Anjum Moudgil, also reached her third world cup final of the year, while finishing fifth.
In the other event of the day, Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Choudhary qualified for the final of the 10m air pistol men’s event. India have already earned two quota places in the event.