Ankur Mittal strikes silver, Jitu, Heena win gold in test event

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NEW DELHI FEB 28,
Ankur Mittal provided a fantastic finish to the day with a silver medal in double trap after Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai had combined to win the mixed doubles gold in air pistol, an event that is being recommended for the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. With Tejaswini Sawant maintaining the consistent performance of the home shooters in making the women’s rifle 3-position final, it was indeed a memorable day for the host in the shooting World Cup at the Dr. Karni Singh Range in Tughlakabad on Monday.
It was an improvement from the bronze medal won by Pooja Ghatkar in women’s air rifle on the opening day. There was no hint of such turn of events at the start of the day, when Heena Sidhu had an 8 and a 9 on the first two shots in qualification, or while Ankur Mittal missed six birds in the first round for a score of 24 in double trap. It was a maiden final in a World Cup for the 24-year-old Ankur and he put up a fabulous show in the marathon 80-shot climax, shooting 74 and missing the gold by one point to James Willett of Australia. “Am very happy. I missed a few in the final, but lost the gold by one bird. I will do better next time. I had to shoot a 30 in the last round to make the final, and doing that gave me a lot of confidence,’’ said Ankur, who had won the Asian championship gold in 2014, and a bronze in the Asian meet last year.
He had missed the final in the Asian Games in Incheon and had placed seventh.
Ankur had indeed shot high scores like 144 in a World Cup, and 140 in the World Championship as a junior, but to make the final on 137 after such a disastrous start , in front of expectant supporters, gave a hint of his grit.
Dismissing the argument that double trap may go out of the Olympics, Ankur pointed that he had the World Championship this season, apart from the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games to fight for precious medals.
After shooting 33 of the first 34 birds, Ankur missed a double. He recovered from that shock to shoot clean till he was tied for the gold match at 57. Early he missed three second birds in a row, and that proved the difference in the end, even though the Aussie missed two to bridge the gap.

“It was pressure perhaps,’’ conceded Ankur, whose previous best in a World Cup was the ninth place in Baku last year, when he had shot an identical 137.

Sangram Dahiya also made the final, but was the first to exit. He had started the qualification bright with a round of 30 and had followed with 26, 28, 28 and 26 to qualify one point behind the leader.

The 14-year-old Shapath Bhardwaj gave a good account of himself with rounds of 25, 26, 27, 28 and 26, as he missed the final by five points.

In the mixed air pistol event, Heena Sidhu (240) pulled the team into the final after Jitu Rai (235) struggled after a good start. Heena had a fine finish after a struggle at the start. In the group stage of the final, India (234.3) topped ahead of Slovenia (232.1), Germany (193.5) and Iran (152.9). From the other group, Japan (241.4) had topped ahead of Chinese Taipei (238.4), Malaysia (194.3) and China (151.3).

In the gold medal match against Japan, Heena and Jitu, two of the finest pistol shooters ever to represent India, shot increasingly well to beat Japanese pair of Tomoyuki Matsuda and Yukani Konishi 5-3 in a single-shot format, in which a team having a better total gets a point, and the first to reach five, wins the contest. Slovenia beat Chinese Taipie 5-3 for the bronze.

It was a good preparation for Jitu Rai before his competition in air pistol and free pistol, while it was a good recovery for Heena who had missed making the women’s air pistol final.

It was a commendable performance from Tejaswini Sawant, the former World Champion in prone event, to make the final with a round of 193 in standing position and a total of 582. In the final, Tejaswini went up to the fourth place after 35 shots, but a 7.7 pulled her down and ensured elimination after 40 shots.

“All the three shot very well in standing, which was very good in the windy conditions’’, observed coach Deepali Deshpande. Elizabeth Susan Koshy (580) and Anjum Moudgil (578) missed the final, after Tejaswini took the last slot.

While China further strengthened its place at the top with six gold and four silver, India jumped to the joint fourth place with Singapore, with its silver and bronze. Australia was in the second spot with two gold medals while Italy was third with a gold and two silver.

The results: Men: Double trap: 1. James Willett (Aus) 75 (WR) 138; 2. Ankur Mittal 74 (137); 3. James Dedman (GBR) 56 (137); 6. Sangram Dahiya 24 (138); 10. Shapath Bhardwaj 132. MQS: Prithvi Singh Chahal 130; Sanjay Rathore 129.

Women: 50m rifle 3-position: 1. Zhang Yiwen (Chn) 455.7 (584); 2. Xiang Wei Jasmine Ser (Sgp) 453.8 (585); 3. Eva Roesken (Ger) 443.6 (585); 7. Tejaswini Sawant 402.4 (582); 12. Elizabeth Susan Koshy 580; 12. Anjum Moudgil 578. MQS: Gaayathri Nithyanandam 575; Lajja Gauswami 572.

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