Doha: Ace marksman Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Imran Hassan Khan grabbed an Olympic quota each on the final day of the Asian Shooting Championships on Saturday, ending India's long wait for a London Games berth in the competition in Doha.
Manavjit dished out a vintage performance in testing conditions to win gold as well as an Olympic quota for India in trap event while Khan gave the country a London Games berth in the 50m rifle 3 positions. Khan finished fifth but as all the other shooters above him had already bagged Olympic quotas, the qualifying spot for the London Olympics came his way.
The Indians also won the team gold and silver in the 50m rifle 3 positions and trap event respectively.
Sanjeev Rajput, who has already booked a ticket to London, won gold in the 50m rifle 3 positions. Gagan Narang, who has also qualified for the London Games, battled his way to bronze in the same event to bring more cheer to the Indians, who had to wait for 10 days for an Olympic quota in the competition which began on January 11.
Manavjit's triumph made it a memorable outing for India at the Asian Championships, with seven gold in the senior category. His gold medal made it a haul of 11 quotas for India, the highest number ever since quota places were introduced.
2006 trap world champion Manavjit banked on his experience to come through a tough qualifying round and did not relinquish the overnight lead on Saturday. Starting the day with a score of 49/50, Manavjit shot rounds of 25, 24 and 24 to qualify for the final in first place. So dominant was his performance that the next shooter who qualified for the final was five points behind him at 117.
Despite the cushion, Manavjit started shakily in the final, dropping four of the first seven targets. The final in trap is a test of skill as the shooters have only one shot to hit the target, unlike the qualification where they can use both cartridges.
However, Manavjit soon hit his stride as the other shooters failed to cope with the extremely windy conditions. The Indian shot 17/25 to finish with an overall score of 139/150 to bag gold.
The silver went to Talal Al Rashidi of Kuwait with a score of 134 after shooting 117 in qualifying. Rashid-al-Athba of Qatar bagged the final podium place along with the Olympic quota with a score of 132.
Veteran Indian shooter Mansher Singh, who won the trap gold at the Asian Shotgun Championships in last November, could not repeat his heroics and bowed out of contention with a score of 107 to finish 20th. Kynan Chenai finished at 18th, having shot one point more than Mansher at 108.
In 50m rifle 3 positions, Rajput made the best start in windy conditions with a score of 394 in the 40-shot prone series. Khan too put in a creditable effort, shooting 392/400 to put himself in contention.
Narang, though, did not start well with a 380. But he came back strongly in the second series. He shot 380 in standing, which was the highest score amongst the eight eventual finalists.
Rajput shot 372, which ensured he led the pack going into the kneeling series ,while Khan shot two points more with 374. Rajput shot a series of 382 in kneeling to end with a qualifying score of 1148.
Korea's Jonghyun Kim and Jinseop Han were placed second and third with an identical score of 1142. Khan finished his kneeling series with a score of 373 to qualify in fourth place with a combined total of 1139.
Narang shot scores of 93, 95, 94 and 92 in kneeling to finish with an aggregate score of 1134. And that proved crucial as he held his nerve in testing conditions to climb up the leaderboard.
Despite trailing both the Koreans by eight points, Narang fought his way through to come into the reckoning for a podium finish. A 4.2 by Jinseop on his sixth shot gave Narang the chance to catch up.
Rajput too had a horror show of 5.7 in his fifth shot but his cushion of six points in qualifying meant that it would not affect him much.
Khan had to endure a similar moment of nervousness after his seventh shot had a low 3.3. Despite two further low shots of 7.8 and 7.9, he finished with a 10.2 to finish fifth and bag the quota.
Rajput, despite a low score of 93 in the final, finished with an aggregate of 1241 to be crowned Asian champion. Korea's Kim won the silver medal with a score of 1238.3. Narang shot the highest score of 98 in the final that catapulted him over Jinseop to third place with a score of 1232.
National coach Sunny Thomas was a relieved man after going through the entire competition without a quota till the final day.
"The quota was eluding us like black magic. It was so windy today, the conditions were extremely difficult. People were shooting low scores in the final. No one could control the wind. We got three gold, a silver and a bronze and two quota places. I can't ask for more," he said.
"Everyone is relieved. Every passing day the anxiety grew as no quota was coming our way. Being the head of the team I could not show my disappointment, which would have affected the morale of the shooters," he said.
"The team for Olympics (rifle and pistol) will be declared on January 23. Now the priority will be Olympics. I am not concerned about the performance in the three World Cups this season. In my view, the shooters who have made the Olympics should be given a free hand. They should be exempted for national trials and should be free to do practice and train where they want."
Earlier in the day, Pemba Tamang shot 583 to be involved in a three-man shoot-off for silver in the centre-fire pistol. However, he missed out in the tie-shoot and finished fourth.
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