Saurabh Chaudhary of India (C), Matsuda Tomoyuki (R) of Japan and Abhishek Verma after the men's 10m air pistol final at the Asian Games 2018 (PIC: IANS).
Indian shooters Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma gave India the best start possible on the third day of the Asian Games 2018 with superlative performances to win gold and bronze in the men’s 10 metre Air Pistol final.
Chaudhary, the teenager from Meerut, clinched gold with an Asian Games record score of 240.7. He joined an elite list of five Indian shooters to have won gold at the continental event.
More good news followed from the shooting range soon after Verma and Chaudhary’s showing. Sanjeev Rajput registered India's best ever finish in the 50m rifle 3 positions event with a silver medal. India's previous best display in the same event had come through Gagan Narang and Chain Singh, who won a bronze each in 2006 and 2014, respectively.
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The day began on a high note with the 16-year-old Chaudhary, who was making a senior international debut at the Games. While much is expected from him in the future, few would have predicted the future was now.
The teenager had broken the world record en route gold in the Junior World Cup in Germany a few months back. But few expected him to emulate the likes of Jaspal Rana, Randhir Singh, Jitu Rai and Ronajan Sodhi as a tennager, that too while making his debut at a senior international event!
In an intriguing battle in the final, Tomoyuki Matsuda of Japan held the top position for the majority of the competition, having taken the lead after the second shot of the series. When push came to shove though, it was the Indian teenager who exuded calm and confidence to pip the Japanese shooter to gold.
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Few onlookers would have predicted the drama to unfold as the final five of the series stayed put in the competition. South Korea’s Jin Jong-oh, a multiple Olympic and World champion, underwhelmed in the final, but seemed set to stay put in fourth place, till a wayward shot cost him his place in the medal rounds. From there on, Chaudhary and fellow debutant Abhishek Verma took charge.
The duo took the berths after beating the more accomplished duo of Jitu Rai and Om Mitharwal at the national team trials.
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Verma, 29, was making his own Asian Games debut. A hobby shooter and a qualified lawyer, Verma only turned professional three years ago, and finished sixth in the qualification round on August 21, and stayed put in third spot to clinch the bronze with 219.3 points.
That left Matsuda and Chaudhary to shoot for gold, and the unthinkable happened.
Matsuda, 42, was leading the charge going into the ninth and final series by almost one full point -- he had 220.5, while Chaudhary totalled 219.6 after the eighth series. In normal circumstances, and considering the way he had shot through the competition, gold seemed all but assured for Japan. But then, he came up with a first shot score of 8.9 -- his worst shot of the finals -- to blow the competition wide open.
Chaudhary never faltered, and took the opportunity with open arms, shooting 10.2 to take the lead. In the second shot of the series, Matsuda scored 10.3 but the Indian held his nerves, shooting a 10.4 to seal the title and India’s third gold of Asian Games 2018.
(With inputs from IANS)