Indian airgun shooters put on a dominant display on the first day of medal competition at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany. India won a total of 7 medals including 3 golds to be well on top of the medal tally on Day 1.
The ISSF Junior World Cup returned after a pandemic-induced gap of three years. India had similarly done well in the last such tournament held in 2019 at the same venue, winning an overall 24 medals including 10 golds.
The 2022 edition saw a depleted field given that there were no competitors from China, Russia and Ukraine. The scores posted by Indians on Day 1 were a mixed bag; in general the pattern was of newcomers trumping more experienced names.
10m Air Rifle Men
The first two medals of the day for India came courtesy Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil, who beat compatriot Abhinav Shaw 17-13 in the 10m Men’s Air Rifle Junior gold medal match.
19-year old Rudrankksh had placed 4th in qualifications with 627.5 while 14-year old Abhinav was 5th with 626.7. Both Rudrankksh (260.9) and Abhinav (257.7) then went on to top the final elimination stage to qualify for the gold medal match and ensure a 1-2 for India.
Another Indian Paarth Makhija (627.8) also qualified for the final stage but was eliminated in 5th place. Bronze was won by Nils Palberg (257.6) of Germany who missed out on the gold medal match by just 0.1 points.
India had finished medal-less in this event in the last JWC held in 2019; Hriday Hazarika at 4th was the highest-placing Indian while eventual Olympic Champion in 50m Rifle 3 Positions Zhang Changhong of China was 2nd.
10m Air Rifle Women
French Olympic finalist Oceanne Muller was always going to be one of the favourites for this event but India’s Ramita held her own in a field that also included another Olympic finalist in Korea’s Eunji Kwon.
Ramita first topped the qualifications with an excellent 630.6 and then topped the final stage with 261 to qualify for the gold-medal match.
A number of 9s by Ramita in the gold match and consistent shooting by Muller helped the Frechwoman secure the the top position by a score of 16-8. It was nevertheless a terrific display by Ramita especially considering she was the lone Indian in the final stage. Neither Arya Borse (625.5), Zeena Khitta (624.5) nor Tilottama Sen (620.8) could qualify.
Julia Ewa Piotrowska (259) of Poland won bronze.
Back in 2019, Elavenil Valarivan and Mehuli Ghosh had won gold and silver for India with Muller finishing third.
10m Air Pistol Men
In the second of the three 1-2 finishes, Shiva Narwal beat defending champion Sarabjot Singh 16-12 in the gold medal match. Shiva is the younger brother of Paralympic Champion Manish Narwal.
In qualifications, Shiva (585-23x) scored the only 580+ score of the day. Sarabjot qualified third with 578-12x. Sarabjot (251.9) then finished ahead of Shiva (249) in the final elimination stage. Mukhammad Kamalov (247.7) of Uzbekistan won bronze.
Arjun Singh Cheema (577-23x) also qualified for the final stage but was eliminated 6th. Olympic finalist Saurabh Chaudhary meanwhile had an off-day by his usual standards, scoring 575-22x.
Sarabjot had won the gold in this event back in 2019.
10m Air Pistol Women
India’s final gold came via debutante Palak who scored an upset 17-9 win over Manu Bhaker in the final match.
16-year old Palak was in good form throughout the day, first being well ahead in qualifications with 577 and then scoring 248.1 in the final stage, second only to Manu’s 251.1. In the gold match too her string of 10s posed a considerable challenge for the more experienced Manu. Anna Dulce (242.8) of Moldova won bronze.
Manu just about managed to qualify in 8th place with a below-par 565-18x. Esha Singh with 563-11x scored even lower.
Esha had won the silver in this event in 2019 and more was expected from her going into this competition.
Overall it was an excellent day for India. As mentioned before, the country is on top of the medal table with 3 golds and 4 silvers while France with the solitary gold is a distant second.