Ace Indian pistol shooters Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary had a good beginning to the inaugural ISSF President’s Cup held in Wroclaw, Poland.
Both qualified for the semifinals of their respective Air Pistol individual events and both were impressive in mixed team.
Manu won the gold medal in the mixed-nation 10m Air Pistol Mixed competition alongside the current Olympic Champion Javad Foroughi of Iran. Saurabh may not have won a medal but shot well enough to raise hopes of a good showing for the individual event.
In the gold medal match, the Indo-Iranian pairing of Manu and Foroughi faced off against the duo of Mathilde Lamolle of France and Artem Chernousov of Russia. Though all four shooters hit high scores through most of the match, the Europeans lost out near the end due to a string of 9s in face of consistent 10s by Foroughi. The Asians ultimately prevailed 16-8.
Incidentally, Manu had won gold with Chernousov at the 2019 World Cup Finals, the previous incarnation of the President’s Cup.
Manu was the only shooter in the final four who was not an Olympic finalist but held her own in the gold medal match, semi-finals and qualifications. This was her first senior international medal after the Olympic debacle and comes on the back of a good showing in the 2021 Junior World Championships.
Her performance in the individual qualifications was even more remarkable. She shot 585-21x to place first among 12 competitors. In Semi Final 1 she will take on Olena Kostevych, Sylvia Steiner and Lamolle again for a place in the finals. A good showing at Wroclaw will be important for her redemption arc.
Yashaswini Singh Deswal did not do as well and scored 567-12x to finish 10th. In the mixed team competition, Yashaswini (283-5x) and her partner Juraj Tuzinsky (289-9x) of Slovakia finished 10th among 12 teams and could not qualify for the semis.
Saurabh’s comeback at the ISSF President’s Cup
Saurabh Chaudhary, unlike Manu, did not participate in the World Juniors. The ISSF President’s Cup is his first major competition after Tokyo 2020.
Any fears over his form were abated after a typically solid individual qualification score of 581-18x which placed him 3rd and into Semi Final 1. He will compete against Christian Reitz, Paolo Korostylov and Damir Mikec for a place in the finals.
Abhishek Verma shot 580-22x to make it to Semi Final 2. He will square off against Foroughi, Vadim Mukhametyanov and Juraj Tuzinsky.
Saurabh also posted a terrific AP mixed team qualification score of 294-11x (which was co-incidentally the same score as Manu’s), one of the highest in the field. It was on the back of Saurabh’s efforts that him and partner Heidi Gerber of Switzerland made it to the semifinal stage. The latter, a Women’s 25m Pistol bronze medalist at Rio 2016, could only manage 279-5x in qualifications.
Saurabh shot a good 50.8 in the semi-finals as well but Gerber struggled with 47.2 as the team was the first to be eliminated after 5 shots in Semi Final 2.
Abhishek was the third Indian in the semis but him and partner Olena Kostevych of Ukraine finished 3rd out of 4 teams in Semi Final 1. The duo had earlier qualified for the semi final stage thanks mainly to Kostevych’s 296-13x, the single highest score in the competition. Abhishek in comparison scored 280-8x.
Air Rifle Results
Vladimir Maslennikov of Russia set a new World Record of 635 in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle qualifications. The competition in fact saw such high scores that the Top 3 comprising Maslennikov, Yang Haoran (634.4) and Sheng Lihao (633.7) all shot above the previous WR of 633.5. Fourth placed Patrik Jany just missed out with 633.4. 7 out of the top 8 shooters shot 630+ scores.
The Women’s competition was topped by Jeanette Hegg Duestad (632.5). Other Olympic finalists Oceanne Muller and Mary Tucker also made the cut for the semis.
The AR Mixed competition was won by the team of Sheng Lihao of China and Laura-Georgeta Ilie of Romania. They beat Istvan Peni of Hungary and Rikke Maeng Ibsen of Norway 16-2.