Rio de Janeiro: Sanjeev Rajput secured India’s eighth Olympic quota in shooting with a silver medal finish in the men’s 50m rifle, 3 positions, event at the World Cup here on Thursday. Thirty-eight-year-old Rajput shot 462.0 in the eight-man finals, finishing second behind Petar Gorsa of Croatia (462.2). Gorsa won the Olympic quota in air rifle.
China’s Zhang Changhong clinched the bronze medal. Rajput, a former Indian Navy marksman from Haryana’s Yamuna Nagar, could have won gold but for a poor last shot. This could have been his second World Cup gold after he won one in 2011.
Rajput had been denied a chance to compete in the Rio Olympics after his quota had been exchanged for a shotgun spot by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). The Navy marksman staged a remarkable comeback after a poor start in the finals. His first three shots were in the 9s. However, a 8.8 final shot meant he finished behind Gorsa by just 0.2 point. Rajput had qualified for the final in second place (1,180), following a successful appeal by India after a scoring equipment malfunction.
He began the first kneeling position poorly but recovered well to move up to fifth after 10 shots. By the end of the 15th and final shot in the position he was at fourth, which he maintained till the end of the second prone position series of 15 shots. He still had some ground to cover and responded with a brilliant standing position series – a 10.9 on the 36th and an encore on the 43rd, putting him in contention for gold.
Had he shot better than the 8.8, Rajput could have won his second ISSF World Cup gold medal. However, the effort was good enough for Rajput to join India’s other quota holders Anjum Moudgil, Apurvi Chandela, Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma, Divyansh Singh Panwar, Rahi Sarnobat and Manu Bhaker. The World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold medallist shot 392 in kneeling, 398 in prone and 390 in standing to make it to the eight-man finals.
China’s Changhong Zhang topped the qualifications with a total of 1,181. Among the other Indians competing in the event, Chain Singh finished 49th with 1161, Parul Kumar was 57th with 1148. Only five shooters were eligible to win Olympic quota in the event. In the men’s 10m air pistol event, Saurabh Chaudhary (584 points) and Abhishek Verma (582 points) qualified for the final, while Gaurav Rana was 44th with 571. In the women’s 25m pistol, Chinki Yadav finished 10th (584 points), Annu Raj was placed Singh 25th (579 points) and Abhidnya Ashok Patil was 53rd (572 points).