From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL. 25 :: NO. 31 :: Aug. 03 - 09, 2002
A disappointing outing for IndiansKAMESH SRINIVASAN
USUALLY, what you get is never as much as what you expect. Great expectations, and greater disappointments. That was the case with the Indian shooting team in the World championship in Lahti.
In the beautiful setting of Finland, which did not seem to have any night, there was no light at the end of the tunnel for the Indian shooters, as they kept embracing failure with agonising monotony.
There were three stars in the team, capable of lifting the gloom with their exploits, but none of them came good.
The faith was not misplaced, the effort was wholehearted but the luck factor was missing to a great extent. Of course, the big stage did take the sting out of some of the challenge in the Indian camp.
Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat in air rifle, Abhinav Bindra in the same event in the men's section and Jaspal Rana in standard pistol and centrefire pistol events were capable of being the World champions. All of them failed in their own ways. It was not funny, to see them falter.
The 32-year-old Anjali was not tipped as a favourite by the international body, despite the fact that she had won two silver medals in the World Cups in Sydney and Atlanta, clinching the quota place for the Olympics in the process. But she had as good a chance as anybody else. Anjali had missed the gold by 0.7 points in Atlanta, and was determined to shoot her best.
She trained with coach Laszlo Szucsak in Finland, 15 days in advance, in getting acclimatised to the conditions. Yet, on the day luck simply eluded her.
Anjali did start with a 98, but her next three cards were 99 and she missed a 100 each time by 0.1 point as three of her shots hit 9.9. When you aim a target at 10 metres in which the 10-point is half a millimetre in width, you need some stroke of luck to get the micro-millimetre right, every time.
She had shot a 399 out of 400 in Atlanta, and Anjali on her day can shoot a perfect 400 as well. She has been inching towards that target over the past few years. Her confidence has gone up considerably, after the appearance in the final of the Olympics.
"It reminded me of the Olympics. The two 9s in the first series, a 9.8 second shot and a 9.6 ninth shot, kept haunting me. It was at the back of my mind that I had spoilt my chances", said Anjali, who needed a 100 in the last series to make the final.
"The disappointment is there, but you need some luck too", said Anjali, as she packed her bag, albeit not with a heavy heart. For, she had tried her best.
Suma Shirur who had missed a medal by 0.2 points in Shanghai, had aspired to come good, at least good enough to get a quota place for the Olympics. In the event, she struggled with a newly-fit cylinder, which weighed too heavy for her to handle the gun with usual poise. She started with a 96, kept improving to 97, 98 and finished with a 100, but it was not just enough in a classy field.
In contrast, Anuja Tere the third member started well with a 99 and ended with a 98, but had cards of 97 and 95 that pushed her down to the joint 61st status in a field of 120 shooters.
To be fair to Anjali and company, it has to be observed that there were more than a dozen shooters capable of walking away with the gold on their day.
It was Katerina Kurkova's day, as the Czech teenager took the gold with a majestic performance of 399, followed by a 103.1, all-10 final. Kurkova, the former European junior champion, who had shot a perfect 400 last year in Plzen, had taken the bronze behind Anjali in the Sydney World Cup. It was an emotional experience for the girl and her father, Petr Kurkan, who coaches her.
There were three others with a 398. Chinese Li Du pipped the other two to the silver by 0.6 points, while the defending champion, the versatile Sonja Pfeilschifter of Germany won the shoot-off 10.4 to 10.3 to take the bronze ahead of Emily Caruso of the U.S.
Sun Hwa Seo of Korea and Jing Gao of China, both of whom had hit the world record score of 400 in winning the gold in Sydney and Shanghai respectively, had to be content with the fifth and sixth positions.
In the 3-position event, the weather played havoc with the fortunes, and the Indian shooters were not strong enough physically to handle the conditions.
"I couldn't keep myself within the target, forget training your sights for the 9s and 10s. You need to be physically strong to be in position for long, and handle stiff wind. We were not used to it", said Anjali, who has been doing well in this event as well, by making the finals in World Cups.
Anuja Tere shot the best among the Indian shooters in this event, while Suma, who was shooting without much practise, just to help the team, could not make the cut after the elimination series.
"She is capable and will continue to do well. It is tough to be at your best at the World championships. Everybody comes prepared", said Laszlo Szucsak as he watched Anjali ending up with nothing. The Hungarian coach had been instrumental in projecting a positive image of the Indian rifle shooters, during his stint with the Indian team that culminated on a high at the Sydney Olympics.
While Anjali shot one point better than what she had accomplished in the Olympics, Abhinav Bindra shot one point less, a 589, which did not do any good to his image of being the World junior record holder for more than a year with a 597.
But then, it has to be noted that the 19-year-old Chandigarh lad has been grappling with his form despite shooting 594 twice in Sydney and Shanghai, apart from a 595 in Atlanta when he finished fifth. He shot a 590 in the Milan World Cup, and the 589 seemed to be reflecting a downward trend of the form.
"It has been a tiring season. I had to be aggressive and get somewhere around 596 to make the final. I took a gamble and it didn't pay off", said Abhinav, quite shaken by the humbling experience.
He could have become a World champion by competing among the juniors, but he aimed to get one of the six quota places on offer. He perhaps tried too hard and four 9s in the first five shots put paid to his hopes straightaway.
Being a positive young man, with a steely resolve, Abhinav vowed that he would come out of the experience, and shoot better scores. In fact, he would have done better but for the fact that he did not know how to handle the World championships. The national coach Prof. Sunny Thomas had a long chat with Abhinav after the event, but the fact remained that Abhinav was without any guidance in the run up to the championship, especially in the light of the fact that he had split from his coach Uwe Riesterer some time back.
It was his second World championship, and who knows, he may be third time lucky !
Jason Parker of the U.S. took the gold in a brilliant fashion, with a 10.5 to a 9.7 in the shoot-off after being tied with the Chinese Jie Li, at 699.9. It was as good a final as one could have hoped to see, as some of the very best showed their prowess, in a strong field of 131 shooters.
While Abhinav had to rue the fact that the Olympic quota went for as low a score as 594, Ashok Kumar Shahi kept his composure to shoot a 590. Sameer Ambekar, the third member of the Indian team was perhaps shaken by Ahinav's fare, and shot a below par 585, in the third relay.
Coming to Jaspal Rana, the golden boy of Indian shooting, who has shot medals by the dozen in international competitions, it was difficult to digest the fact that a man of his calibre was not doing justice to his ability in the biggest stage.
He had a chance in both the standard and centrefire pistol events. Jaspal finished seventh in the first and 12th in the second.
"It is tough for me to do well in the World championship because it comes as the first competition in the season. I get the momentum in the Commonwealth Games and eventually am able to shoot at my best in the Asian Games", said Jaspal.
It was sound logic, but coming from a man, who can do his best if he puts his mind on the job a 100 per cent, it was difficult to assimilate. He could have done it in centrefire pistol, but blundered at the beginning of the rapidfire series, by shooting at the shadow instead of the target.
The defending champion, Korean Byung Taek Park was a class act as he took the gold yet again, by equalling the world record at 590. Jaspal had been shooting that in practise regularly, but who cares how well you do in practise.
"He is shooting like us. I have not seen Jaspal shoot so badly in an international competition", said Ashok Pandit, who did well to come up with a 576.
He is not a Mikhail Nestruev, the 'shooter of the year', who takes the air pistol gold and comes back to win the centrefire pistol silver. The Russian is a genius, and hardly practises, except while training. Jaspal was woefully below par in air pistol, while compatriots Samaresh Jung and Ved Prakash also shot below their best.
Samaresh has the National record at 584 in air pistol, but he did better in freepistol along with Ved Prakash and Vivek Singh, as the team finished a creditable seventh.
Enough of the sob story. Let us look at one man who defied the odds to shoot his career-best. Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore shot a 136 which included a perfect round of 50 in the first round, in the double trap competition.
"It was a great feeling to do that 50. I concentrated so well and was in such good rhythm, that I realised that I was about to do it only when I aimed the 46th bird", said Rathore.
It was tough to handle the high for Rathore, and he came crashing to a 41 in the second round. He manfully came up with a 45 in the third, but fell short by two points in his bid to make the final. It was a splendid effort indeed, considering that the double trap team had not been cleared by the government.
Of course, Rathore's expenses were being borne by the Army from its sports budget, and the young man said that he would do his best in the Commonwealth Games, only to find that the Government had once again refused clearance to the double trap team. It was some justice to one who shot so well, competing against the best in the world.
The trap shooters were all in good form, quite encouragingly, but were competing with each other so much, following a disputed selection for the Commonwealth Games, that they failed to be at their best.
"They are all shooting well, and Mansher is the best, in top form. He was trying to prove that leaving him out of the Commonwealth Games team was wrong, as he had beaten the Olympic silver medallist Ian Peel in winning the Commonwealth championship gold last time. And he ended up missing five birds in the last round. It was crazy", said Marcello Dradi, the trap coach, who was himself quite upset at the manner the good team had been broken.
Anwer Sultan shot 114, while Mansher and Manavjit Singh Sandhu followed with 113 and 112 respectively. With four points from each of them, the team could have won a medal. It was possible, but the team was not in the right frame of mind to accomplish the task.
Mansher himself was quite charged up to make the final, but he just could not get his act together on the third day - a rare format for the trap competition - on the tricky sixth range, where the two time Olympic champion Michael Diamond himself struggled.
It was Khaled Al Muddaf, the young Kuwaiti who took the gold ahead of Diamond and Giovanni Pellielo of Italy. The latter did well to make the final after a long shoot off, and just about missed the silver in another shoot off with Diamond.
The diamonds in the Indian camp need a lot more polishing, to be able to dispel the enveloping gloom.
Air pistol: 1. Mikhail Nestruev (Rus) 685.3 (585); 2. Andrjia Zlatic (Yug) 683.9 (583); 3. Franck Dumoulin (Fra) 683.4 (584); 47T. Jaspal Rana 572, 53T. Samaresh Jung and Ved Prakash 571.
Team: 1. Russia 1745, 2. China 1737, 3. Ukraine 1735, 14T. India 1714.
50m free pistol: 1. Zongliang Tan (Chn) 662.7 (568); 2. Martin Tenk (Cze) 660.3 (564); 3. Vladimir Gontcharov (Rus) 657.7 (560); 25T. Samaresh Jung 552; 42T. Vivek Singh 544.
Team: 1. China 1699, 2. Russia 1685, 3. Ukraine 1671, 7. India (Samaresh 558, Ved Prakash 541, Vivek Singh 551) 1650.
25m rapidfire pistol: 1. Marco Spangenberg (Ger) 690.9 (590) 49.7; 2. Ralf Schumann (Ger) 690.9 (48.3); 3. Niki Marty (Sui) 688.3 (588).
Team: 1. Germany 1761, 2. China 1755, 3. Ukraine 1743.
25m standard pistol: 1. Rene Vogn (Den) 580 (139); 2. Alexander Danilov (Isr) 580 (137), 3. Giovanni Bossi (Aut) 579; 7. Jaspal Rana 574; 47T. Samaresh Jung and Vivek Singh 555.
Team: 1. Austria 1708, 2. Korea 1706, 3. China 1705, 7. India 1684.
Centrefire pistol: 1. Byung Taek Park (Kor) 590 (EWR), 2. Mikhail Nestruev (Rus) 589, 3. Sang Hak Lee (Kor) 586 (147); 12T. Jaspal Rana 581; 28T. Ashok Pandit 576; 43T. Mahavir Singh 570.
Team: 1. Korea 1760, 2. Norway 1747, 3. Ukraine 1743, 7. India 1727.
Air rifle: 1. Jason Parker (U.S.) 699.9 (597) 10.5; 2. Jie Li (Chn) 699.9 (597) 9.7; 3. Eugeni Aleinkov (Rus) 699.1 (595); 34T. Ashok Kumar Shahi 590; 40T. Abhinav Bindra 589; 70. Sameer Ambekar 585.
Team: 1. Russia 1785 (WR), 2. China 1784, 3. U.S. 1781; 13T. India 1764.
50m free rifle prone: 1. Matthew Emmons (U.S.) 699.7 (596); 2. Rajmond Debevec (Slo) 698.8 (596); 3. Espen Berg-Knutsen (Nor) 698.3 (598).
Team: 1. Norway 1774, 2. Ukraine 1769, 3. Russia 1765.
50m free rifle 3-position: 1. Marcel Burge (Sui) 1258.0 (1161); 2. Konstantin Prikhodtchenko (Rus) 1255.4 (1156); 3. Peter Sidi (Hun) 1250.7 (1155).
Team: 1. Czech Republic 3511 (WR), 2. U.S. 3499, 3. Norway 3491.
Trap: 1. Khaled Al Muddaf (Kuw) (122, 24) 146; 2. Michael Diamond (Aus) (120, 24) 144 (4); 3. Giovanni Pellielo (Ita) (119, 25) 144 (3); 41T. Anwer Sultan 114; 55T. Mansher Singh 113; 61T. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 112.
Team: 1. Ireland 357, 2. Australia 352, 3. Finland 351, 14. India 339.
Double trap: 1. Daniele Di Spigno (Ita) (142, 46) 188; 2. Walton Eller (U.S.) (140, 47) 187 (14); 3. Joonas Olkkonen (Fin) (140, 47) 187 (13); 12T. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore 136; 50T. Moraad Ali Khan 120; 60T. Ronjan Sodhi 114.
Team: 1. Italy 415, 2. China 408, 3. Kuwait 408, 13. India 370.
Skeet: 1. Harald Jensen (Nor) (122, 25) 147 (4); 2. Valeri Shomin (Rus) (123, 24) 147 (3); 3. Ennio Falco (Ita) (123, 23) 146 (4); 122T. Naveen Jindal 101.
Team: 1. Czech Republic 355, 2. U.S. 355, 3. Russia 354.
Air pistol: 1. Olena Kostevych (Ukr) 485.2 (384); 2. Nina Salukvadze (Geo) 484.9 (385); 3. Olga Kousnetsova (Rus) 484.8 (385).
Team: 1. Russia 1145, 2. Belarus 1141, 3. China 1140.
25m sport pistol: 1. Munkhbayar Dorjsuren (Ger) 689.9 (587); 2. Irada Ashumova (Aze) 687.3 (585); 3. Ying Chen (Chn) 687.2 (583).
Team: 1. China 1746, 2. Russia 1732, 3. U.S. 1729.
Air rifle: 1. Katerina Kurkova (Cze) 502.1 (399); 2. Li Du (Chn) 500.9 (398); 3. Sonja Pfeilschifter (Ger) 500.3 (398) 10.4; 13T. Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat 395; 47T. Suma Shirur 391; 61T. Anuja Tee 389.
Team: 1. China 1190 (WR), 2. Korea 1188, 3. Ukraine 1185, 12. India 1175.
Sport rifle 3-position: 1. Petra Horneber (Ger) 675.5 (579); 2. Natalia Kalnish (Ukr) 674.1 (575); 3. Martina Prekel (Ger) 673.0 (576); 48. Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat 557; 55T. Anuja Tere 549.
Team: 1. Ukraine 1737, 2. Germany 1732, 3. Russia 1720, 16. India 1686 (Anjali 563, Suma 555, Anuja 568).
Sport rifle prone: 1. Olga Dovgun (Kaz) 597 (EWR), 2. Xian Wang (Chn) 593; 3. Natalia Kalnish (Ukr) 591.
Team: 1. Finland 1756, 2. Denmark 1753 (293), 3. Germany 1753 (286).
Air pistol: 1. Denis Koulakov (Rus) 580; 2. Ji Su Park (Kor) 580; 3. Sebastian Rosner (Ger) 575; 34T. Ronak Pandit 558; 38T. Zakir Khan and Deepak Sharma 554.
Team: 1. Korea 1721, 2. Russia 1707, 3. Germany 1706, 10. India 1666.
25m sport pistol: 1. Denis Koulakov (Rus) 579 (146); 2. Vladimir Issachenko (Kaz) 579 (145); 3. Sergey Vokhmianin (Kaz) 577.
Team: 1. Kazakhstan 1723, 2. Russia 1718, 3. France 1711.
25m standard pistol: 1. Denis Koulakov (Rus) 574 (WR); 2. Vladimir Issachenko (Kaz) 561; 3. Julien Dueour (Fra) 557.
Team: 1. Russia 1654, 2. Kazakhstan 1646, 3. France 1638.
25m rapidfire pistol: 1. Martin Behrendt (Ger) 582 (140); 2. Thomas Muller (Ger) 582 (136); 3. Martin Podhrasky (Cze) 576; 9. Ronak Pandit (568).
Team: 1. Germany 1720, 2. Russia 1698, 3. France 1684.
Air rifle: 1. Dirk Leiwen (Ger) 593; 2. Fan Fei (Chn) 592, 3. Ryan Tanoue (U.S.) 592; 42T. Gagan Narang and Kuldeep Singh 581; 72T. Abhijeet Konduskar 570.
Team: 1. China 1771 (WR), 2. Germany 1765, 3. U.S. 1759, 16T. India 1732.
50m free rifle prone: 1. Zoltan Torok (Hun) and Joseph Hein (U.S.) 589; 2. Christian Lejon (Swe) 588; 3. Dragan Markovic (Yug) 587; 9T. Abhijeet Konduskar 584.
Team: 1. Germany 1748 (296), 2. Russia 1748 (293), 3. U.S. 1745.
50m free rifle 3-position: 1. Denis Sokolov (Rus) 1160, 2. Dirk Leiwen (Ger) 1159, 3. Tianyou Liu (Chn) 1157.
Team: 1. Germany 3443, 2. Russia 3432, 3. Czech Republic 3417.
Air pistol: 1. Katarzyna Szymanska (Pol) 384; 2. Fengji Fei (Chn) 383; 3. Riu Wang (Chn) 382; 4. Shweta Chaudhary 382.
Team: 1. China 1146 (WR), 2. Poland 1136, 3. Russia 1127.
25m sport pistol: 1. Fengji Fei (Chn) 581, 2. Riu Wang (Chn) 577; 3. Seong Min Baek (Kor) 574 (146); 9. Shweta Chaudhary 566.
Team: 1. China 1713, 2. Hungary 1680, 3. Germany 1679.
Air rifle: 1. Dorothee Bauer (Ger) 397; Xin Sun (Chn) 397; 3. Christina Dieser (Aut) 397; 14T. Meena Kumari 392; 54T. Chetanpreet Nilon 386; 68T. Rajkumari Dodiya 380.
Team: 1. Russia 1177 (297); 2. Germany 1177 (294); 3. Israel 1176; 16. India 1158.
50m sport rifle prone: 1. Daniela Peskova (Svk) 588; 2. Dorothee Bauer (Ger) 588; 3. Rajkumari Dodiya (Ind) 586; 20. Sindhu Bhavana 577; 26T. Meena Kumari 574.
Team: 1. Slovakia 1747; 2. Russia 1742 (288); 3. U.S. 1742 (287); 5. France and India 1737.
50m sport rifle 3-position: 1. Dorothee Bauer (Ger) 587, 2. Jamie Beyerle (U.S.) 578, 3. Chengyi Wang (Chn) 576; 18T. Rajkumari Dodiya 562.
Team: 1. Germany 1734, 2. Slovakia 1709, 3. Russia 1705.
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