Every shooter present at the Al Lusail Shooting Ranges on Friday wanted to be in Jaspal Rana’s shoes.
Despite running temperature, the pistol champion shot down gold medals in his favourite event — centre-fire pistol. The aggregate he, Vijay Kumar and Samresh Jung shot also ensured India the team gold. After the pressure was off and the medal in his pocket, Rana wept like a baby even as everyone swarmed to congratulate him before the medal presentation ceremony.
With Rana gunning for gold, a number of expatriates came all the way from the main city to watch the hero perform. The champion, who won an individual gold and team silver in the standard pistol event on Thursday, did not disappoint.
Even as the second series of shooters were midway through their event, the celebrations had already begun in the stands. Finally, when Rana came out, he was hugged by national coach Sunny Thomas. It seemed as if Rana had held back all his tears, only to let them flow freely on this day.
“Only two days ago, someone got me a rosary from Jerusalem, and since then it has been raining gold,” said Thomas. Minutes later, Army marksman Vijay Kumar, on whose shoulders rested India’s chances of a team gold as he was shooting in the second batch of centre-fire shooters, came out firing like a man possessed to hand India the second gold of the day.
To be sure, Rana had done the ground work with his World and Asian record-equalling score of 590. “I feel happy about it. Before going into the rapid fire round, I wasn’t thinking much. I just wanted to shoot a good score,” said Jaspal, who became only the second Indian to bag three gold medals in a singleAsian Games. Sprint queen PT Usha still has the unique distinction of winning four gold medals at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games.
Rana shot a fine precision round where he shot a series of three 98s to aggregate 294. In the duelling event, where the shooters get only three seconds to fire, he had a perfect 100 followed by two 98s to aggregate 590, which was equal to the world record.
Vijay Kumar finished ninth with 590 while Samresh Jung was a dismal 12th with 578. But the combined scores of the three was enough to clinch gold with 1748 points, ten ahead of the South Koreans who had a total of 1738.
After the double gold, Rana again shot back at critics. “If critics want to call me indisciplined, I am indisciplined. I don’t practice, I don’t go to the shooting ranges, I don’t train with the official coach, but what’s the fun in going and training at the ranges, when there is no ammunition, no proper coach, no facilities,” he said. Rana had been training in Dehradun with his father. Someone put a kid in Rana’s lap and more tears flowed down his cheeks. With the foreign media also clamouring for the champion’s attention, camera shutters stopped whirring.
He got phone calls from everyone, the first being his father and wife. Truly speaking, on Friday, Jaspal Rana had an extended family of millions. He could spare only a few moments for his own family. India finished with a rich haul of three gold, five silver and six bronze from shooting, the best ever at the Games.