They say adversity brings out the best in a person. But at the Aoti Shooting Range on Thursday afternoon, adversity pulled the Indian marksmen and coach, Sunny Thomas, into a painful downward spiral, from where there was no escape.
The signs were ominous in the morning session when the lanky Harpreet Singh fired a blank in the 25m centrefire pistol event to pull the team, comprising the seasoned Vijay Kumar and Omkar Singh, down, and then Sanjeev Rajput came up with a rank bad score in the 50m rifle 3-position to again throw a boulder in the team's path.
Two medals lost, it looked like an uphill task for the marksmen, who had done exceptionally well at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
An individual bronze by Vijay in centre-fire lifted the gloom somewhat, but the writing was on the wall --- the pistol and rifle marksmen had come up with the worst performance in recent history at the Games. Everyone, including the reporters, could only mutter, "Had pistol shooter Jaspal Rana been around, we wouldn't have faced such ignominy." Rana had bagged three gold at the 2006 Doha Games.
Thomas was dreading another fruitless day after two days of a medal drought. "Seriously, I was dreading a fruitless day. I was just praying for a medal. Thankfully, Vijay brought us some cheer on the concluding day of the pistol and rifle event."
The 27-member contingent will pack its bags and leave for home on Friday, its reputation in tatters.
Even stalwarts like Gagan Narang, Imran Hasan Khan and Rajput were no match for the Chinese and South Korean opponents. "It's strange that three marksmen have fired three blank shots during the last three days. God knows what has gone wrong with them," Thomas said in frustration.
Harpreet, after years of World Cup, CWG and international experience, fired a shot in the sky to draw a blank. The 10 points proved costly and the centre-fire team, aiming for silver at one point, came fifth. "Such a thing is unheard of," was all Thomas could say.
Rajput, the 50m rifle prone marksman, aimed like a novice and came up with immensely forgettable standing and kneeling scores. His aggregate of 1146 pulled the team, which was also aiming for silver, to fourth position. His score was the worst of the three team-members and Thomas could only say, "I expected a better score from him." Armyman Vijay, after a debacle in rapid-fire --- his favourite event ---, clinched his second bronze at the Games, aggregating 583/600 in centre-fire to bring the curtain down on India's challenge in pistol and rifle. The trap competition commenced on Thursday with the team comprising Manavjit Singh (70/75), Mansher Singh (67) and Zorawar Singh (64) placed fifth with 201 points.