Shooter Heena Sidhu claims Rio Olympics berth in 10m air pistol

  • Vinayak Padmadeo, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 28, 2016 01:47 IST
Heena Sidhu qualified for the 10m air pistol final after she totaled 387 points during the qualification round. (Ravi Choudhary/HT Photo)

The relief on Heena Sidhu’s face followed by a big smile was evidence enough that the second hurdle of the day had been crossed. Heena got the Indian campaign going, earning an Olympic quota for the country after a superb performance in the eight-woman final to win gold with a total of 199.4 points.

The first hurdle was shooting well in the qualification to be able to fight for the two available quota slots in 10m air pistol. Heena overcame this hurdle with flying colours, topping the qualifying charts with a total of 387.

Once in the final, her odds had improved significantly as four out of the eight finalists --- one each from Chinese Taipei and South Korea and two from China --- had already exhausted their share of the quotas.

Iran’s Golnoush Sebghatollahi and Elham Harijani and Singapore’s Xiu Hong Teh were the only shooters standing between Heena and her chance to book a Rio berth. The start wasn’t ideal as she logged 9.8 and was placed second for the first five shots. Then, she logged a near-perfect shot of 10.7 to lead the field, and from then on controlled the final.

Always the last one to shoot, Heena could relax once it was announced that she and Iran’s Sebghatollahi were to be given the quota places after the elimination of the Singaporean shooter after the 14th shot.

“Till then I was holding myself back as I thought I had to be circumspect… I was mindful that I shouldn’t drop points. (But) once they announced (the quota places) I was very aggressive in the last-four shots and connected three 10s…so it paid off,” Heena said.

“I couldn’t have done anything more today. I am extremely satisfied that it has happened. I’ve had too many close shaves in the past and a failure here would have been a shame. But, yes, I can relax now,” she added.

Watch | Heena Sidhu speaks after qualifying for the Rio Olympics

In the buildup to the Asia Olympic Qualifying Competition, Heena sat out of the Nationals held in Delhi in December last year. The decision was taken as the 26-year-old had been shooting non-stop. And once the International Olympic Committee (IOC) withdrew the quotas from the Asian Championships (Kuwait) in November 2015, which she had won, the only time to rest was in December.

“She was literally pleading to take some time off. So, once we were told that we had to participate in the South Asian Games, we had the choice to either miss the SAG or the Nationals and so she pulled out from the Nationals,” Heena’s coach and husband Ronak Pandit said.

From the day she finished her assignment in Kuwait, Heena did not pick up the gun for over a month.

Meanwhile, in the other two important events on Wednesday, none of the Indians could qualify for the finals. In men’s 50m prone, Swapnil Kusale was the best-placed India with 617.2 points, finishing 14th. Sushil Ghalay was placed 17th while Surendra Singh Rathod ended up in 24th position.

In women’s trap, Shreyasi Singh missed out after failing to qualify for the finals in a three-way tie shoot.

Also on day one of qualification in men’s trap, Prithviraj Tondaiman is leading the Indian hopes as he is second after two rounds with a score of 49, one behind Kazakhstan’s Maxim Kolomoyets. Manavjit Singh Sandhu is placed 26th with a total of 45 points.

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