Abhinav Bindra walked away with India’s fourth Olympic quota place in his first final of the year. After failing to make the cut in the previous two World Cups at Fort Benning and Changwon, luck smiled on the country’s only Olympic gold medallist.
Bindra totalled 627.5 points to qualify sixth for the final on Thursday, and once he shot 122.4 in the final to finish sixth at the ISSF World Cup in Munich, a quota place for the Rio Olympics was India’s.
There were three spots up for grabs in the 10m air rifle event and of the eight finalists, Zhu Qinan and Yang Haoran of China, having already won quota places were ruled out.
Belarusian Vitali Bubnovich too had already won a quota place and Russia’s Vladimir Maslennikov was not in contention as two of his countrymen had already bagged spots in the event.
So the moment reigning Olympic champion Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania was eliminated in the final, the quota places were decided. Ukraine’s Oleh Tsarko was awarded the first quota of the day while Serbia’s Stephen Pletikosic was the third after Bindra.
Gagan Narang (50m prone), Jitu Rai (10m air pistol) and Apurvi Chandela (10m air rifle) are the other shooters to bag quotas before Bindra.
Bindra had faced fitness issues before flying to Munich. He had complained of shoulder impingement, but the injury wasn’t serious.
National Rifle Association of India chief Raninder Singh lauded Bindra for the result.
“He is not an Olympic champion for nothing. He is very clear about his goals and preparations leading up to big events. It is something every professional sportsman in this country should emulate. We have our fingers crossed for him for the Olympics,” he said.
The gold was won by Qinan with a total of 206.0 points while Maslennikov finished second with 205.7. Tsarkov finished third with 184.2 points. This was Qinan’s 21st medal in World Cups.
Rio would be Bindra’s fifth successive Olympic Games and maybe the last time he will compete in India colours. He had announced his retirement from active sports during last year’s Asian Games in Incheon.
“Tomorrow will mark the end of my professional shooting life! I will, however, still shoot, compete as a hobby shooter, training twice a week. Yes, I will still try to be at Rio and my bio is now most appropriate! Great times and am sure there will be a few more!” Bindra had tweeted then.