In a precision sport like shooting, gold medals becoming silver and silver turning to baser metal is quite common. Problem is it is happening with India more often than any other country.
On Friday, at the Ongnyeon International Range in Incheon, South Korea, a certain gold in centre fire pistol turned to silver after Vijay Kumar and Pemba Tamang came up with poor last shots that gave China victory.
Troubled by a cervical problem for the last few months, attributed to excessive practice, London Olympics silver-medallist Vijay could only manage an eight from the last shot of the competition while Pemba had a nine as India's hopes for their first gold medal from the range fizzled out.
Everyone in the spectators' gallery knew the moment the duo shot poor scores that India had lost out on a gilt-edged opportunity. Squash player Saurav Ghosal too got unnerved by the confidence of his Kuwait opponent in the final a couple of days back to lose out on the top spot.
In fact, it was a story of missed opportunities at the 25m range where first Gurpreet Singh, who had done exceptionally well in the 'precision' round to be placed second in the strong field, had a sharp drop in the 'rapid' round and could never get back into the top three bracket. For Pemba and Vijay to stake claim to an individual medal was out of the question as they were placed 11th and 20th respectively.
But it was the near miss in the team event which hurt everyone. India finally finished with an aggregate of 1740 points, and China, who took gold, had a total of 1742. Had Pemba and Vijay got those two points, their scores would have tied with China's and India would have won on the advantage of more number of 'inner 10s'. But that was not to be.
Gurpreet, though, was happy that finally the Indian shooters had again started firing. "Kuch toh mila gale mein latkaane ke liye (at least, we've got something to hang around our necks)," said the Amritsar-based shooter.
Foreign coach for pistol shooting, Smirnov Pavel, said it was a good result for India as he had given up hopes of winning gold. "With Vijay suffering from a problem in the back and neck, I was only expecting bronze, or silver," he said.
This was the first Asian Games medal for Pemba, who along with Vijay and Gurpreet trains at the Army Marksmanship Unit in Mhow.
"I was only waiting for the Asian Games to get over. I will now go back to India and have a surgery. After that there will be a month's rest and then it'll be back to the grind of the national championships," said Vijay, for whom this was the first medal after 2012 London.
He said: "The problem had been coming and going for quite some time, but two months back an MRI revealed it was serious. It's a tough test to get ready for the competition, tougher than competition," said the Hamirpur (Himachal Pradesh) marksman.
There was no cheer in the women's 50m rifle 3-position event as Lajja Gauswami, after qualifying fourth with a score of 583, finished seventh in the finals while the team of Lajja, Anjali Bhagwat and Tejaswini Mule finished sixth.