For India's ace double trap shooter, Ronjan Sodhi, it was a double breakthrough on Tuesday. The affable marksman, eyeing a medal at the London Olympics after agonisingly missing out on qualification at the 2008 Games, held his nerves to defend the title at the World Cup Finals in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
The world no 1 pipped China's Hu Binyuan in a nail-biting tie-breaker to reign supreme at a competition reserved only for the world's top 10 shooters.
Although Sodhi had earned a quota, or qualification, berth for London, he still had to overcome two hurdles. He had not won a gold medal this year, and also had to contend with new, uncompromising clay targets that break only if they are hit properly and don't chip easily like earlier ones.
Sodhi admitted defending the title was uppermost in his mind as he prepared to shoot.
"Before entering the fray today, the only thing on my mind was to defend the title. It came up in my mind even during the course of the event. So, I am happy that I did it," Ronjan Sodhi told HT from UAE.
The year had been barren in a way for him. "This year I won one silver and one bronze medal in the four World Cups. Everybody was asking me why I had not won a gold medal this year. Finally, it came my way."
For the last three years, the Punjab shooter has maintained consistency, which remains his main thrust. He has been shooting at an excellent average of 142.6/150 over the last 26 international competitions. "My ultimate goal is an Olympic medal and the victory in the World Cup Finals is a stepping stone to realise my dream," said Sodhi.
The job was made harder for the world's top shooters in UAE because of the new clay targets. They are harder to score than the old ones and will be used in the 2012 Olympics. Unlike the old ones, the new targets break only if they are hit in the centre.
"It was the testing event for the new targets and they are quite hard compared to those used earlier. Here I saw that at times a little deflection was not sufficient to break them. Because of that, this time it was quite a low-scoring event. The highest score in the skeet event was 115/125, which I have never seen in my shooting career.
"Apart from two shooters, the rest were unable to cross the 140-mark out of 150 in double trap. All the shooters here have given a representation to the international shooting body to reverse their decision and not use these targets in London," he added.