The buzz after Gagan Narang settled for silver at the Asian Games was that the flag-bearing ceremony on Friday night had taken a toll on his body. Those spreading the rumours were perhaps unaware that they were looking for excuses and pulling down the world record holder's achievement, which came in a field that had the likes of China's Zhu Qinan, the Athens Olympic Games gold-medallist, Beijing Games gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra and South Korea's Kim Kiwon, among others.
On a day when India reaped two silver at the Aoti Shooting Complex, both in the men's 10m air rifle event, Narang --- the winner of four gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, came within striking distance of an individual gold, before shooting himself in the foot in the last two shots, thus giving Zhu a clear shot at the title.
The expected gold did not emerge, but two silver ensured there was no despair either. The 10m air rifle team of Narang, Bindra and Sanjeev Rajput got India their second silver, though it was again a so-near-yet-so-far story for the team, which missed gold by a point.
Rajput, one of the most consistent marksmen in the team, had a forgettable day, shooting a 593/600 to pull down the team.
Bindra too had an awful outing and a 'seven' in the fifth qualification series almost put paid to India's chances of bagging a team gold. The Olympic champion too managed a 593/600, leaving Narang to shoulder the burden. The Hyderabadi shot a 597, but the damage had already been done.
The team aggregated 1783, which was just a point adrift of the Chinese team, comprising Zhu (598), Yu Jikang (595) and Cao Yifei (591).
The road to the individual title had plenty of drama with Narang taking the lead after the sixth shot in the final round of eight shooters, in which Bindra did not make the cut.
Placed second behind Zhu, who gave a perfect birthday gift to himself, Narang gave it his best shot and even passed the Chinese's score after the sixth shot. But the final two shots of 10.3 and 9.7 undid the good job and a sure gold slipped out of India's hand.
Narang aggregated 700.7, (597+103.7), while Zhu totalled 702 (598+104). "I wanted to go into the final leading the pack. It didn't happen, but its good to see we have reached that level in international shooting (where we can challenge the Chinese)," said Narang.
This was India's first individual silver medal in 10m rifle at the quadrennial Games.
"With the kind of support we got for the Commonwealth Games, we have come up to this standard. If we continue to get the same support, we will do better next time," he said.
The women's 10m air rifle team of Suma Shirur, Tejaswini Sawant and Kavitha Yadav was never in contention and it stayed that way. The trio finished seventh with an aggregate score of 1176, while none of the three could make it to the finals in the individual category.