The word is out. Indian rifle shooters are the best in the world. After Abhinav Bindra's gold medal-winning performance in the Beijing Olympic Games, Hyderabad marksman Gagan Narang became the first Indian to smash the world record in the precision sport on way to clinching the 10m air rifle gold in the season-ending ISSF World Cup Final at Bangkok on Wednesday.
The only Indian entrant in the prestigious event after Bindra withdrew a month back, Narang established the world record with a score of 703.5, thus eclipsing the mark of 703.1 set by Austria's Thomas Farnik in 2006. The 25-year-old first equalled the world record in the qualification round with a perfect 600 and broke it in the finals with an aggregate score of 703.5 (600 + 103.5).
A composed Narang told HT from Bangkok that the record had, to an extent, helped him overcome the disappointment of missing out on a medal in Beijing. "After Beijing, where I missed the finals by just one point and finished ninth, the fire was burning bright in my belly. I presume it was not my day then," said Narang who was world No.1 in the event in 2006 after bagging gold at the World Cup in Guangzhou.
"Once I shot a perfect 600 today, my career's third, I had just one thought, to nail my opponents in the final round," he said.
"I am happy that after two perfect-600s in training, this one came on the big stage," said the Arjuna awardee, who had also won bronze in the Beijing World Cup just before the Olympics. "For now, I am just happy that I equalled one world record and broke another, so it's two golden geese in the basket. It feels great to let my gun do the talking. I was unstoppable since the start."
Before boarding the flight to Frankfurt, where he is competing in the German league, a philosophical Narang said, "Every win is special because every match is a learning experience... When we win, it's worth the effort put in, and when we lose it's always a learning experience. I think shooting as a sport teaches us to take success and failure with equal grace. This win has motivated me to perform even better."
Did he have a strategy going into the year-end event? "I wanted to sort things out in my head, get over Beijing (disappointment) and keep things simple... I am happy I kept a simple approach."
On his next goal, Narang said, "I want to nail the World Cups in more events than one and shoot the World Cup Final in more events than one." Giving credit to Hungarian coach Laszlo Szucsak, who has been with the Indian team since 2005, Narang said, "He has played a great role by helping me diversify into the other two rifle events."
On Barack Obama winning the US Presidency and he winning gold with a world record to boot, Narang smiled, "Well nothing like that... I guess it's a coincidence and the
stars were right for both of us... Let's hope they keep shining bright for both of us."