Boiling conditions inside the small air-conditioned 10m range could not stop India’s ace rifle marksman Gagan Narang from winning gold in his favourite event — 10m air rifle — at the 52nd National Championships on Wednesday.
Calling the conditions in the indoor range unbearable would be an understatement as around 400 spectators — eager to catch a glimpse of the world record holder — crammed into the narrow spectator area, thus increasing the temperature and humidity beyond permissible limits.
But, Gagan, after his bronze medal in the 50m rifle prone — his first medal in the category at the Nationals — on Tuesday, brooked little challenge to win the event hands down.
A 597/600 in the qualification put him on top and despite an ordinary 100.8 in the finals — more because of the terrible conditions — the Hyderabad shooter came out an easy winner.
Beijing Olympic Games qualifier Sanjeev Rajput (Navy) finished second. After an ordinary qualification round where he shot 594, Rajput came back strongly in the finals with a score of 102.7 to aggregate 696.7 — 1.1 points behind Gagan.
The much-improved Imran Hasan Khan of the Army was third with 692.9 after a close tie-shoot with teammate Parminder Kumar.
“It was a last-minute decision to compete in 10m after my coach (Szucsak Laszlo) asked me to shoot. I haven’t been training for the last 20 days since I came back from Germany. I wanted to take a break,” said Gagan after the match.
“But I am quite happy that I still shot a 597. Today’s performance has given me confidence that I can shoot a 597 without training and cannot go below 595,” he said. On his last assignment at the championships — the 50m three-position event — the world record holder with 703.50 points at the season-ending World Cup Finals in Bangkok last year, said, “Let’s see. It is quite warm and sultry. It will be a good experience and prepare me for events that might take place in hot countries like Malaysia or Thailand!”