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Gagan Narang plucks bronze out of thin air

Ace marksman Gagan Narang today became India's first medallist at the London Games after finishing third in the 10m air rifle. Sukhwant Basra reports.Gagan wins bronzevideo-icon | Congratulate Gagan Narang | Gagan says | Getting to know the man | Ready, aim... fire | Full coverage

india Updated: Jul 31, 2012 11:19 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times
news,hindustan times,olympics

For far too long Gagan Narang's ability had been blurred in the shadow lines, which separate potential from greatness.

He was the perpetual almost man. Like, he almost qualified for the 10m air rifle final at Beijing too. He placed ninth, eight make the grade.

Then, in 2010, he was just behind the leaders going into the World Championship final before settling for eventual third.

He did win gold at the Delhi Commonwealth Games but somehow, it seemed it was not enough, given his ability and that raw hunger when he spoke of the Olympics.

At London 2012, it seemed he had had enough.

Shooter Gagan Narang poses for photographs after winning bronze in 10m air rifle event at the Olympic Games 2012 in London. PTI/Manvender Vashist

In the end, it was just a hair's breath difference between podium and also-ran. With one shot to go, Narang was placed to claim bronze, ahead by just three decimal points.

The centre of the 10m target is the size of the unsharpened end of a pencil. Nine imaginary concentric lines radiate from the middle - far too minuscule to be registered by the human eye even if they were printed.

A hair's breadth outside dead centre drops the score by a decimal. Computers alone register these fine scores.

Over a decade of sweat and millions of spent pellets had earned him a final 75-second window (the time allowed for each shot in the final) in which to squeeze off his last effort.

Gagan Narang competes in the 10m air rifle men qualifying round at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London during the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP Photo/Marwan Naamani

Demolishing demons
Narang shot a 10.7 to seal his medal and forever demolish the demons, which had seen him for far too long being the man on the verge in Indian shooting. The Chinese, Wang Tao, who had dogged him from the beginning, managed a 10.4.

This time around, Narang had gone about his preparation with the kind of tunnel vision he did not have before Beijing. Then, he was all over the papers and one of the most accessible athletes around. Narang seemed to enjoy the attention, his shooting, however, did not seem to care too much for it. Or so he felt.

This time around, he wasn't leaving even a shred of doubt for his mind to trip over in the 70 shots that matter - 60 for qualifying and 10 in the final.

He just disappeared off the public radar. He ignored Facebook, wouldn't respond to pings on gmail chat, avoided newspapers and chose to flip channels far away from news feeds.

He also pared down eight kgs from his comfortable 113. By January this year, Narang had gone into his own zone - a place that resounded to the thwack of pellet on target but had no room for the noises of expectation. It worked.

Taking his time
On Monday, he took more than half an hour to warm up before he took his first shot in the qualifying. His final shot before the final came in the last 30 seconds. This was a man who was in no hurry; this was a man who seemed to know that his time had come.

Here's what the Twitterati had to say:

Congratulate Gagan Narang


Priceless gold


Results: day 3


India at Games


International flavour


Gagan says


Getting to know the man


Ready, aim... fire

First Published: Jul 30, 2012 17:11 IST