Zeena Khitta beats world-class field to win air rifle title
Himachal Pradesh’s Zeena Khitta upset a world-class field to win her maiden gold in the senior category in women’s air rifle at the National Championships in Bhopal on Thursday. The first-year college student from Rohru was competing in a field that had the likes of world No 1 Elavenil Valarivan, Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil and Mehuli Ghosh. “It’s a good break for me,” said Khitta after her top podium finish.
The 19-year-old qualified in fourth place with a score of 627.1 and then showed nerves of steel in the finals. She shot 252.2 in the eight-woman final, leaving behind Ghosh (250.5) and world No 3 Chandela (227.6) at second and third spots, respectively.
Chandela was second in the qualification round with a score of 627.4, while Ghosh was third (627.2). Moudgil and Valarivan failed to qualify, finishing 20th and 24th respectively in the qualification.
Khitta, who took up the sport when she was 14 years old, said, “I just started shooting by chance. Since my school in Rohru had a shooting facility, I was regular at the range.” During her first year of shooting, she trained with a weapon provided by her school and purchased her own in 2015. Khitta has been a regular member of the national squad in age group category.
India has dominated the event internationally this season due to the great depth of talent. Chandela won gold at the World Cups in Delhi—with a world record score (252.9)—and in Munich, while Valarivan won the title at the Rio World Cup and the season-ending World Cup Finals in Putian, China. She displaced Chandela from the No 1 position in the world.
Khitta has also won the team gold at the junior World Cup at Sydney in March.
Chandela teamed up with Shriyanka Sadangi and Gayatri Pawaskar to win the team gold for ONGC at the Nationals on Thursday. Ghosh won the individual and team gold in the junior category.