A golden run in mixed team shooting raises Olympic hopes

Published on Mar 23, 2021 07:37 AM IST

Valarivan is the world’s No.1 in women’s 10m air rifle, while Panwar slipped from the top position to No 2 in the world during the course of the ongoing ISSF World Cup.

India’s Elavenil Valarivan(Twitter)
India’s Elavenil Valarivan(Twitter)
ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi

Divyansh Panwar and Elavenil Valarivan occupy a rare moment in Indian sports.

Valarivan is the world’s No.1 in women’s 10m air rifle, while Panwar slipped from the top position to No 2 in the world during the course of the ongoing ISSF World Cup here. Their individual brilliance is great news, but there’s more—they also form a crack team together in the year that the Olympics will see a debut for mixed team events in shooting.

Coming together for the first time at this World Cup, Panwar and Valarivan outclassed the top-notch pair of Hungary’s Istvan Peni and Denes Eszter in the finals to win gold. If there were nerves, it never showed as Panwar and Valarivan shot brilliantly towards the end to see off Hungary’s late charge and win 16-10.

Three hours later, India’s top pistol pair—Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker—also fired themselves to the gold medal. Chaudhary and Bhaker have dominated the World Cup series in 2019, winning four gold medals as a pair. On Monday, they began from where they left before the pandemic, beating Javed Foroughi and Golnoush Sebghatollahi of Iran 16-12 in the gold medal match. Abhishek Verma and Yashaswini Deswal beat Turkey’s Sevval Ilayda Tarhan and Ismail Keles 17-13 to take the bronze in the same category.

In this new format of mixed team, India is emerging as a nearly unbeatable force. It has now fetched India seven gold medals in six rifle/pistol World Cups. India will go into the Olympics as a strong favourite in mixed team events.

“I enjoy team events a lot. We have a strong team and even if one does not shoot a particular shot well, your teammate can make up for it. And that gives us a lot of confidence and the pressure is a lot less,” said 18-year-old Panwar. “The feel of shooting in an international competition is slowly but surely coming back and as compared to my individual event, I was a lot better today so that bodes well for the Olympics.”

Support from the stands

The mixed team contests provide for a thrilling atmosphere, and Indian shooters cheered Panwar and Elavenil from the stands, the noise growing louder during the tense moments when India pulled ahead of Iran. Panwar had also won bronze in the individual event, where he made a stunning comeback after being in 7th position initially. In the mixed final, he was more consistent, hitting the high 10s for a great start. He had eight scores of 10.5 and more off his 13 shots. Valarivan got better as the game progressed and delivered a perfect 10.9 in the 11th series. When the Hungarian pair bounced back to draw the scores 10-10 (a team gets two points for winning a round/series and the first to 16 points wins the match), both were striking the inner ring with precision. Both hit 10.8 in the 12th series to get the lead back (14-10) before finishing it off in the next round.

“Winning a medal here was part of the preparation plan I had and this is just another step towards the goal. Having a good mentor (Gagan Narang) behind you is always an added advantage and not added pressure,” said Valarivan.

Skeet team gold

The team of Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa—both have won Olympics quota places in skeet—and Gurjoat Khangura upset Qatar 6-2 to win the gold medal in skeet. The Qatar team, comprising Al-Attiya Nasser, the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist, Ali Ahmed and Hamad Rashid, and led by former India coach Ennio Falco of Italy, were put under pressure when Indians hit all 12 birds. With scores at 4-2, Rashid missed the last shot to give India their sixth gold medal at the World Cup.

Continuing the good run in skeet, the women’s team of Ganemat Sekhon, Karttiki Singh Shaktawat and Parinaaz Dhaliwal won silver after losing 4-6 to Kazakhstan’s Zoya Kravchenko, Olga Panarina and Rinata Nassyrova in the final.

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