Asian Games: India’s youth power glitters in 10m rifle team gold; Tomar’s bronze

By, Hangzhou
Sep 26, 2023 08:15 AM IST

Aishwary Tomar, Rudrankksh Patil and Divyansh Panwar set a world record to clinch the team gold ahead of China and Korea

The average age of Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil, and Divyansh Singh Panwar is a shade over 21. Tomar and Panwar have taken part in the Olympics while Patil, the least experienced, already has a World Championships crown.

Indian shooters Rudrankksh Patil (right), Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (centre) and Divyansh Singh Panwar pose for photos after winning gold in the Men's 10m Air Rifle team event(PTI)
Indian shooters Rudrankksh Patil (right), Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (centre) and Divyansh Singh Panwar pose for photos after winning gold in the Men's 10m Air Rifle team event(PTI)

The trio, which won the 10m air rifle team gold on Monday with a world record score at the Fuyang Yinhu Sports Centre, represents the present and future of Indian rifle shooting. And Tomar going on to win the individual bronze didn’t really come as a surprise.

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Tomar pipped Patil in a one-shot shoot-off in the final to seal third spot. Panwar, the most experienced among the three, couldn’t shoot in the final despite qualifying among the top eight because Games rules allow only a maximum of two shooters from one country.

In fact, the 10m rifle is Tomar’s second event – 50m 3 position is his pet event. Yet, the success wasn’t a fluke. He competed in the 50m event at the Tokyo Olympics, but national coach Suma Shirur had intensified his 10m training since January.

“Look, 10m is a precision event which helps shooters in the 50m range. While the highest scoring shot in 10m is 10.9, the best in 50m is still 10. So, if you are good in 10m, you will automatically improve in the longer range. We stepped up his 10m training keeping the World Championships and Asian Games in mind,” Shirur said.

“All three making the final shows our shooting strength, they are all world class,” she said. The final saw Chinese favourite Sheng Lihao break the world record scoring 253.3 points. Such was the level of the final that South Korean silver medallist Park Hajun Park (251.3) also bettered the Games record (249.1).

Patil and Tomar were bunched in the middle of the field throughout the final. Patil’s first shot was a solid 10.6 and Tomar’s 10.4. After the first five shots, Park led Sheng with Tomar third and Patil fourth. Tomar stayed there after 10 shots but Patil slipped to fifth.

As shooters dropped out in the elimination stage, the Indians were left to fight for third after the 15th shot, and when Mongolian Bayarra Nyantai was eliminated after the 18th shot, India were assured of a medal. After 20 shots, Patil and Tomar were tied at 208.7. Tomar then shot a 10.8 but Patil managed only 10.5 to go out, finishing fourth.

“It wasn’t an easy shot to take, especially when you know it is against your countryman,” said Tomar. “But once you are at the red line, friendships don’t matter. I was happy at least one Indian will go through and I wanted that to be me.”

Tomar himself bowed out after the 22nd shot, ending with a disappointing 9.8, his only sub-10 shot in a final where he shot 10.5 or more, including three 10.8s, 10 out of 22 times.

The product of the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy, Bhopal said: “Such things happen. I pulled the trigger towards the left instead of right. Barring that shot, I am happy with my consistency.”

Patil too was pragmatic and practical in his assessment. “I will take this result because it will teach me a lot,” the 19-year-old from Thane said. “My form was a bit patchy over the last 3-4 months due to which I needed a match where I could build up my performance. This final tells me the areas I need to work on. I didn't shoot a single 9 today, but I was so focussed on avoiding 9s that the inner 10s stopped coming. My major focus now will be to shoot inner 10s regularly. Overall, I am happy with my consistency in the final. My last two shots were a 10.8 and a 10.5, so I can’t complain."

Divyansh, who missed the final, was unhappy. “I am very disappointed with my scores. Today was not my day. Rules are rules and you can’t help it. For 30 minutes after the qualification, I was under the impression that I was in the final. I was confident of finishing on the podium. Hard luck is all I can say,” he said.

In qualification, Patil finished third with a score of 632.5. Tomar was fifth (631.6) and Divyansh eighth (629.6). Sheng, the Tokyo silver medallist, topped the 54-strong field with an Asian and Games record 634.5 points, while Korea’s Park Hajun was second (632.8). That 1-2 remained intact.

Men's team opens gold tally

Patil, Tomar and Divyansh opened India’s gold tally in style, breaking the world record. Their combined tally of 1893.7 bettered the previous world record of 1893.3 set by China at the Baku World Championships last month. South Korea took silver (1890.1) and China the bronze (g888.2).

“Beating China in China is truly special. It shows our strength as a group,” said Tomar. They were not aware of the world record till the coaching staff informed them.

Divyansh and Tomar have been part of the national set-up for over five years, often rooming together, while Patil is the new entrant to the elite rifle club. Shirur has guided Tomar since he was a teenager in the Bhopal academy.

Patil saw their relationship as businesslike. “We’re friends but are competitors first. Everyone shoots for himself or herself in this sport and we recognise that. “We don't really share technical notes but when we see the other struggling, we don’t mind offering help.

It’s a very nuanced relationship where we can’t really be very close friends but still have enough camaraderie to work in synergy.”

Rapid bronze

In men’s 25m Rapid Fire pistol, Vijayveer, Adarsh and Anish tallied 1718 points over two days of individual qualifications to win bronze, finishing behind China and Korea.

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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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