Iranian shooters seem to have come of age, and it can only spell trouble for the Indians. As if powerhouses China and Korea were not enough, the Indians now have to contend with the Iranians who seem to have taken the Asian Airgun Championship, currently underway at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, by storm.
A day after their successful outing in women’s 10m air rifle, the pistol shooters from Iran did their bit by notching up two individual gold medals on the third day of the competition.
No one in the crowd would have expected that Jitu Rai, the Army shooter, could lose the gold on his home ground. But a lesser known marksman from Iran, Sepehr Boroujeni Safari toppled the ace shooter to clinch gold in the men’s 10m air pistol on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old Safari, who shot 574 (97,95,96,95,95,96) in the qualification, shot 198.7 in the finals to win his maiden international gold in the senior category.
Before this, Safari had won a gold in the junior category at the Asian Shooting Championship at Kuwait in 2011.
Safari has been trained by former India pistol coach Csaba Zyorik. The Hungarian, who has trained the likes of Heena Sidhu, Vijay Kumar, Samaresh Jung and Omkar Singh, too left the country like rifle coach Laszlo Szucsak, after a bad experience with Indian officialdom and started his stint with the Iranian pistol shooters.
Speaking to indianshoting.com, Jitu said, “I have never seen the shooter from Iran at any of the finals before, I don’t know from where he just came and stole the gold from us. He did surprise us with his performance in the finals today. Shooting is a mental sport and anything can happen. The thought of winning gold came in my mind today and I got distracted.”
Jitu, who shot the day’s best qualification score of 583 (96,98,100,97,95,97), was leading in the finals till the eight shot but his following two shots on 9.2 and 9.6 pushed him to the second spot from where he could not recover and eventually slipped one more place. Even a perfect 10.9 on his eighteenth attempt could not help him and he had to settle for the bronze. His teammate Gurpreet Singh shot a score of 576 (99,92,95,98,96,96) to qualify for the finals and later shot 197.6 to win the silver.
Omkar Singh, who was also in the finals, was the first to be eliminated after he shot less than 10.0 in five out of the first eight shots. The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Omkar took the eight place with a score of 77.5. In the qualification, Omkar shot 575 (97,93,99,95,97,94).
The Indian men’s team, however, won gold with a score of 1734, while the silver was won by Kazakhstan with 1722. The bronze was won by Saudi Arabia with 1692.
Earlier in the day, Iran also won gold in the youth category. Jamal Seyed Mousavi won the gold with an impressive score of 200.4 (564) while India’s Mohit Gour shot 176.0 (557) to win bronze behind Chao Yi-Chun of Chinese Taipei who shot 195.9 (560) to claim the silver. Other Indians in the youth category, Shainki Nagar shot 155.2 (555) to finish fourth while Samarjit Singh shot 134.8 (562) to finish fifth.
Iran also won the team gold in the youth category with a score of 1676 while India got the silver with a score of 1674.
In the junior category which only had five participants, Sumedh Kumar 199.1 (576) and Hemendra Kushwah 195.2 (566) made it a one-two for India. The bronze was won by Mohamad Ahmed 175.2 (552) of Bangladesh while India’s Achal Pratap Grewal shot 154.0 (552) to finish fourth.