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Akhil Sheoran wins bronze, Olympic quota at Baku Shooting Worlds

Akhil Sheoran wins bronze, Olympic quota at Baku Shooting Worlds. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Aug 20 : India won two more gold medals, a bronze and a fifth Paris 2024 Olympics quota place in what was a profitable Sunday at the ISSF World Championship All Events in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Akhil Sheoran was the toast of the day when he won bronze in the Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions (3P) as well as picking up a Paris quota- India’s second in the event after Swapnil Kusale had won the first at the Cairo Worlds last year. Austrian Alexander Schmril won gold while Cezch Petr Nymbursky won silver. Rhythm Sangwan also shot brilliantly on the day to make the 25m Pistol Women final but finished eighth to agonisingly miss out on a Paris quota.

Thanks to their efforts India are now clear and sole second on the medal tally with three gold and three silvers. China lead with seven golds and a total of 13 medals till now.

Akhil won two medals on the day, combining with Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar and Niraj Kumar for a total of 1750 to clinch the Men’s 3P team gold. The Indian 25m Pistol Women’s team comprising Rhythm, Manu Bhaker and Esha Singh also won the team gold in the event with a total of 1744, which pipped Chinese Taipei by a point. China won bronze.

Akhil was delighted after his performance and said, “It really means a lot to me. We have been working so hard all these years for this. The Worlds come once in four years. To win a medal and a quota as well is really very satisfying. I could have pushed a bit more in the end for silver or gold, although the distance for gold was a bit more. I want to dedicate this quota to my country and thank my federation, SAI and all that have supported me till this day.”

To begin with, Akhil made the final after a grueling day beginning with the elimination round after which 33-shooters were discarded. He was the lowest Indian in elimination, shooting the first relay and a score of 579, as Aishwary shot 587 and Niraj shot 584.

Thereafter he shot 585 in qualification on the back of a brilliant prone round of 198 out of 200 and qualified in sixth spot. Aishwary Tomar missed out by a point, finishing with 583 for a creditable 13th place finish. He was left ruing a series of 94 in the first Kneeling position. With Niraj shooting 577 the team gold was secured.

Yu Hao of China was the youngest finalist which also had Ukranian Serhiy Kulish who beat Abhinav Bindra in the Rio Olympics to go on to finish with a silver in the 10m Air Rifle. He was one of two athletes, the other being Nymbursky, who already had Paris quotas secured for themselves and hence ineligible to win quotas. The experienced Bulgarian Anton Rizov and Austrian Schmirl, qualifications topper Aleksi Leppa of Finland and finally Swiss Christoph Duerr, made up the eight finalists.

In contrast to the other two individual finals that Indians were in at the worlds, Akhil started with a 10.6 to be the best after the first shot. After the first five shots in the Kneeling position however, he was in fourth with a series of 50.3. Christoph, the Swiss shooter was top of the pile at this early stage.

After the 10th shot, while Christoph was still going strong at the top, Akhil with a 9.4 in his 10th, was down to fifth. He got a 10.9 in his 12th but after the end of the 15-Kneeling position shots he was in sixth place with the Chinese and Bulgarian Shooters below him. Austrian Schmirl had taken over the lead and would maintain it till the end to win gold.

A fantastic first Prone series by both Akhil and Leppa meant they were now both challenging Kulish for fouth place. A 9.7 for his 9th Prone series shot was almost spoiling a good show, but he came back with a 10.8 and was up to joint fourth with Kulish after 20.

He sustained a sensational Prone position round and by the end of it was up to second with 308.9, 3.4 behind leader Alexander Schmirl. Akhil shot series of 53.4, 52.1 and 53.1 in the Prone position with 12 of his 15-shots 10.5 or above. Nymbursky was 0.7 behind in third while Swiss Christoph Duerr, the only left-hander in the field, was 0.8 behind Akhil in fourth as they went into the final Standing position.

A steady first 10 shots in the Standing position saw him take third place behind Schmril and Nymbursky as Rizov and Yu became the first two to be eliminated. The Paris quota was confirmed.

With Schmril a long way ahead, the battle was for the minor medals. It was Leppa’s turn to bow out next as Akhil shot 10.5 and 10.2 next as Duerr exited. Another 10.5 for his 43rd confirmed the medal as Kulish bowed out but a 9.5 for his 44th meant that Nymbursky overtook him for silver by just 0.1. He finished with a score of 450.0 for a memorable performance. Schmril shot 462.6 for gold and Nymbursky 459.2 for silver.

When the Indian trio came out today for the rapid-fire round of qualification, they knew that qualifying for the final would be an uphill task. In the first precision round on Saturday, Esha had been the best among them with a steady 288 out of 300, which gave her 29th place. Manu had shot 287 and was in 38th spot while Rhythm was furthest back on 69th spot with a round of 284.

With a herculean effort required, all three women responded with aplomb. Both Manu and Esha shot stunning 293s, while Rhythm an out of this world 299, to clinch the eighth and final qualifying spot with a total of 583. Esha was 16thwith 581 and Manu 22nd with 580.

There were five others on the same score, but Rhythm with 23-shots in the inner 10-ring, was way above ninth placed Kishmala Talat of Pakistan and 10th placed Feng Sixuan of China who had 19 such shots to their name. It was a round rarely ever seen in the sport in a world championship qualifier.

After that high and with Rhythm just needing to finish better than eighth to grab a Paris 2024 quota place as three of the finalists- Olena Kostevych, Doreen Vennekamp and Haniyeh Rostamiyan, already had quota places, it was indeed unfortunate that she had to bow out in eighth place with just eight hits in her first 20-shots.

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