Two-time Olympian Sanjeev Rajput ended a three-day barren run and put a smile on every Indian face present at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range by claiming an Olympic quota for India on the last day of the Asia Olympic Qualifying Competition for Shooting in New Delhi.
Rajput put a struggling 2015 and a problematic rifle behind him to claim the 12th Olympic quota for India.
There is nothing more frustrating for a shooter than to have an equipment failure just before a competition. Shooting is more of a mental sport where such a situation before or during a match can bring you down.
Almost all shooters have faced such situations at one point or the other. This time it was none other than Sanjeev Rajput’s turn to face an equipment failure before a match. The barrel extension which Rajput uses on his .22 rifle broke down before the competition.
Rajput had to use a barell extension of another make which was much lighter in weight, sudden change in weight of the rifle can make things difficult for any shooter.
Speaking to indianshooting.com, Sanjeev Rajput said, “I have had a tough 2015 where I had to change my rifle clothing three times, trying to find the best fitting kit for myself. The changes affected my performances. Also, the fact that after I left the Navy in 2014 it took me a while to adjust to the change in lifestyle. There is a lot of support when you are a part of an organisation like Navy. I owe a lot to Navy for making me what I am today”.
Rajput made a strong start in the qualification round in the Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions and was leading the pack after the end of kneeling and prone positions. He made a shaky start in the standing position to register a score of 1163 which was much lesser than his own standards. However it was the fourth highest and good enough to qualify him for today’s final.
“I am not happy with my qualification score as it was much below my expectations. I am capable of shooting atleast 10 points more”, said Rajput who’s personal best is 1176 shot at a World Cup in 2011.
Among the eight finalists, three shooters, Korea Jonghyon Kim, Japan Toshikazu Yamashita and Kazakhstan Yuriy Yurkov were ineligible to claim quotas given they had secured quotas earlier. Also, of the three Korean shooters who qualified for the finals, only one could claim a quota as Korea already had one quota in the event and a country can claim a maximum of two Olympic quotas per event.
In this scenario, Sanjeev was placed seventh after the first 15 Kneeling position shots. It was good enough to secure a quota, however Sanjeev shot like a man possessed in the 15 Prone shots series to register a score of 157.4 at the end of it with none of his shots going below 10. He moved up to fifth position with the quota firmly in his grasp and though inconsistency returned in the Standing position, given that others were also having problems in this position, Sanjeev maintained his fourth position, and was even in medal contention for a while, to ensure that India go to Rio with more quotas in shooting than they had done in London four years ago. India shooting team had 11 quotas in the last Olympics.
“For this competition I had trained hard but the barrel extension gave up just three days before which effected my performance otherwise I could have shot even better. “It was a do-or-die situation for me today. The pressure was there from all quarters as there was a lot of expectation from me to win a quota on the last day of the competition”, added Rajput.
The Gold in the event was won by Korea Olympic Silver medalist Kim Jonghyun, who claimed his second Gold of the competition, having won the Men 50M Rifle Prone event earlier. He shot 461.4 in the finals. Kazakhstan Yuriy Yurkov won the Silver totaling 451.7 while Japan Toshikazu Yamashita won Bronze registering a score of 439.9. Sanjeev was eliminated in fourth position with a score of 429.5 but won the first available quota in the event.
The 35-year-old Rajput, who hails from Jagadhri in Haryana, joined Indian Navy at the age of 18, among other achievements globally, clinched the gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Changwon, China in 2011.
This was India’s 4th quota from this competition after the ones won by Heena Sidhu, Kynan Chenai and Ayonika Paul. India has 12 quota places at Rio, as compared to 11 the last time.
There was a strong possibility of a second Olympic quota from the men skeet, but Angad Vir Singh Bajwa ÔÇö after shooting two perfect rounds of 25 overnight ÔÇö returned 23, 23 and 22 for a total of 118.
Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions: 1. Kim Jonghyun (KOR) 461.4 (1156); 2. Yuriy Yurkov (KAZ) 451.7 (1164); 3. Toshikazu Yamashita (JPN) 439.9 (1170); 4. Sanjeev Rajput 429.5 (1163); 16. Surendra Sinh Rathod 1148; 20. Satyendra Singh 1145. MQS: Chain Singh 1171; Swapnil Kusale 1169.
Men’s Skeet: 1. Saif Bin Futtais (UAE) 13 (16) 123; 2. Saud Habib (ISP) 12 (16) 121; 3. Saeed Almaktoum (UAE) 15 (15) 121; 4. Mohamed Ahmad (UAE) 14 (15) 121; 5. Rashid Hamad (QAT) 14 (122); 6. Abdullah Alrashidi (ISP) 12 (119); 8. Angad Vir Singh Bajwa 118; 17. Man Singh 116; 25. Amrinder Cheema 112. MQS: Sheeraz Sheikh 114; Smit Singh 113.
Congratulations to Sanjeev Rajput for an amazing performance and getting us another quota place #RoadToRio
— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) February 4, 2016