Home Olympic quota one more proof, there's no stopping Palak Gulia

    Olympic quota one more proof, there’s no stopping Palak Gulia

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    Palak Gulia - ISSF

    Palak Gulia’s inspiration is her cousin, Anish Bhanwala, and it was watching him win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games that inspired her to take up shooting.

    But since her debut in 2019, Palak’s journey in 10m air pistol is a lot more than the international medals she has bagged in a short span.

    Her first medals on the international stage at the 2022 Junior World Cup at Suhl and Changwon World Cup, to the 2023 Asian Games high at Hangzhou with a Games record of 242.1, and now her latest accolade, the quota spot on Sunday for the Paris Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, are set on a foundation made out of grit and pain.

    A shoulder injury during the 2022 National Championship could have cut short her promising career, but far from allowing the setback to hold her back, Palak broke the pain barrier to compete successfully.

    She came out of the episode far stronger, and her growth as an athlete was on show at Hangzhou, and again at the final Olympic qualification championship for pistol and rifle in Rio on Sunday.

    The competition was fierce with seven of the eight shooters who made the 10m air pistol final in line for the two quota spots on offer.

    Sixth in qualification with a score of 578, Palak needed to step up among the eight finalists to harbour hopes of a Paris quota.

    The objective was achieved when she shot 217.6 to secure bronze and took the quota spot with Thailand’s silver medallist Kamonlak Saencha (240.5). Armenia’s Elmira Karapetyan, who had already secured a quota spot, shot 240.7 for the top spot.

    Sainyam, the other Indian to make the final at the seventh spot, finished fifth with a score of 176.7. The third Indian in the fray, Surbhi Rao, failed to go past qualification.

    An elated Palak attributed the Rio success to hard work and the dedication of her team. Displaying maturity far beyond her 18 years, she refused to be drawn into a comment when asked about the thoughts of a maiden Olympic appearance a few months down.

    “I don’t even want to think about it, I’d rather focus on my training,” she said.

    After Esha Singh’s Olympic quota spot in 10m air pistol earlier on, Palak’s feat has ensured that India bagged all the possible 16 spots in rifle and pistol for Paris.

    Anish complimented his cousin on her latest accolade. “She’s doing really well, and is in good form at the moment. Everybody is happy for her, and I’m hopeful she will be in the Olympic squad,” he said.

    With 20 quota spots secured till date, the focus now shifts to the trap and skeet shooters to bag the remaining four places at the final Olympic qualification competition in Doha, Qatar, from April 21-28.