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Indian shooters misfire

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS,

Beijing : Medal-hopeful Indian shooters cut a sorry figure on the first day of the Olympics competition as Anjali Bhagwat, Avneet Kaur Sidhu and Samresh Jung bowed out in the qualification round Saturday with below-par performances at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Hall.

Anjali, competing in her third Olympics, triggered the dismal show in the women’s 10 metre Air Rifle, finishing 29th with a score of 393. Avneet Kaur Sidhu finished 10 places below her, shooting a poor 389, in the same event.

“I could not control my movement in the second half and that made the difference,” Anjali said.

Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic graduated from a bronze medal four years ago to a gold, earning the first yellow metal of the Beijing Olympics.

Goldfinger Jung, who won a quintet of gold medals in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, fared the worse. He shot only 570 out of 600 and finished 42nd out of 48 competitors.

Jung came into the Games with a qualification score of 584, but Saturday he fell way short of that in his pet event, where he had finished fourth at the 2007 World Cup in Munich with 584 out of 600.

The topper, Pang Wei of China, logged 586 out of 600 to make the final easily.

Jung, however, is to compete in one more event, the 50m Pistol event.

In men’s trap, World champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Mansher Singh were at the 12th and 21st positions respectively after three qualification rounds.

Both seemed to be struggling to ensure their place in the six-competitor final. The next two qualifying rounds will be on Sunday.

Both encountered contrasting fortunes. While Manavjit made up some lost ground with a 24 in the final set, Mansher squandered a great start with a 20 in the final set. Mansher had shot 25 and 24 in first two rounds, while Manavjit had identical 23 in both first and second sets.

At 70 out of 75, Manavjit was one of the four shooters tied with nine others ahead of him. Mansher was among the eight tied at 69 with 13 shooters before him. Neither can afford to miss anything on the second day if they are to advance to the final.

India’s shooting coach Sunny Thomas is unable to explain the failure in the big league.

“It seemed to be a case of pressure,” he said

“They shot way below what they have been doing even in practice. I cannot explain how this happened. Maybe pressure, maybe nerves. But there is one more day to go,” Coach Thomas said of the duo.

Veteran shooter and Secretary-General of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Randhir Singh said he felt disappointed at the way Mansher squandered the initial advantage.

“It is disappointing, especially after such a great start by Mansher. At 70 and 69, they still have an outside chance of making the final, but cannot afford to miss anything more.”

The 42-year-old Mansher seemed to be rolling back the years and getting the better of his younger teammate in the first two sets after a perfect start. He then missed just one target in the second set.

In the third he began with eight perfect shots but then missed three in the next four on the ninth, 11th and 12th birds. That seemed to unnerve him and he missed two more on the 19th and 21st for a very disappointing 20 out of 25.

Manavjit was more steady with 23-23-24.

There are 50 shots still left and the top six will qualify for the final.

In women’s Air Rifle, Anjali fired rounds of 99, 99, 97 and 98 for a total of 393, way off the last shooter’s qualifying mark of 397. The third set of 97 was Anjali’s undoing.

The Women’s Air Rifle is not Anjali’s main event, however. Her next event is the 50m Rifle 3-position, where her chances ought to be better for that’s the event through which she qualified for the Olympics.

Avneet, on the other hand, did have a perfect 100 in the second set after firing 98 in the first set, but was done in by the last two sets in which she carded 96 and 95.

Emmons, 24, was in scintillating form, breaking Olympic records in both the qualification and final rounds. In the qualification round, Emmons shot a perfect 400, which equalled the world record already held by 10 shooters. Lioubov Galkina of Russia has done that three times.

Emmons shot 103.5 in the final, giving her a total score of 503.5, which eclipsed the previous record of 502.0 set by China’s Du Li at Athens 2004.

Lioubov Galkina of Russia with 502.1 (399 plus 103.1) got the silver and Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia with a total of 500.9 (399 plus 101.9) took the bronze in the first set of medals to be decided at these Olympic Games.