Palak Gulia and Esha Singh made it a one-two in individual 10m air pistol, while the trio of Esha, Palak and Divya won the country a team silver in the event, before the triumvirate of Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Swapnil Kusale and Akhil Sheoran added another team gold in 50m rifle 3 positions.
The baby-faced 22-year-old Aishwary added another individual silver in rifle 3 positions, fighting an early elimination before finishing second best to a Chinese marksman, who set an Asian Games record.
Two teenage dreamy-eyed shooters, Palak Gulia and Esha Singh, set ablaze the shooting range by powering to a gold-silver finish in 10m air pistol event.
In one of the most trailblazing efforts seen by the Indians, the young duo challenged each other for the top podium finish until 17-year-old Palak clinched the gold medal and Esha the silver.
“There’s no rivalry with anybody. My biggest competitor has always been me. I’m always fighting with myself,” Palak said later. Palak had a score of 9.1 in her first shot in the finals but recovered remarkably well. “My first shot was 9.1, a totally outer shot. I was a bit nervous after that, thinking obviously like what I hit. But I then said it’s not over, it’s the first shot, you have 23 more shots to go.
“So, it’s not over until you win. It’s all right, it’s just one shot and because of this you cannot let you impact the rest of the shots,” said the 17-year-old from Jhajjar district in Haryana.
“For an athlete, your quality is how you come back from your bad shots or how well you can come back. So I was only focusing on the process, like no matter what happened, I still had so much to do.”
Esha said she would give her performance nine out of 10 points.
“It was good, the initial start was very nice. I was able to maintain my focus for as long as possible. There were certain times where it was not working out, but I’m glad that at the end, it did.
“I had a bit of nerves, and I couldn’t trigger well. I instantly realised, and I’m grateful that I did. So then I paid more attention towards my triggering. Technically, I have noted down a few things for my next competition to improve.”
Palak, who took up shooting in a school in Gurgaon, said she was not satisfied with her qualification score.
“I had a 577, which was enough to qualify but it wasn’t up to the mark. I’m always looking at a 580-plus. That’s what I want to achieve in the coming events.”
Pakistan’s Talat Kishmala settled for a bronze after giving a tough fight to Esha.
This is the first major senior individual medal for Palak in an international competition after she gave notice of her precocious talent just last year. She shot 242.1 in the finals for a Games record.
Esha, who had won the individual silver in 25m pistol on Wednesday and was part of the trio that won the 10m air pistol team silver along with Palak and Divya TS earlier on Friday, settled for silver, scoring 239.7. It marked the first time that two Indian shooters have finished one-two on the podium at the Asian Games.
SUCCESS IN 50M RIFLE ARENA
The unprecedented success of Indian marksmen continued in the 50m rifle arena as well with the men’s 3-positions team, comprising the young trio of Aishwary (591), Swapnil (591) and Sheoran (587), overcoming the Chinese challenge with a world record score of 1769 to grab the top podium finish.
Hosts China were a clear six points adrift with 1763 points, while South Korea were a distant third with 1748 points.
The men’s trio smashed the world record by a whopping eight points.
Aishwary and Swapnil shot superbly to make the individual finals as well. They were placed first and second after the qualification round, something never seen before in a sport dominated by the Chinese at the Asian level.
The third Indian in the competition, Akhil, despite finishing fifth with 587 in qualification, missed out on the eight-team finals as only two shooters per country are allowed in the individual medal round.
Swapnil, a strong medal prospect at next year’s Paris Olympic Games, was firing on all cylinders, shooting down the qualification Asian and Asian Games record on way to a superb 591.
Not to be left behind, Aishwary too shot an identical score to be tied with Swapnil but entered the finals, and was placed second because of fewer shots closer to the bulls eye (inner 10s). Swapnil had 33 inner 10s, while Aishwary had 27.
The two Chinese who made it to the finals — Du Linshu and Tian Jiaming — were placed third and fourth respectively behind the two young Indians.
Both Swapnil and Aishwary shot an average of 9.850 out of a maximum score of 10 on each of the shots in the qualification round in all three positions — kneeling, prone and standing, an incredible achievement, considering the pressure from the relentless Chinese.
In fact, Swapnil had a 199/200 in prone, while Aishwary had an identical score in kneeling position.
AISHWARY MISSES INDIVIDUAL GOLD
The finals though was a bit of an anti-climax, with both Swapnil and Aishwary missing the gold medal.
Aishwary signed off with a silver after China’s Du Linshu created an Asian Games record score of 460.6 to deny the 22-year-old Indian the top podium spot.
Aishwary had a final score of 459.7, while home team marksman Tain Jiaming took the third place behind the Indian with a score of 448.3.
The biggest setback, though, was for marksman Swapnil, who was gunning for a sure-shot gold after leading for a major part of the finals, but a rank poor shot of 7.6 saw the 28-year-old take a mighty tumble from No.1 position to fifth in the standing position.
That virtually eliminated him from medal contention. Though he shot 10.5 and 10.1 in his last two shots, Swapnil could only manage a fourth-place finish.
Aishwary will return to India as the most successful shooter having won the 10m air rifle and 50m rifle 3 positions team gold medals, besides individual bronze in 10m air rifle and a silver in 50m rifle on Friday.
ESHA LEADS FROM THE FRONT
Teenager Esha led from the front as she guided the Indian women’s 10m air pistol team to a silver medal.
The trio of 18-year-old Esha (579), Palak (577) and Divya TS (575) aggregated 1731 points for their silver medal, while China took the gold with a total of 1736, which is an Asian Games record.
Chinese Taipei finished with a bronze, totalling 1723.
The scores in the qualification round decide the team medallists, while eight top-scoring shooters move into the finals to win individual glory.
Esha had also claimed a silver medal in the women’s individual 25m pistol event on Wednesday, while the trio of Manu Bhaker, Esha and Rhythm Sangwan had fired in tandem to shoot the gold medal in the women’s 25m pistol team event on the same day.
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