Rio de Janeiro, Sep 19: Teenage Indian rifle shooter Nischal bagged silver in the Women's 50m Rifle 3 Positions (3P) at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol stage here to give India a second medal on the final day of the tournament.
Her achievement becomes even more credible given this was her very first senior World Cup final. Nischal finished behind Norwegian Rifle ace Jeanette Hegg Duestad with a score of 458.0 in the final late on Monday night.
Duestad is the reigning Air Rifle European Champion and 300m 3P World Champion and has 12 ISSF World Cup medals to her name including five gold. She was also fourth in the Tokyo Olympics in Air Rifle.
Nischal, who is in her first senior year and has three international medals at the junior level, was in supreme shooting form throughout the day, breaking the qualification national record in Women’s 3P in the process. “It is my first world cup final and I have a medal, so I am very happy for that," the teenager quipped after a gruelling day’s work.
It all began with the elimination rounds in the morning where a total of 18 shooters were eliminated over two rounds totalling 73 competitors. She shot a solid 587 in relay one to safely make it to qualification. So did her two countrywomen, previous qualification national record holder Anjum Moudgil and Ayushi Podder, both of whom shot in relay two.
Then in qualification, Nischal shot a sublime 592 including a perfect 200 in the prone position, to erase Anjum’s score of 591, shot in the President’s Cup in Cairo last year. Anjum herself shot a solid 586, but finished 10th to miss the final by a point. Ayushi was further back in 35th with 580.
The final had a stellar field. Besides Duestad, there was qualification topper (594) and world champion Wanru Miao of China, 2018 Youth Olympic champion Stephanie Grundsoee of Denmark, Italian Olympian Sofia Ceccarello and senior Polish shooter Aneta Stankiewicz, among others.
Nischal went head-to-head with the Duestad from get-go of the 45-shot final. She was 0.1 behind the Norwegian after the first 15 kneeling shots and the same after the consequent 15 shots in the prone position.
By the time, Ukranian Viktoriya Sukhorukova and Swiss shooter Chiara Leone became first to be eliminated after the first 10-shots in the standing position, Duestad had opened up a gap of 0.7 over the Indian.
A 9.4 by the Norwegian for her 41st was cancelled out by a 9.0 from Nischal for her 42nd and the gap widened to 1.1. An 8.4 for the 43rd almost cost her a medal, but Wanru still fell short of the Indian and bowed out in fourth.
Thereafter, Stephanie Grundsoee, who had moved up to second, shot a 7.9 in her 44th shot, assuring Nischal of silver and herself settling for bronze. Duestad closed out calmly for gold with a 10.2 and a score of 461.5, a clear 3.5 ahead of the Haryana shooter.
Gurpreet Singh was also in action in the other medal event of the concluding day but he could not make much headway, shooting 574 to finish 15th in the Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol.
The 16-member Indian contingent thus returned with one gold and one silver from the Rio World Cup and a creditable seventh position in the standings, considering there was only limited participation by India in the event. Elavenil Valarivan had also won the Women’s 10m Air Rifle gold in tremendous fashion.
Earlier in the week, two more Indians just like Anjum on Monday, missed making the finals by the narrowest of possible margins. Reigning Asian Games champion Rahi Sarnobat missed making the final of the Women’s 25m Pistol by virtue of having lesser shots in the inner 10-ring.
Also on Sunday, another seasoned Indian shooter Chain Singh, missed making the Men's 3P final by a point.