Narang begins India's medal hunt

Narang begins India's medal hunt

Hyderabad man tallies 701.1 points to bag 10M air rifle bronze after champion Bindra fails to enter final

Narang begins India's medal hunt

Standing on the podium and allowing himself the luxury of a smile, Gagan Narang cast an admiring glance at his medal and raised his hand to point straight up to the sky. No, he didn’t quite reach the pinnacle, but he was close.

For the third Olympic Games in a row, India found their hero at the shooting range as Narang shot down bronze medal in the men’s 10M air rifle, joining the elite list of Indians with an individual medal in their name.

On a day when compatriot and defending champion Abhinav Bindra failed to make the final, ending up 16th, Narang kept his cool in a high pressure medal round to open India’s account at these Games.

The 29-year-old from Hyderabad became the eighth Indian to win an individual medal, following K D Jadhav (1952), Leander Paes (1996), Karnam Malleswari (2000), Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2004), Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh (2008). But certainly wasn’t the reason for his gesture on the day. “I am really happy to have won India’s first medal. It’s a big burden off my shoulders,” said Narang, soon after he had sealed the third spot behind Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania and Niccolo Campriani of Italy.

Competing in his third Olympics, a medal had eluded Narang on the first two occasions and arriving in London, he was extra keen to erase that blot. That determination was evident in every shot he fired today, especially in the qualification round when he tallied 598 points for the third place.

Pressure was the name of the game in the final and Narang seemed to wilt at couple of points before finishing with a flourish. He shot 10.7, 9.7, 10.6, 10.7, 10.4, 9.9, 9.5, 10.3 and 10.7 for 103.1, giving him a final total of 701.1. Moldoveanu and Campriani, the world champion, both shot 599 in the qualifying round but in the final, the Romanian edged ahead, shooting 103.1 for a score of 702.1. Campriani, who shot 102.5 in the final, tallied 701.5.

The up and down final saw the top position being threatened several times and Narang himself was 0.3 point away from the gold medal position after the sixth shot. But he slipped badly with a 9.9 in the seventh, slipping to the fourth position behind China’s Wang Tao.

But Tao slipped with a 9.2 in the eighth shot, and despite his 9.5, Narang was back in third spot. A controlled 10.3 and a superb 10.7 in the final two shots then helped the Indian to clinch the third position – completing a set of medals for India in shooting after silver by Rathore and gold by Bindra. There were no tears of joy from Narang as the last shot was fired. He lifted his rifle high and then pointed his finger straight up, a gesture he would repeat later on the podium, as if making a statement.

Indeed on this day, Narang had made his statement – that he is among the very best in the world.

Results: Men’s 10M air rifle: Alin George Moldoveanu (Romania) 702.1 (599, 103.1), 1; Niccolo Campriani (Italy) 599, 102.5 (701.5), 2; Gagan Narang (India) 598, 103.1 (701.1), 3.

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