Ayonika nails Oly quota

Ayonika nails Oly quota

After enduring a miserable 2015, Ayonika Paul made a strong comeback on Friday by clinching a silver medal in the women’s 10M air rifle in the Asian Olympic Qualifying shooting competition at the Dr Karni Singh Range.

The medal fetched India their 11th quota place for Rio Olympic Games.
India’s Pooja Ghatkar had led in the final but wobbled at the end to settle for a bronze medal. Iran’s Najmeh Khedmati grabbed the gold medal after battling past Ghatkar and Paul in the 20-shot final. She won beating Paul in a shoot-off.

In fact, Khedmati leapt into the lead only after Ghatkar shot a disappointing 8.8 to slip from the top to third place and bowed out with final tally of 184.5.

Paul shot to the lead with a 10.7 but a 9.9 tied her score at 205.9 with Khedmati who hit a combination of 9.4 and 10.4 in the final attempt. It forced a tie-breaking shoot-off for the first place where Paul once again shot a 9.9, while Khedmati marked a 10.1 to win the first medal for her country.

Even though there were two quota places up for grabs, India were eligible only for one as Apurvi Chandela had already collected one during last year's World Cup. The second one went to Republic of Korea's Lee Eunseo who finished fourth.


Paul, who had won the silver medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, was all smiles. “The last two shots are still ringing in my mind. I am happ`y to have won the quota but disappointed on losing out on the gold,” she said.

The 23-year-old, who had won bronze at the Asian Air Gun Championship in September, had endured a tough 2015. Her roping in former Indian shooter Suma Shirur in September turned it around for her. Shirur, a joint world record holder in 10M air rifle, recalled how they helped Paul develop a “lazer-beam focus.” 

“Earlier she was like a torch,” laughed Shirur. “She is really talented but was lost. She just needed to be shown the right direction. It has taken a lot of talking from me and working on her technique, on developing connect between the body and mind. Her last two shots today weren’t her best, so yes there is still work to do. But it was a good performance.”

India's Omkar Singh missed out the ticket to Rio after finishing fourth in the 50M pistol. He shot 556 in the qualifying and 147 in the final. Japan pocketed the gold through their 2010 World Champion Tomoyuki Matsuda. North Korean shooters Kim Song Guk and Kim Jong Su clinched the silver and bronze medals and with it the two Olympic quota places on offer.