Saurabh Chaudhary is too withdrawn for an expansive conversation. Or celebration. He is in a zone created and operated only by him. But when he arrives at a shooting range, his gun speaks louder than most others -- as one witnessed on Sunday in the final of the 10M air pistol at the ISSF World Cup.
The 16-year-old, showing remarkable composure, shot brilliantly to secure a gold medal with a world record and claim an Olympic quota place. With an average higher than 10.2 points per shot in the final, Saurabh almost brought the roof of the Finals Hall down at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.
The spirited crowd wildly cheered each of his shots, and by the time he finished, the only boy in a field of men, the Indian had a world record of 245 in his maiden senior World Cup.
It added to Saurabh’s sensational run which included gold medals in junior World Championship (with a world record of 245.5), junior World Cup, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and Asian Air Gun Championship.
Such was Saurabh’s dominance in the final that throughout he maintained a distance of over 4 points from Serbian Damir Mikec, his closest rival.
At the end, Mikec took the second place and a quota place for his country with 239.3 points, a total of 5.7 points behind the Indian teenager.
The bronze went to the 2008 Olympic Champion Pang Wei, China, who scored 215.2 points.
“I knew I had a big lead. But I didn’t pay much attention to it,” said the Meerut-based shooter, who shot 587 in the qualification round. “I never thought of quota or making a world record. I just wanted to do my best.”
The excitement in the crowd didn’t affect him. “It was the same at the Asian Games. It doesn’t bother me.”
He went about his job with a monk-like focus and an approach of a seasoned champion, scoring high 10s, and indulging the spectators with a smile only when he reached the finishing line.
Saurabh, however, remains stubbornly recluse. He prefers it this way, at least for now; staying in his zone and wowing the world outside with his prodigious talent.
Heartbreak for Manu
Another 16-year-old prodigy, Manu Bhaker, finished fifth, with a score of 22 in the final of the women’s 25m air pistol, leaving her in tears.
“I tried my best. There was a lot of support, but I am sorry I couldn’t make it. I’ll try harder next time,” she said.
Manu had finished second in the qualifying round with a score of 590, one point behind the eventual gold medallist Veronika Major of Hungary, who set a world record score of 40.
Veronica also bagged the Olympic quota along with China’s Jingjing Zhang (33) who finished second. Iran’s Haniyeh Rostamiyan was third (30).
Rahi Sarnobat and Chinki Yadav shot 580 each to finish 15th and 17th respectively in qualifications.
There was disappointment for India in the men’s 50m Rifle 3-Positions where Sanjeev Rajput finished 25th (169) and Parul Kumar (1170) 22nd in the qualification.
Results: Finals: Men’s 50M Rifle 3 Positions Men: Istvan Peni (Hun) 459.1, 1; Sergey Kamenskiy (Rus) 459.0, 2; Marco De Nicolo (Ita) 444.5, 3. Men’s 10M air pistol: Saurabh Chaudhary (Ind) 245, 1; Damir Mikec (Serb) 239.3, 2; Pang Wei (Chn) 215.2, 3. Women’s 25M pistol: Veronika Major (Hun) 40, 1; Zhang Jingjing (Chn) 33, 2; Haniyeh Rostamiyan (Iri), 30, 3.