Rahi becomes first Indian woman to shoot Asiad gold

India's Rahi Sarnobat with the women's 25M air pistol gold in Palembang on Wednesday. TWITTER

The entire spotlight was on Manu Bhaker but that seemed to suit Rahi Sarnobat fine. Rising up the ranks almost unnoticed, the 27-year-old scripted a special piece of history on Wednesday, becoming the first Indian woman shooter to win an Asian Games gold medal.

In a nerve-racking final of the 25m pistol event, Rahi, a Commonwealth Games champion in 2014, defeated Thailand’s Napahaswan Yangpaiboon in a shoot-off to win the gold medal with a Games record total at the JSC Shooting Range in Palembang.

Hit by an elbow injury, the quiet lady from Kolhapur had slipped down the rankings but she has been making a strong comeback to the sport and on Wednesday, it was a sort of rebirth for the Indian.

“I was trying to keep my mind on technical things — on things I have to do. I knew if I did that right, results would follow any day,” said an elated Rahi after her sensational performance. 

Both the Indian and Yangpaiboon finished with 34 apiece in the final and in the first shoot-off, both shot four. In the second shoot-off, the Indian shot 3 while the Thai managed only two to trigger celebrations in the Indian camp. 

It was India’s second gold from shooting and the seventh medal from the range — more interestingly, it came from an unexpected corner. Young gun Manu had set the qualifying phase ablaze with a Games record of 593 to come first while Rahi, with a total of 580, made it in seventh position. In the final, though, it was the experienced shooter who came to the fore.

Manu was the third to be eliminated with a score of 16 but Rahi was shooting steadily to stay in the race. Though she did fade a bit, her early string of scores kept her ahead of the pack. Korea’s Kim Minjung was in third position and when she departed at 26, it was between the Thai and Rahi. 

Yangpaiboon was in the lead with 34 after the ninth shot and Rahi was on 32 but the Thai shot a zero in the final shot against the two by the Indian, leading to a shoot-off.

There was little to separate the two after the first shoot-off but Yangpaiboon cracked in the second shoot-off to bring curtains on an exciting duel.

Rahi paid tribute to her German coach Munkhbayar Dorjsuren for helping her to fine-tune the technique after he comeback from injury. “She is an Olympic medallist and knows exactly what to do,” said the deputy collector with the Maharashtra government. 

Dorjsuren had won a bronze representing Mongolia at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and another bronze representing Germany at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both in 25m pistol.

“It is like a mother-daughter relationship. Her attitude towards these competitions is really different and that matters a lot, perhaps more than technical things, these things matter,” said Rahi, who also had support from Olympic Gold Quest.

“But financially, that is not enough. I am hoping to get included in the TOP Scheme. I am paying my coach from the cash rewards I got from my previous victories,” said Rahi. Apart from her gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Rahi had won a pairs gold in the 2010 CWG in New Delhi and a bronze at the last Asian Games.

In the other event of the day, the 50M rifle three-position for women, India’s Anjum Moudgil failed to qualify for the final after shooting 1159 and ending ninth in the qualifying.

 

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Rahi becomes first Indian woman to shoot Asiad gold

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