Hangzhou: Two teenaged dreamy-eyed shooters, Palak Gulia and Esha Singh, set ablaze the shooting range by powering to a gold-silver finish in 10m air pistol event for India at the Asian Games here on Friday.
In one of the most trailblazing efforts seen by Indian shooters, the duo challenged each other for the top podium finish until 17-year-old Palak clinched the gold medal and Esha the silver to swell the country’s tally in the sport to 17 — six of them gold.
Pakistan’s Talat Kishmala settled for a bronze after giving a tough fight to Esha.
This is the first major individual medal for Palak in an international competition after she came on the shooting scene just last year. She shot 242.1 in the finals for an Asian Games record.
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Esha, who had won the individual silver in 25m pistol on Wednesday and was part of the triumvirate that won the 10m air pistol team silver along with Palak and Divya TS earlier on Friday, settled for silver, scoring 239.7.
The unprecedented success of Indian marksmen continued in the 50m rifle arena as well with the men’s 3-positions team, comprising the young trio of Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (591), Swapnil Kusale (591) and Akhil Sheoran (587), overcoming the Chinese challenge with a world record score of 1769 to take the top podium finish.
Hosts China were a clear six points adrift with 1763 points, while South Korea were a distant third with 1748 points.
The men’s trio smashed the world record by a whopping eight points.
Aishwary and Swapnil shot superbly to make the individual finals as well and are placed first and second after the qualification round, something never ever seen before in a sport dominated by the Chinese at the Asian level.
The third Indian in the competition, Akhil, despite finishing fifth with 587 in qualification, will miss out on the eight-team finals as only two shooters per country are allowed in the individual medal round.
Swapnil, one of the medal prospects at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, was firing on all cylinders, shooting down the qualification Asian and Asian Games record on way to a superb 591.
Not to be left behind, Aishwary too shot an identical score to be tied with Swapnil but entered the finals, placed second because of fewer shots closer to the bulls eye (inner-10s). Swapnil had 33 ‘inner-10s’, while Aishwary had 27.
The two Chinese who made it to the finals — Du Linshu and Tian Jiaming — were placed third and fourth respectively behind the two young Indians.
Both Swapnil and Aishwary shot an average of 9.850 out of a maximum score of 10 on each of the shots in the qualification round in all three positions — kneeling, prone and standing, an incredible achievement, considering the pressure from the relentless Chinese.
In fact, Swapnil had a 199/200 in prone, while Aishwary had an identical score in kneeling position.
Esha leads from the front
Teenager Esha led from the front as she guided the Indian women’s 10m air pistol team to a silver medal.
The trio of 18-year-old Esha (579), Palak (577) and Divya TS (575) aggregated 1731 points for their silver medal, while China took the gold with a total of 1736, which is an Asian Games record.
Chinese Taipei finished with a bronze, totalling 1723.
The scores in the qualification round decide the team medallists, while eight top-scoring shooters move into the finals to win individual glory.
Esha had also claimed a silver medal in the women’s individual 25m pistol event on Wednesday, while the trio of Manu Bhaker, Esha and Rhythm Sangwan had fired in tandem to shoot the gold medal in the women’s 25m pistol team event on the same day.