The next generation of Indian shooters are taking centre stage slowly and gradually and on Tuesday it became clear that the sport’s future in India is in good hands as 16-year old Saurabh Chaudhary became only the fifth Indian shooter to claim a gold in Asian Games history.
Chaudhary, son of a farmer based in Kalina Village in Meerut and competing in his first senior event, showed maturity and calmness well beyond his age to snatch the lead from 2010 World Champion Tomoyuki Matsuda on the penultimate shot in the 24-shot final.
Chaudhary aggregated 240.7 while the 42-year-old Matsuda from Japan misfired on the 23rd shot, an 8.9, to settle for silver. He scored 239.7.
A student of class XI, Chaudhary will be off to the World Championships after the Games. He learnt the tricks of the trade at Amit Sheoran’s academy at Benoli near Baghpat, 53 kilometers from Meerut. Whenever he is home, he helps his father in the farming business.
“I like farming. We don’t get much time off from training but whenever I do, I go back to my Village (Kalina) and help my father,” said Chaudhary.
Chaudhary also set a Games record with his sensational effort. His last two shots were a 10.2 and 10.4, giving him the decisive lead. The Japanese’s last two shots were an 8.9 and 10.3.
Expectations were high from Chaudhary as he had broken the world record on way to winning a gold in the Junior World Cup in Germany a couple of months ago.
But not many thought that he would emulate the golden feat achieved by the likes of Jaspal Rana, Randhir Singh, Jitu Rai and Ronjan Sodhi at such a young age.
“I did not feel any pressure,” said Chaudhary, who picked up the sport only three years ago when asked about the competition that included Matsuda and Jin Jingoh from South Korea, the multiple-time Olympic and world champion.
He did not show any sign of nerves even in the qualification held earlier in the day, bossing it with a 586. Jongoh was second in the qualification while Verma finished sixth.
Another Indian making his international debut, 29-year-old Abhishek Verma, shot 219.3 to secure bronze. Like Chaudhary, Rohtak-based Verma also picked up the sport three years ago. The 29-year-old lawyer-cum-shooter did begin well but saved his best for the last to win bronze.
“I was nervous in the beginning seeing a field like that. But then I composed myself. It is my first international event and I have won a medal. It feels great of course,” Verma, who hails from Rohtak, said.
In the fifth series, he shot a couple of 10.7s to get himself into medal contention. He consolidated from there, producing a solid finish.
He and another teen sensation Manu Bhaker had disappointed in the mixed team event, failing to qualify for the final.
“The fact that Manu and I failed to qualify in mixed team, we were not disappointed. We learnt a lot from that failure,” he said about that missed opportunity.