Even as the more fancied names in the girls 10m air rifle event fell by the wayside, Zeena Khitta (DAV Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh), Nandita Sul (B.R. Gholap College, Pune) and Yana Rathore (Emerald Heights International School, Indore) soared to the podium at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Ranges in the first Khelo India School Games.
In the boys event, Shahu Mane (St. Xaviers High School, Kolhapur), Rithik Ramesh (Kendriya Vidyalaya, Ashok Nagar, Chennai) and Parth Makhija (Manav Sthali School, New Delhi) claimed honours after a gripping final round where tension got the better of some others.
In the final elimination round of the girls event, Zeena took command of the proceedings with the first set of five shots (53.3) and never looked back though Nandita Sul (51.6) tried to chase her down.
After 24 shots, which included a couple of near-perfect 10.8s (15th & 17th shots), Zeena clinched gold by a comfortable margin of 1.9 points. The gold medal will boost her confidence going into the ISSF Junior World Cup in March in Sydney.
An intense contest unfolded between Yana and Bhargavi D Kasar (Ramnarain Ruia Junior College, Mumbai) after two sets of five shots each, the lone shooter from MP was trailing by 0.3 points. But Yana turned the contest around with 10.8s on her 13th, 14th and 15th shots to establish a lead of 0.8 points. At this stage she tied with Nandita at an identical score of 165.4. Then Nandita scored 10.4 and 10.8 with her 17th and 18th shots to pull ahead into second place.
Interestingly, the medal winners qualified pretty low down the order. In fact, Zeena said that she had given up hopes of a medal after the qualification. I thought, its over for me after shooting 412.3 in the qualifying. But a chat with my coach put me in a better frame of mind. After the first sequence of five shots, I relaxed a lot more and started shooting better," said the gold winner. Similarly, much credit must go to Yana for helping MP win its first medal in these Games.
The boys event too was marked by high drama. The countrys No.1 ranked shooter in the youth category, Hriday Hazarika (South Point School, Guwahati) and Yashvardhan (Jaishree Periwal High School, Jaipur) broke the National record with scores of 624.3 and 623.9 respectively in qualifying but failed to find medals. Even Divyansh Panwar (Maheswari Public School, Jaipur) who won a clutch of medals in the 61st National Shooting Championship in December 2017, wilted under pressure.
In the final elimination round, Shahu Mane, who qualified in sixth place (621.4), took control of the medal round with the first set of five shots. The Kolhapur shooter, who has already qualified for the Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires later this year, shot with great consistency to equal the final national record with a score of 247.7 points.
I was pretty disappointed and depressed with my qualifying score. During the break after qualifying I talked with my coach about what went wrong. It helped me to calm down. In the finals, I was a quite nervous, even more than the 10th Asian Air Gun Championship where I qualified for the Youth Olympics. It feels to be on the top of the world to win gold in the first ever Khelo India School Games. We are all part of history now," said a beaming Mane.
Behind the gold medal winner, there was a three-way fight between Rithik, Parth and Yashvardhan. After the 18th shot Rithik moved into second place, but over the next two shots, he was displaced by the Delhi shooter. At that stage the two were separated by a mere .7 points. But a couple of low 10s over the next two shots helped Rithik to nose ahead of Parth to claim silver.
Boys 10m air rifle: 1. Shahu Mane (Maharashtra) 247.7 Equalled National Record (621.4, 6th), 2. Rithik Ramesh (Tamil Nadu) 245.6 (621.8, 5th); 3. Parth Makhija (Delhi) 225.0 (623, 4th).
Girls 10m air rifle: 1. Zeena Khitta (Chandigarh) 251.6 (412.6, 6th); 2. Nandita Sul (Maharashtra) 249.3 (410.6, 8th); 3. Yana Rathore (Madhya Pradesh) 227.2 (412.3, 7th).
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)