Imran bags Olympic quota place in Asian Shooting

Doha: India`s wait for a London Olympics berth from the Asian Shooting Championships ended on Saturday with Imran Hassan Khan bagging a quota place in the 50m rifle 3 positions event on the final day here. Sanjeev Rajput, who has already booked a ticket to London, made a double whammy for India by winning gold in the same event.

Gagan Narang, who has also qualified for the London Games, battled his way to bronze to bring cheers to the Indian camp. Khan finished fifth but as all the other shooters above him had already bagged Olympic quotas, the qualifying spot for the London Olympics came his way. The Indian team also won the team gold. In windy conditions, Rajput made the best start with a score of 394 in the 40-shot prone series. Khan too put in a creditable effort shooting 392/400 to put himself in contention.

Narang though did not start well with a 380. But he came back strongly in the second series. He shot 380 in standing which was the highest score amongst the eight eventual finalists. Rajput shot 372 which ensured he led the pack going into the kneeling series while Khan shot two points more with 374. Rajput shot a series of 382 in kneeling to end with a qualifying score of 1148.

Korea`s Jonghyun Kim and Jinseop Han were placed second and third with an identical score of 1142. Khan finished his kneeling series with a score of 373 to qualify in fourth place with a combined total of 1139. Narang shot scores of 93, 95, 94 and 92 in kneeling to finish with an aggregate score of 1134. And that proved crucial as he held his nerve in testing conditions to climb up the leaderboard.

Despite trailing both the Koreans by eight points, Narang fought his way through to come into the reckoning for a podium finish. A 4.2 by Jinseop on his sixth shot gave Narang the chance to catch up. Rajput too had a horror show of 5.7 in his fifth shot but his cushion of six points in qualifying meant that it would not affect him much.

Khan had to endure a similar moment of nervousness after his seventh shot had a low 3.3. Despite two further low shots of 7.8 and 7.9, he finished with a 10.2 to finish fifth and bag the quota. Rajput, despite a low score of 93 in final, finished with an aggregate of 1241 to be crowned Asian champion. Korea`s Kim won the silver medal with a score of 1238.3. Narang shot the highest score of 98 in the final that catapulted him over Jinseop to third place with a score of 1232.

National coach Sunny Thomas was a relieved man after going through the entire competition without a quota till the final day today. "The quota was eluding us like black magic. I am happy that Imran could bag it. It was so windy today, the conditions were extremely difficult. People were shooting low scores in the final. No one could control the wind. In that respect Gagan did a great job to make up a huge margin of eight points and finish on the podium. We won two gold, a bronze and the Olympic quota. I can`t ask for more," he said.

"Everyone is relieved. Every passing day the anxiety grew as no quota was coming our way. Being the head of the team I could not show my disappointment which would have affected the morale of the shooters. Team for Olympics (rifle and pistol) will be declared on January 23. Now priority will be Olympics. I am not concerned about the performance in three World Cups this season. In my view, the shooters who have made the Olympics should be given a free hand. They should be exempted for national trials and should be free to do practice and train where they want." Earlier in the day, Pemba Tamang shot 583 to be involved in a three-man shoot-off for silver in the centre fire pistol. However, he missed out in the tie-shoot and finished fourth.