Young Akhil Sheoran clinched the gold medal in men’s 50m rifle 3 position with plenty to spare as India continued their superlative run at the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Sheoran, thus, became the fourth young Indian shooter to win a medal on ISSF World Cup debut.
This was after the likes of Shahzar Rizvi, Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh and Anjum Moudgil had put India on top of the medal standings with their performances over the last week.
Sheoran’s gold was India’s fourth of the competition and makes it almost certain that the country would finish on top of the medals tally for the first time in an ISSF World Cup.
Sheoran shot 455.6 in the final to pip Austria’s Bernhard Pickl in second place with 452.
In a classy field which included 38-time ISSF medallist and Hungarian rifle legend Peter Sidi, Rio Olympic Bronze medallist Alexis Reynauld of France and air rifle gold medallist Istvan Peni, also of Hungary besides India’s champion 3 position exponent Sanjeev Rajput, Sheoran’s performance in tough conditions belied his age and experience.
Earlier in the qualification round where each shooter shoots 40-shots in each position, the experienced Rajput shot a solid 1176 out of a possible 1200 to qualify second behind Peni who shot 1178.
Sheoran was fourth with 1174 while young Swapnil Kusale, competing in his first World Cup, shot 1168 for seventh place to ensure all three Indians made the eight-man final.
Rajput had the best prone round among all qualifiers with a 398 out of 400 while both he and Sheoran had the strongest kneeling round among the eight with scores of 392 each.
Swapnil had the strongest standing round among the three Indians with a 390 score which was the second best in the position among all qualifiers.
In the final, Rajput was strongest off the blocks, being in second spot after the first 10 kneeling shots with Sheoran in third and Swapnil in joint fourth place.
At the end of it, Rajput was 0.6 clear of second placed Austrian Pickl. Sheoran was in fourth and Swapnil in fifth place with Istvan Peni looming in third spot. World number one in the event and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Alexis Raynauld of France was down in eighth place, while Sidi was placed seventh after the first Kneeling position.
Rajput got stronger in the 15-shot prone round and by the end of it was 1.1 clear of second placed Sheoran.
After five shots in the standing round, Sheoran was a point clear of the field with Peni moving to second. Sheoran led the field at the end of the third round with a comfortable 2.3 point margin.
Sheoran came up with a 10.8 in the 42nd shot to seal the gold in his favour. And even a 10.8 in the next shot could not help Raiput to finish on the podium and he had to be content with the fourth place.
Meanwhile, Manu Bhaker has qualified in fourth place for the women’s 25m Pistol Final, shooting a score of 581.
Annu Raj Singh shot 575 to finish 10th. Anna Korakaki, the reigning Olympic Champion in the event and Heidi Gerber, the Rio Bronze medallist, are also among the eight who have qualified.