Palembang: Rahi Sarnobat became Wednesday the first Indian female shooter to win a gold medal at the Asian Games, achieving the rare feat by holding her nerve in a gripping 25m air pistol final which was decided by two shoot-offs, here.
The 27-year-old deputy collector from Kolhapur pipped Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpaiboon in a heart-stopping contest after both were tied at 34 points following 10 series of five shots each, taking it to a shoot-off.
Both found the target four times in the first shoot-off, leading to another where Rahi shot three and the Thai managed two, ensuring a historic gold for the Indian. The bronze went to South Korea’s Kim Minjung.
The talented Manu Bhaker, however, cracked under pressure to finish sixth in the finals. The 16-year-old had a remarkable morning as she shot 593 points to equal the Games qualification record. Rahi had sneaked into the finals in seventh place, shooting 580.
Rahi had not won a major medal since the 2014 Glasgow CWG. An elbow injury which she picked up even before Glasgow set her back for the next two years. Realising that she needed a tweak in her technique, Rahi roped in Munkhbayar Dorjsuren, two-time World Champion and Olympic medallist from Germany.
“I had to change her technique and I also worked on her a lot on the mental aspect of the game. She was already a high-level shooter and needed some tweak in her game. It was a close final but I had prepared her for the shoot-off,” Dorjsuren, who moved to Germany from Mongolia, said.
Bhaker, however, could not recreate the form she showed in the qualification. The 16-year-old is now left with her main event, 10m Air Pistol, having disappointed in the mixed team event with Abhishek Verma earlier.
“She will get there. You need years of experience to win Olympic medals and gold medals at the highest level. She needs time. She was brilliant in the qualification. Now she needs to learn how to perform in high-pressure scenarios,” said Bhaker’s coach and four-time Asiad gold medallist, Jaspal Rana.
In the women’s Rifle 3 Positions event, Anjum Moudgil and Gayathri Nithyanandam failed to qualify for the final.