New Delhi: Shooter Gagan Narang has got India its first medal at the 2012 London Olympics with a bronze in the 10m Air Rifle event. Narang, who qualified for the final with an Olympic-record equalling score of 599, finished with a final score of 701.1.
His last shot in the final was a near-perfect 10.7.
Narang smiled after his final shot, and cradling his rifle with both arms, lifted it up over his head to acknowledge the cheering crowd at the range.
It has been a long and difficult wait for the 29-year-old Delhi shooter, who did not make it to the finals of the event in two previous attempts, in 2004 and 2008. But the former world-record holder was perfectly composed today, starting off with a 10.7 shot in the final. It was a thrill-a-minute contest from then on, as Narang, Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania, top-ranked Niccolo Campriani of Italy, and China’s Wang Tao were locked tight in a close battle.
Narang slipped briefly, shooting a 9.7 with his second shot before bouncing back with a series of high scores—10.6, 10.7, 10.7, 10.6. At this point, he was just 0.3 points behind leader Campriani. Narang fluffed his 7th and 8th shots, scoring 9.9 and 9.5, and was in real danger of dropping off the medal places, but Tao, who was perfectly placed to take over the third spot scored an even poorer 9.2 on his eighth shot.
Narang survived to pocket the bronze. Moldoveanu grabbed the gold with 702.1, and Campriani the silver.
Narang’s score was in fact higher than compatriot Abhinav Bindra’s gold-winning score of 700.5 at the 2008 Olympics. The defending champion, competing in his fourth Olympics, narrowly missed out on a place in the final earlier in the day. In an interview to journalists outside the shooting range, Bindra said that he needed a bit of luck to get through, which didn’t happen. “I’m glad I had the courage to come back and try again, even though I failed,” he said.