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Jitu, Heena strike gold in air pistol mixed team event

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New Delhi, Oct 24 (PTI) Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu combined to give India their first gold medal of the ISSF World Cup Final here, clinching the top honours in the 10m air pistol mixed team event on the opening day of competitions.

It was historic as the mixed team events have been officially granted medal status at an ISSF World Cup Final.

In the 10m mixed air rifle event, the duo of Deepak Kumar and Meghana Sajjanar had to be contend with a fourth-place finish at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges.

The Indian pair, which suffered a two-shot penalty for shooting in the wrong sequence, would have probably landed a medal otherwise.

The duo of Jitu and Heena shot 483.4 in the final to finish on the top of the podium.

The mixed team competitions were organised as test events in the World Cups held earlier this year and will be making the Olympic debut in the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Despite starting off with a 2.5-point disadvantage from the lead after the first series of five shots, Sidhu and Rai gradually closed the gap on their opponents to give the host nation a positive start in the prestigious tournament that is being organised for the first time in the country.

France's Florian Fouquet and Celine Goberville bagged the silver medal with 481.1. The bronze medal was awarded to Yang Wei and Cai Xiaoxue of China, who failed to match the pace set by India and France, finishing third with 418.2 points.

A multiple medallist in top international events, Rai will also gun for glory in the 10m free pistol and 50m pistol in the coming days.

This was the Indian pair's third gold in the event this year, having won both the test events (Grand Prix status) at two earlier World Cup stages in New Delhi and Gabala.

This was also Heena's second WCF gold medal. She had won the individual women's 10m air pistol gold in 2013.

For Jitu, this was his second medal at the WCF level, having won silver last year in the individual men's 50m pistol event.

In the final, where each team shoots 30 shots before the start of elimination rounds 34th (17th individual shot), Heena and Jitu started slowly but a magnificent couple of 10.9s by Jitu on his 15th and 17th individual shot, meant that they held on to win the gold easily.

A 10.8 in his 21st individual shot was also crucial and Heena was a picture of consistency throughout the final. They finished with a combined total of 483.4 after 48 shots.

In the mixed team trap, Spain's Antonio Bailon and Beatrice Martinez won gold by shooting 42 out of 50 in the final round. They beat Italy's Giovanni Pellielo and Jessica Rossi to silver. The Italian pair scored 40 while USA's Derrek Haldeman and Ashley Carroll won bronze with a final round score of 31.

"It feels great to win here in front of our people, even if this puts a little extra-pressure on us. There were high expectations from us and a lot of eyes were looking at me and Jitu for this final, that's why we trained a lot together in the last few days," Heena said.

"We like this format, it's a bit longer than the other ones but we definitely like it," added Rai, who previously won two medals during the ISSF World Cup Stage 1 that took place in New Delhi last February and March.

Raninder Singh, President of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), was delighted and said, "Both Heena and Jitu shot brilliantly. This reiterates the point made earlier during the first World Cup stage here by me that the inclusion of Mixed events in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will give India an edge.

"Heena and Jitu's performance this year as well as other mixed teams drive home that point emphatically. We congratulate the winning pair once again and wish them all the very best for the future

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