Sanjeev Rajput qualifies for Rio Olympics 2016
New Delhi, February 2, 2016: Two time Olympian Sanjeev Rajput put a struggling 2015 and a problematic gun behind him to finish fourth in the Men’s 50M Rifle 3 Positions event, thereby securing India’s 12th quota place for the Rio Olympics on the concluding day of the Asia Olympic Qualifying Competition for Shooting here at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range. Sanjeev qualified for the eight man finals in fourth position shooting a score of 1163.
There were three quota places available in the finals which, given the permutations, went to Kazakhstan’s Vitaliy Dovgun and Thailand’s 20-year old Napis Tortungpanich apart from Rajput.
Sanjeev Rajput said after the performance, “I have had a tough 2015 where I had to change my shooting jacket and gun three times which affected my performances. Also, the fact that after I left the Navy in 2014 it took me a while to adjust to the change in lifestyle. For this competition I had trained hard but the barrel extension of my gun started giving me problems in the last three days and I could not change it at this stage. This is why I was being inconsistent in the finals as I was finding it difficult to adjust otherwise I could have shot even better. I am hoping that my form starts improving more after this performance.”
Expressing his delight on the eventual outcome, the President of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Mr. Raninder Singh said, “I am very happy to have won more Olympic quotas than last time but at the same time we also have to give a long hard look at the reasons why we missed so many of them after coming so close. In at least four events we missed quotas by a whisker. We will have a look at the players’ preparations and training, review the work done by the coaches and officials as well as the Federation’s working and ensure that responsibility is fixed so that we continue to improve. There are no holy cows.”
Among the eight finalists in the Men’s 50M Rifle 3 Positions, three athletes, Korea’s Jonghyon Kim, Japan’s Toshikazu Yamashita and Kazakhstan’s Yuriy Yurkov were ineligible to claim quotas given they had secured quotas earlier. Also, of the three Korean shooters who qualified for the finals, only one could claim a quota as Korea already had one quota in the event and a country can claim a maximum of two Olympic quotas per event.
In this scenario, Sanjeev was placed seventh after the first 15 Kneeling position shots. It was good enough to secure a quota, however Sanjeev shot like a man possessed in the 15 Prone shots series to register a score of 157.4 at the end of it with none of his shots going below 10. He moved up to fifth position with the quota firmly in his grasp and though inconsistency returned in the Standing position, given that others were also having problems in this position, Sanjeev maintained his fourth position, and was even in medal contention for a while, to ensure that India go to Rio with more quotas in shooting than they had done in London four years ago. India’s shooting team had 11 quotas in the last Olympics.
The Gold in the event was won by Korea’s Olympic Silver medalist Kim Jonghyun, who claimed his second Gold of the competition, having won the Men’s 50M Rifle Prone event earlier. He shot 461.4 in the finals. Kazakhstan’s Yuriy Yurkov won the Silver totaling 451.7 while Japan’s Toshikazu Yamashita won Bronze registering a score of 439.9. Sanjeev was eliminated in fourth position with a score of 429.5 but won the first available quota in the event.
In the other event of the day, the Men’s Skeet, UAE’s Saif Bin Futtais won the Gold beating Kuwait’s Saud Habib, now participating as an International Shooting Participant, 13-12 in the Gold medal match. Saaed Almaktoum, also of UAE won the Bronze beating countryman Mohamed Ahmad 15-14. The four quotas in the event went to UAE, Qatar and Kuwait (2). India’s young talent Angad Vir Singh Bajwa finished just outside the top six with a score of 118. A score of 119 would have taken him to the finals and would have got him a quota by default. Man Singh finished 17th with a score of 116 and Amrinder Cheema ended in 25th position logging 112.