[Mexico], Mar 11 (ANI): Indian shooter Akhil Sheoran continued the march of India's young brigade at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun stage in Guadalajara, Mexico, shooting down the Men's 50m Rifle 3 Positions (3P) Gold with lots to spare.
Sheoran is now the fourth young Indian shooter to have won a first ISSF World Cup medal in the competition 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 India would finish on top of the medal tally for the first time in an ISSF World Cup.
Akhil shot 455.6 in the final to leave behind Austria's Bernhard Pickl in second place with 452. In a classy field which included 38-time ISSF medalist and Hungarian Rifle legend Peter Sidi, Rio Olympic Bronze medalist Alexis Reynauld of France and Air Rifle Gold medalist Istvan Peni, also of Hungary besides India's champion 3P 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. Akhil was fourth with 1174 while young Swapnil Kusale, competing in his first World Cup, shot 1168 for seventh place to make it all three Indians in the eight-man final. Sanjeev Rajput had the best Prone round among all qualifiers with a 398 out of 400 while both he and Akhil 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 which was the second best in the position among all qualifiers.
In the final, Rajput was strongest off the blocks, being in the second spot after the first 10 kneeling shots with Akhil in third and Swapnil in joint fourth place. At the end of it, Rajput was 0.6 clear of second placed Austrian Pickl. Akhil was in fourth and Swapnil in fifth place with Istvan Peni looming in the third spot. World number one in the event and Rio Olympics Bronze medalist Alexis Raynauld of France was down in eighth place, while Rifle legend Peter Sidi was placed seventh after the first Kneeling position.
Rajput got even stronger in the 15 shot Prone round and by the end of it was 1.1 clear of second placed teammate Sheoran, who also had a strong Prone round to make his move up. Peni was 2.6 behind Rajput in third place. Swapnil had moved down to sixth.
The wind at the tent-range got into its elements at the start of the final 15 Standing position shots and after the first five shots, it was Akhil Sheoran who was 1 point clear of the field with Peni moving up to second and Rajput after a horrid 5-shot series which had three scores in the 8s, down to fourth. Swapnil maintained the sixth place.
At the end of 40-shots, Raynaud and the Chinese shooter Fu were the first two to be eliminated while Rajput's slide continued and Swapnil moved up to fifth. Akhil was still leading the field, now a comfortable 2.3 points clear of the Austrian Pickl who had moved up to second.
Swapnil Kusale bowed out in sixth place in his first World Cup and Sheoran came up with a 10.8 in the 42nd shot to virtually seal the deal. Rajput had left too much to do and even a 10.8 in the 43rd shot could not get him to the podium and he finished fourth, ending with 430.9 in the final.
With two shots left, Akhil was almost 2 points clear and held his nerve to close out in style with a 10.8. Istvan Peni won Bronze with 442.3
There are two more finals lined up on Saturday with the Women's 25m Pistol final scheduled for 2.30pm local time and the Women's Skeet final at 5.00pm.
Manu Bhaker of India has qualified in fourth place for the Women's 25m Pistol Final, shooting a score of 581. Annu Raj Singh of India shot 575 to finish 10th. Anna Korakaki, the reigning Olympic Champion in the event and Heidi Gerber, the Rio Bronze medalist in the event are also among the eight who have qualified.
Sunday will see the last of the medals being decided in the Men's Skeet. (ANI)