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Mairaj’s skeet gold part of bigger medal haul at Changwon shooting WC


Mairaj Ahmad Khan had last won a medal at the ISSF Shooting World Cup in Rio – a year before the 2016 Olympics. At the time, he had missed out on the gold after faltering in the shootout and ended up with a silver to his name. Six years later, at the ISSF World Cup in Changwon, Khan didn’t falter again, clinching gold. And he did so after surviving a four-way shootout for the two remaining spots in the second stage. In this shootout, he took down three-time World Champion and two-time Olympic medallist Abdullah Al-Rashidi and then won the gold after beating Korean shooter Kim Minsu 37-36.

While India have won team skeet event gold medals in the past, Khan’s medal at Changwon is the first-ever individual gold that the country has won in the discipline. Khan had earlier made history by becoming the first Indian to qualify for the skeet event at the Rio Olympics.

Cricket before shooting

Born in Khurja, Uttar Pradesh, Khan initially was a cricket player, captaining his state U-16 team in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. He had even batted alongside Virender Sehwag for Jamia Millia Islamia University.

But he realised soon that he would never make it to the Indian team and shifted his focus to shooting, which he had an unexplored interest in. Olympian Mansher Singh took him under his wing and developed him into a shooter.

Going into the Rio Olympics, the 46-year-old was touted as a good prospect, ranked fourth in the World and second in Asia. There also was the added advantage of him knowing the conditions having won silver at the Rio ISSF World Cup only a year earlier. But he didn’t make it into the main stages of the skeet event, finishing ninth. Five years later at Tokyo, he qualified again but finished a disappointing 25th.

Khan’s failure at Tokyo was part of the overall debacle of the Indian shooting contingent. After having won the right to travel with their largest-ever contingent of shooters to an Olympic event, India’s best prospects couldn’t put in the same performances that had catapulted them onto this storied stage – with Saurabh Chaudhary’s seventh place the best result mustered.

Changwon resurgence

Khan’s gold at Changwon has been part of a larger medal haul by Indian shooters in South Korea. As it stands, India is leading the medal tally with five gold, five silver and three bronze medals. While Khan is the oldest member of the team, the striking feature of the Indian squad at Changwon has been the markedly younger team that has gone to this World Cup. Seven members of the squad are 19 or under.

Arjun Babuta, 23, was the first to win a gold, winning the 10m Air rifle event with a score of 630.5 in qualifying and then a 261.1 in the ranking round. In the gold medal round, he beat USA’s Lucas Kozeniesky 17-9 to pick his first-ever international medal as a senior shooter. Babuta then took another gold medal, this time as a part of India’s team in the 10m Air Rifle event.

His teammate in that event, 20-year-old Shahu Mane, teamed up with Mehuli Ghosh in the 10m Air Rifle mixed event to win the yellow metal – beating Istvan Peni, Hungary’s multiple medal-winning world champion.

Then, 21-year-old Aishwarya Pratap Singh Tomar picked up yet another gold for India, this time in the men’s three position event before Khan’s medal rounded up what has been one of the most successful outings for any Indian shooting team since last year’s Tokyo nightmare.





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