New Delhi: Vijayveer Sidhu starred with a silver medal in the 25-metre pistol event to mark a productive senior's debut at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range here on Friday. The 18-year-old showed remarkable consistency to gather 26 of the possible 40 points in the eight five-shot series to emerge a front-runner for gold medal, before Estonia's Peeter Olesk prevailed in the decider.
The only blip in Sidhu's performance today was a rather poor fifth and sixth series where he managed a total of four shots. However, he roared back with eight hits in his next two series to take the pole position, opening a three-point gap with the second-placed Olesk.
The Estonian then came into his own, calmly shooting a three-hit series to enforce a shoot-off. The tie-breaker saw Sidhu managing a solitary hit while the 27-year-old World No 3 hit the target four out of possible five times to silence a raucous Indian contingent.
Olesk admitted to have felt the heat. "There was pressure, of course, more so because I was the one shooting second in shoot-off. When you shoot second, you have a number in front of you to exceed, which is what builds the pressure. The blood pressure goes up in these situations, but then you realise that it is still the same sport and you just need to perform," he said.
Sidhu, though, summarily swept aside all insinuations of pressure. The youngster had played this scenario in his head multiple times before stepping into the range; he simply faltered in execution.
"I was very relaxed during shoot-off. There were no nerves or increased heartbeats. I tried to shoot to the best of my ability, but the moment I pulled the trigger, I knew I had not shot well.
"I visualise every situation and think of a probable solution. We train for such scenarios in selection trials and training. We simulate and prepare. I didn't lack in preparation, but my execution did not go to the plan. Shoot-off was definitely not a new situation for me," the Chandigarh-based shooter said.
Such was Sidhu's match awareness that after shooting a very creditable four hits in his final regulation series, he started loading his gun again, anticipating a tie-breaker. A three-point lead, he knew, meant little for an in-form Oleska.
"I was obviously happy with the way I shot my last two series (each a four-hit effort), but the lead was only of three shots and I knew that Oleska can easily neutralise that advantage. So yes, I was prepared to go into a shoot-off. I was so confident that the moment I finished my final series, I started reloading my gun. I knew he will knock off the deficit."
Anticipating strong artificial lighting at the venue of the finals, Sidhu brought an appropriate filter along with the one he uses for normal lighting. After facing trouble in his first two series " that yielded three hits each " he switched to the purpose-made filter and promptly shot a perfect five.
"I couldn't train at the venue of late, but since I have shot there earlier, I knew there will be too much light. That's why I knew I will have to change my filter, which is what I did after the first two series. I was prepared to make all these adjustments," he explained.
National coach Samaresh Jung reckons Sidhu has always been a meticulous and calm shooter who puts a lot of premium on preparation. "He has always been a very cool shooter. Very focussed. He works hard on his craft and the results are there to be seen," Jung said.
"I am happy with my performance. I am not thinking that I have missed a gold. I have won a silver and I have a long way to go," Sidhu added.
When he was younger, Sidhu once got a thrashing from his teacher for hitting a classmate. As it turned out, the mischief was done by his twin Udayveer, who incidentally is a pistol shooter too. It is not uncommon for twins to trade identities, but with a silver-tinted seniors debut, cases of mistaken identity, as far as Sidhu is concerned, may take a backseat.