Yashaswini steals limelight with gold after COVID cases threaten tournament

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New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI) Yashaswini Singh Deswal stole the limelight from her more celebrated compatriots with a gold medal as India's pistol shooters called the shots in the ISSF World Cup here on Saturday, the start of which was rocked by three COVID-19 positive cases.

Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma settled for the silver and bronze medals respectively in the men's 10m air pistol final on the second competition day of the tournament.

Those medals were won after world number one Divyansh Singh Panwar opened India's tally with a bronze in the men's 10m air rifle event.

However, world number four in women's 10m air rifle, Anjum Moudgil, settled for a fifth-place finish after shooting 187.8 in the final.

Yashaswini, 23, was confidence personified as she claimed the gold medal in the women's 10m air pistol event with a score of 238.8, far ahead of second-placed Manu Bhaker's 236.7, at the Dr Karni Singh Range.

Viktoria Chaika of Belarus bagged the bronze medal with 215.9.

The other Indian in the event, Shri Nivetha, started well but finished fourth with 193.5.

Deswal also topped the qualifications with 579, her sequence of scores reading 99 96 97 97 98 92 Bhaker, 19, shot a total of 577 for second place (94 95 97 95 98 98), while Nivetha shot 574 to be placed fourth (97 96 94 94 97 97) in the qualifications.

Both Deswal and Bhaker are Tokyo Olympics quota holders.

In a strong start to the 24-shot final for India, Bhaker topped the first series with Deswal and Nivetha following her in second and third place, respectively.

However, Deswal pipped her compatriot Bhaker at the top position before the final entered the elimination stage.

There was no looking back for Deswal from thereon as the 2019 Rio de Janeiro World Cup gold medallist led the field from start to finish.

Such was India's dominance in the event that after their three shooters finished in the top four in the qualifying, they held the top three position till the end of the fourth series when Nivetha was pipped by Mexican, Alejandra Zavala Vazquez, who finished fifth.

The fancied world number four Chaudhary was humbled in the final shot by Iran's Javed Foroughi, currently ranked 107th in the ISSF rankings.

Foroughi, who had only 14 seconds on the clock to fire his final shot, scored a winning 10.5 after the 18-year-old Chaudhary managed 9.8 in his last attempt of the gold medal round.

Foroughi shot a total of 243.6 to claim the top prize and Chaudhary fired 243.2 to win silver while Verma aggregated 221.8 to bag the bronze at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.

Former world number one Indian Shahzar Rizvi bowed out in fifth place with a score of 177.1.

Three successive 9.6 by the Iranian opened a window of opportunity for Chaudhary, but the 41-year-old Foroughi sealed the issue in his favour with his last shot in an exciting final.

Youth Olympic and Asian Games gold medallist Chaudhary topped the qualifications with 587 after a sequence of series that read 96 98 97 98 99 99.

Verma was second with 583 after a series of 96 98 99 97 97 96 while Rizvi was fourth with 580 (98 97 97 97 95 96).

Before the women's 10m air rifle event, the 18-year-old Divyansh shot 228.1 to finish third on the podium.

The other Indian participant his event, Arjun Babuta, finished in fifth place.

American Lucas Kozeniesky claimed the gold medal with 249.8, while Istvan Peni of Hungaria bagged silver with 249.7.

A 10.6 and 10.3 in the seventh series saw Divyansh survive elimination as Sergey Richter of Israel fell behind.

Divyansh, a Tokyo Olympic quota holder, shot 10.6 before bowing out with the bronze medal. He was placed sixth in the 60-shot qualification with a total of 629.1, while Babuta was third with 631.8.

Earlier in the day, three shooters, including two from the Indian pistol men's team, tested positive for COVID-19. The shooters are currently self-isolating in their team hotel.

In all, four shooters have already been afflicted by the dreaded virus since the teams started arriving for the tournament, prompting the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to ask National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to take stock of the situation and submit a report on a bio-bubble breach by some international shooters. PTI AH AH KHS KHS