Mairaj takes silver at shooting World Cup 

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Rio de Janeiro, April 25 (IANS) India’s Mairaj Ahmad Khan bagged the silver medal in the men’s Skeet event at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup (Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun), which concluded at the Olympic Shooting Centre in the Deodoro Park area here.

Mairaj lost to Sweden’s Marcus Svennson 2-1 in the shoot-off tiebreaker in the gold medal match on Sunday night, after both were tied on 14 targets after the regulation 16 shots. Italy’s Tamarro Casandro got the bronze.

Earlier, Mairaj had shot 122 out of 125 in qualifying to be second among the top six shooters who qualified for the final stage. In the first competition semi-final stage, both Mairaj and Marcus shot 15 out of 16 clay targets each to earn the right to fight for the gold medal.

Juan Jose Aramburu of Spain and Casandro of Italy qualified for the bronze medal match-up.

This was Mairaj’s best ever showing since he started competing 13 years ago. What is even more commendable about this performance by the man from Khurja in Uttar Pradesh is the fact that this was the first time ever in about 26 attempts that he had reached the final stage of a World Cup.

In the process, he also won India its first ever World Cup medal in Skeet. Last year, Mairaj had become the first Indian ever to bag an Olympic quota berth in Skeet shooting.

The fact that he will come back in August to shoot at the same range for Olympic glory, will be an added boost, as also the fact that he got the better of the likes of Vincent Hancock of US in this competition. The American is a double Olympic champion and considered to be the best Skeet shooter ever.

Mairaj thus helped the Indian contingent win their only medal at the ISSF Rio World Cup which placed them at the 14th spot on the medal standings. A total of 23 out of the 88 countries participating in the 15 events won medals, in what was billed as an Olympic test event.

“I salute Mairaj’s perseverance and commitment to the sport. This is an example for not only shooters, but all aspiring young athletes of this country on the trials and tribulations that an international sportsperson has to go through before achieving success, provided you get the right guidance and do not lose focus,” National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh said.

“I would also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our Skeet coach Ennio Falco, for the role he has played in turning what used to be our weakness at one point of time, into our strength,” he added.

“I wish Mairaj all the best for the upcoming Rio Olympics and as an administrator this result makes me all the more confident of a best ever showing by the Shooting team at the Olympics.”

Earlier, on day nine of the competition, Gurpreet Singh of India shot 289 in qualification to finish 14th in the men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event. Also on the last day, Indian rifle shooters Gagan Narang, Chain Singh and Sanjeev Rajput could not make it to the final of the men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions event.

Hui Zicheng of China took the gold in the men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions event, setting a new world record on the way. Hui registered a final score of 463.7 points, beating the previous record set by Nazar Louginets of Russia in 2014 by 1.2 points.

American shooter Matthew Emmons logged 461.6 points and had to be content with the silver despite a strong late challenge. Zhu Qinan, also of China, took home the bronze medal with a score of 451.2 points.

China topped the medal standings with a haul of two gold, two silver and three bronze medals. The Russian Federation finished the competition in second place, securing two golds, two silvers and a bronze. Ukraine were in the third position with two golds and a bronze.

A total of three world records were equalled or broken during the competition.

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