India's women shooters bagged two gold medals at the Asian Shooting Championships on Monday but an Olympic berth continued to elude the country on the fourth day of competition, in Doha.
The women's Air Pistol team of Annu Raj Singh, Shweta Chaudhry and Heena Sidhu finished ahead of the formidable Chinese team by just a point to win the gold.
Veteran Raj Kumari bagged India's second gold of the day, winning the 50m women's prone by a comfortable margin. It was India's first ever gold medal in prone at the Asian Championships.
It was sweet revenge for the Air Pistol team as it had lost the Asian Games gold to China in Guangzhou by just a point.
Annu Raj, who had won a quota place for India in the event, scored 383/400 in qualification, and so did Shweta. Heena Sidhu, after a series of 95, 96 and 98, shot a disastrous 92 with an 8 on the last shot.
Her qualification score of 389 put her in a four-way tie-shoot for a place in the final. She had 20 minutes to compose herself after that last shot and came back strongly with a score of 51.4 after five shots to reach the final.
Thailand's Tanyaporn Prucksakorn also reached the final after a score of 49.8 in the tie shoot.
Korea's Jang Mi Kim entered the final in first place with a score of 385 along with Ying Chen of China, who also shot 385. Three shooters had already won quota places leaving the rest to compete for two available qualifying spots.
Shweta took advantage of a nervous start by her rivals to move into contention for a podium finish. A 10.1 on her sixth shot had even taken her into the lead for the first time but her next shot was a low 7.6 that dropped her straight to the last position and she eventually finished sixth with 479.5.
Heena started below par with four straight 9s. She pulled it back with a 10.7 on the fifth shot but slipped into the 9s with her 6th and 7th shot.
A 10.7 and 10.5 put her in contention for a quota place but it went horribly wrong for Heena when she shot 9.0 while her nearest competitor Chinese Taipei's Yu Ai Wen fired a strong 10.8 on the last shot.
Despite leading Wen by 0.9 points and needing just a 10.1 to clinch the quota, Heena finished with an aggregate of 480.2 compared to the Taipei girl's 481.1.
"99.2 according to me is a bad final as I shoot much higher than that. I'm used to shooting above 100 in the final and after starting with a series of 9s, I was trying harder and harder to shoot 10s. The last shot was unfortunate in both the match and the final. Maybe we were not well prepared this time," said a disappointed Sidhu.
Korea's Jang Mi Kim recovered from a disastrous start to win the Gold with a score of 482.3 and also bagged the Olympic quota place. China's Ying Chen won the silver medal with an aggregate of 481.6.
Annu Raj shot a 10.7 on her last shot to clinch the bronze medal with a score of 481.2, just 0.1 ahead of Yu. Since Chen and Annu Raj already had bagged a quota place the second quota went to Taipei's Yu who finished fourth.
"The circumstances at the range were not according to my plan and I was working with my plan B," said Annu Raj.
"I'm happy that I gave an average score despite not being happy with my training sequence. Now I know what to do if the circumstances change suddenly and I have to adjust," said the shooter from Aligarh, who will be India's only representative in the event at the Olympics.
National coach Sunny Thomas was contended with the shooters but blamed luck for missing out of an Olympic quota.
"I'm happy with the score of all three shooters as they all shot above 380. But the bad luck continues. In the qualification all the three girls dropped points in the last two shots. Shweta and Annu Raj shot 9s, while Heena shot and 9 and a 8. That pulled everything down," said Thomas.
"Heena could have ended with 383 but she lost the quota by 0.9 points. She put up a very brave fight. We thought she would get the quota but then the last shot changed it. It is unfortunate or bad luck that we have to swallow," he added.
Raj Kumari, who had previously won a World Championship bronze in 2002, shot a 594/600 to bag the second gold but as Women's prone is not an Olympic event there was no quota for India.
Reigning World champion Tejaswini Sawant finished a lowly 18th with a score of 582. Lajja Gauswami shot 579 to finish 26th.
"I am happy that I shot so well in these windy conditions. I was shooting very fast and settled into a good rhythm. While practising yesterday I noticed how the wind changes and shot accordingly."
The Indian team could only manage a bronze with a score of 1755/1800. Korea won the gold with 1760 and China came second with 1756.
Raj Kumari's score, in fact, was the best by any Indian shooter on the day. Sushil Ghalay was the best among the men with 589 to finish 12th. Sanjeev Rajput came 21st with 587 while Gagan Narang was 26th with 586.
India's skeet shooters have a huge mountain to climb on the second day of competition after struggling in windy conditions.
PS Guron and Mairaj Ahmed Khan are 13th and 14th after shooting identical scores of 71/75. Asian Shotgun Champion Man Singh is lying 32nd after shooting a 65 after three rounds.