Jitu-Heena triumph in 10m mixed event at World Cup
Fireworks followed two days of lull with Ankur Mittal clinching the silver medal in a marathon double trap final after the duo of Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu claimed the top prize in 10m air pistol mixed event at the ISSF World Cup, in New Delhi, on Monday.
However, since the mixed event is being used on a trial basis in line with International Olympic Committee's aim to achieve gender equality in its 2020 Tokyo Olympics program, medals are not being awarded even
though the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) executive committee has ratified the recommendations.
The mixed event got its start with the 10m air rifle event at the World Cup on Saturday with China winning the gold medal over Japan.
In an event, where coordination plays a key role, Jitu teamed up with Heena to finish ahead of Japan's Yukari Konishi and Tomoyuki Matsuda 5-3. Slovenia's Naphaswan Yangpaiboon and Kevin Venta settled for third.
They were trailing in the semi-finals stage but staged a spirited fightback to enter the gold medal match and eventually won the 'golden badge'.
"It was good, very interesting, the opinions are still divided since it is early days. It will take time to settle down. But we will have to start preparing for this in earnest as this, we assume, is going to be part of the Olympics and World Championships," Heena, a former world number one, said after the event.
World Championship and Asian Games silver medallist Jitu said, "I am trying to figure out how it works. We are having a little difficulty right now as far as coordination is concerned but once the rules gets clear it will be better for us."
The recommendations to include mixed gender event was given by the Abhinav Bindra-led ISSF Athletes Committee and the world governing body soon approved the proposal.
Ankur Mittal bags silver
The 24-year-old Mittal finished second on the podium after he tallied 74, one behind gold medal winner James Willett of Australia. Great Britain's James Dedman was third on the standings with 56.
Fellow team-mate, Sangram Dahiya also featured in the top six but could manage only 24 points in the final. As per the new rules, the 50-shots double trap event has been stretched to a staggering 80 shots where elimination starts after the 30th shot in the six-man final.
The 15-year-old Shapath Bhardwaj, in his maiden International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup with the senior team, could not make the cut that was made at 137, but nevertheless finished a creditable 10th with a score of 132 in the qualification stage.
While shotgun coach Marcelo Dradi called Bhardwaj's performance the best of the day, he rated Mittal as one of the world's best in this event alongside Willett.
Asian champion Mittal was in running for a gold medal but three consecutive misses in the final stages ensured a second-place finish, leaving the Australia, who missed one bird after the Indian's hat-trick of misses, to run away with the top prize.
"This was the first final under this rule, had no idea. Performance was good, my first medal here. It feels bad that the double trap event could be scrapped but at least it will be there till the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year, so I am focusing on it. The mixed trap event introduced doesn't seem to be working out that well. Let's see what they decide," Mittal said.
"Last round the target was to hit 30 to enter final, so the motivation was there. Missed the last three shots because there was pressure. I felt very happy with way I performed, especially after the 24 I hit in the first round, that was bad," he said.