Indian shooters made a telling statement at the Asian Games, winning three medals, including a team gold, as the country's marksmen asserted their class by grabbing five podium finishes in just two days of competition in Hangzhou on Monday.
A confident Indian 10m air rifle team led by teenage world champion Rudrankksh Patil gave the country its first gold medal at the continental Games, securing the top place on the podium with a world record score.
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar then earned the country an individual bronze -- India's fourth in shooting so far -- in the event after a keen duel with compatriot Rudrankksh, who finished fourth.
The 25m rapid-fire team, comprising Adarsh Singh, Anish Bhanwala and Vijayveer Sidhu, took the third spot with an aggregate score of 1718 after a tie with Indonesia.
China took the gold with a score of 1765, while South Korea bagged silver, aggregating 1734.
The trio of Rudrankksh, Olympian Divyansh Singh Panwar and Aishwary aggregated 1893.7 in the qualification round to beat back the challenge of the shooting powerhouse China and South Korea on way to the team gold.
In one of the most dominating displays seen by Indian air rifle shooters in multi-discipline events, the 19-year-old Rudrankksh shot a superb 632.5, Tomar 631.6 and Panwar 629.6 to aggregate the world record score as South Korea was pushed to second spot (1890.1), while the Chinese team was a distant third with an aggregate score of 1888.2.
India would be slightly disappointed at missing a gold, or a sliver, in the individual category following the red-hot form shown by both Tomar and Rudrankksh in the qualification round.
However, both the Indians could not recreate the magic of the qualification round in the eight-shooter finals with Tomar, after a dogged battle with Rudrankksh, edging out the teenage shooter to win bronze in shoot-off for third place, scoring 228.8.
Tomar was in contention for silver with Park Hajun after that but a rank bad final shot of 9.8 eliminated him, even as the South Korean went on to take the second spot behind China's Sheng Lihao, who won gold with a world record score of 253.3.
Rudrankksh and Tomar had made it to the eight-shooter finals following their superb display in the qualification round, while Divyansh missed out thanks to an Asian Games rule that allows only two marksmen from a country to enter the finals.
Rudrankksh entered the finals placed third, while Aishwary was fifth after the qualification round. Divyansh was placed eighth and, had it been a World Cup or a World Championship, or any other continental shooting competition, all three Indians would have been in the eight-shooter final.
However, Divyansh had to make way for Kazakhsran's Islam Satpayev, who was placed ninth but still qualified for the finals because of the rule.
Sheng Lihao of China topped the qualification round with a score of 634.5, a qualification Asian Games record, while South Korea's Park Hajun was second at 632.8.
Rudrankksh, at 632.5 was third entering the finals, while Aishwary was fifth at 631.6 among the qualifiers.
The Indian trio was just unbeatable on way to team gold with Rudrankksh, true to his form, shooting superb series of 104.8, 106.1, 103.8, 105.5 106.7 and 105.6. Aishwary had a series of 104.1, 105.5, 105.3, 105.7, 105.7 and 105.3 in qualification.
Divyansh, who represented the country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, shot a series of 104.8, 104.3, 104.6, 104.7, 106.3 and 104.9.
With the kind of scores the Indians shot, it left other competitors just doing catch-up for the team gold.
Rudrankksh's father, Balasahab Patil, said: "My son was determined to give his best at the Games. He has great confidence in his abilities and before leaving for Hangzhou, Rudrankksh said he would aim to bring the first gold for the country.
"He had ironed out all the minor issues in his shooting before leaving for Hangzhou. He trained extremely hard in these last two months."
Rudrankksh was not included in the ISSF World Championship-bound squad to Baku by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) as the federation wanted to maximise the country's chances of bagging more Paris Olympic quota places for the country by sending other marksmen.
Rudrankksh has already clinched an Olympic quota place for the country by virtue of winning the World Championships gold in Cairo last year.
In fact, while the World Championships were on in Baku last month, he shot way better that the gold-medal winner in the Azerbaijan capital in simulated conditions created for him at the Karni Singh Ranges in Delhi.