As the season comes to an end for international shooters, Jitu Rai won the World Championship 2016 event, but that will not end the hurt of his Rio Olympics campaign. He was India's best shot to join Abhinav Bindra in the gold medal club, but his dream vanished when he was finished far from the top.
Jitu Rai was the first Indian to qualify for Rio Olympics and finished in podium twice in three world cups before Olympics. He was a sure shot for Medal in Rio but a bad outing ended with one final in 10m pistol and finished 12th in 50m pistol (didn’t qualify for finals). Rio 2016 Olympics was one to forget by Indians and the disappointment started from Jitu Rai’s elimination. Shooting became one of the hopeful events in Olympics for India when Abhinav won gold in 2008 and become first Indian to win an individual gold medal at games.
Though gold came at 2008, medal prospect in shooting started from 2004 when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won silver in the Double trap. The two other medalists in later Olympics (Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang) finished as a finalist in 2004 games. Later in 2008 India made history by winning gold and 2012 London Olympics was even fruitful with two medals (Silver and Bronze) in the shooting event. So the expectation was too high when India had the former medalist in starting list and rising superstar like Jitu Rai in Rio. Though India came close to bag few medals, it was a come and go scenario. Fourth place finish by Abhinav Bindra and Dipa Karmarkar, Quarterfinal loss by Badminton player Kidambi Srikanth and Archers, the disappointment list was never ending for India in Rio. But Finally India managed to show two medals in Rio 2016 (Both by women athletes and no gold).
Former Army man Jitu competed in last world cup of the season, this October in Italy and once again showed why the expectation bar is set so high for him and why his Olympic loss was a big shock. He was lined up for both the events (10m and 50m pistol). Though, the nation stopped worrying about non-cricket sports once Olympics ended athlete who missed their chances to become a hero in world’s big stage just can’t stop doing the things what they are best of. The event started with the 50m pistol for
He was known for his pressure handling mentality and once again he proved with his calm, collective character to go on win a medal and added a third one to his tally of his world cup medals in 2016. The score of 188.8, which turned out to be a current national record and also earned him the silver medal to finish behind China's Wei Pang (190.6). Italy's Giuseppe Giordano settled for the bronze medal with a score of 170.3 in the final. He had one more event in his sight 10m pistol, though he missed the medal in it still he put up a grand show to reach second finals in Italy.
But the success didn’t end there, as he had the opportunity to participate in champion’s trophy (a player with a single medal in any of four world cups allowed to participate) and the competition will take place at the end of the World Cup final. Sunday, October nine became the season closure with the championship event taking place both in rifle and pistol category. The Lucknow-based shooter played for pride, in search of a remedy for his Olympics loss and also for a title of “Champions of champion”. The event took place with an elimination format, where after the first four shots the athlete with the lowest score is first to be eliminated. One athlete is subsequently eliminated after each shot thereafter till the final two athletes remain.
Their scores are then set back to zero and three single shots then determine the winner. With a close score of 29.6 to 28.3, he topped Serbia’s Damir Mikec and became Champions of Champion in the final set. Jitu was also awarded a cash reward of $5,587 (5000 euros) along with the title. Thus, Jitu finishes the year with high note by becoming only Indian to secure a top-10 finish in this calendar year ending rankings by the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF). He finished sixth and seventh consecutively in 10m and 50m pistol rankings.
As per professional circuit, this is the biggest achievement but that doesn’t satisfy a country, which is in hunger of medal in Olympics. India’s performance in Rio was largely criticised for not converting the talents into medals and this is one of the examples. You may call it luck or pressure of big stage, but still, the fact speaks louder that Jitu Rai missed an opportunity to be nation’s hero. India’s only gold medalist Abhinav Bindra tweeted about Jitu Rai’s win that he should plan his next four-year cycle meticulously. 29-year-old Jitu Rai may have a shot for Tokyo 2020 games but hopes of a medal are far from thoughts.