Rahi Sarnobat scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to win a shooting gold at the Asian Games after winning the 25m pistol event in Palembang on Wednesday. Sarnobat shot a score of 34 in the final to tie with Thailand's Naphaswan Yangpaiboon who won silver after a shoot-off while South Korea's Kim Minjung won bronze with a score of 29.
Sarnobat was in sublime form as she led from start till the end of 40 shots in the final. This is easily the biggest medal of her career. The final had a dramatic ending as Sarnobat and Yangpaiboon managed to score four in the first series of the shoot-off which necessitated a second series of five shots. Sarnobat hit the the target on three of those five shots whereas Yangpaiboon only managed to hit two as Sarnobat won the shoot-off by one point with a score of 3-2. Both Sarnobat and Yangpaiboon set a new Asian Games record in the final.
Vijay Kumar, who won a silver medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol at the London Olympics, said, "Just before we headed for training (in New Delhi) today, we checked the scores online and saw Manu's record scores. We were quite certain that she would win a medal. I missed the entire final but I'm happy to know that India won a gold.
"Rahi is an experienced shooter, we were together at the 2012 Games and she's the kind of shooter who's capable of a good performance in the finals, much like what happened today. I'm not surprised that she hung on and won through two shoot-offs. That's the kind of gritty shooter she is.
"If you look back at her career she's had some big wins. Injury ruined her Rio Olympics chance but I think she's now coming back strongly. Of course this must have been disappointing for Manu, but she should know that she's on the path to more special performances ahead. She's just exceptional. Today was just not her day perhaps. The talent pool in the country has grown so much now, there's a lot of depth, so it's not a surprise that we have medalists every day at the Games."
Title-favourite Manu Bhaker finished sixth after scoring 16 in the final. With this win, Sarnobat also became the first Indian woman to medal in the 25m pistol event at the Asian Games. This is India's second shooting gold medal at these Asian Games after Sachin Chaudhary won gold in the 10m air pistol event on Tuesday.
Sarnobat had first shot to prominence after winning a gold medal at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in the same event. She also won two gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, when she won the 25m pistol pairs event with Anisa Sayyed besides a silver in the individual event.
Sarnobat, who hails from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, calls former 50m rifle prone world champion Tejaswini Sawant her inspiration. She also holds the distinction of being the first Indian pistol shooter to win a World Cup gold. She had won the 25m pistol event at the ISSF World cup in Changwon, South Korea in 2013.
She had a lot of success in 2014 as she won gold in the women's 25-metre pistol event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games apart from winning a bronze medal in the 25-metre pistol team event at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, where she teamed up with Sayyed and Heena Sidhu.
Sarnobat was also the first Indian woman to compete in the 25m pistol event at the Olympics, when she finished 19th at the London Olympics in 2012.
Bhaker had qualified for the final after shooting an Asian Games record score of 593 in the qualification round. Interestingly. Bhaker's score would have been good enough to top the qualification round at any Olympics till date. Sarnobat finished seventh with a score of 580.
Bhaker will also be in action in the 10m air pistol event at these Games. She had failed to make the final of the 10m air pistol mixed team event with Abhishek Verma on Sunday.