Saurabh Chaudhary, all of 16, on Tuesday became only the fifth Indian shooter to claim a gold in the Asian Games history, beating a field of multiple world and Olympic champions in the 10m air pistol finals. Chaudhary, competing in his first senior event, showed maturity and calmness well beyond his age to snatch the lead from 2010 World Champion Tomoyuki Matsuda on the penultimate shot in the 24-shot final.
Another Indian making his international debut, 29-year-old Abhishek Verma, shot 219.3 to secure bronze. Chaudhary, son of a farmer based in Kalina Village in Meerut, aggregated 240.7. The 42-year-old Matsuda from Japan misfired on the 23rd shot, an 8.9, to settle for silver. He scored 239.7.
Chaudhary also set a Games record with his sensational effort. His last two shots were a 10.2 and 10.4, giving him the decisive lead. The Japanese’s last two shots were an 8.9 and 10.3. Expectations were high from Chaudhary as he had broken the world record on his way to winning a gold in the Junior World Cup in Germany a couple of months ago.
Chaudhary, a student of class XI, will be off to the World Championships after the Games. He learnt the tricks of the trade at Amit Sheoran’s academy at Benoli near Baghpat, 53 kilometers from Meerut. Whenever he is home, he helps his father in the farming business. Like Chaudhary, Rohtak-based Verma also picked up the sport three years ago.
The 29-year-old lawyer-cum-shooter did begin well but saved his best for the last to win bronze. In the fifth series, he shot a couple of 10.7s to get himself into medal contention. He consolidated from there, producing a solid finish. He and another teen sensation Manu Bhaker had disappointed in the mixed team event, failing to qualify for the final.