In what was surely the biggest day in her international career, 23-year-old Rahi Sarnobat clinched India's first gold medal in the World Cup in Changwon in Korea on Friday morning. The Maharashtra girl upstaged Korean Kim Kyeongae 8-6 in the medal round of the 25m pistol event to strike gold. Rahi had won bronze in the same event in the Fort Benning, USA in May 2011. That medal had won her a ticket to the London Olympics last year.
A gold medalist in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Rahi is the first ever Indian pistol shooter to win an ISSF World Cup gold and joins the elite club of rifle shooters - Anjali Bhagwat, Gagan Narang, Sanjeev Rajput, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Ronjan Sodhi and Manavjit Singh Sandhu - who have won gold in the ISSF World Cups for India.
Rahi, who had qualified for the semifinal stage in fourth position with a total score of 585, had sealed her final berth as the second best semi-finalist with 15 points. Kim topped the standings with 16 after the five series.
According to the new competition rules, top eight players from the preliminaries qualify for the semifinals where points are given according to the number of inner tens scored by a shooter in each series of five shots. The top two shooters then qualify for the final, while the third and fourth placed shooters face each other in the bronze medal play-off.
In the race-to-seven points final, a player gets two points for winning the series, while a point each is given if both the shooters are tied. After two tied series, Rahi was first to get off the block in the third and opened up a two-point lead. But Kim hit back immediately winning the next two series take a 6-4 lead and push the Indian to the corner.
Facing a must-win situation, Rahi upped the ante while her opponent struggled to keep her composure and lost the sixth and seventh series 3-1 and 2-1, respectively, to hand the gold to the Indian.
"It is a dream come true for me. I had been working hard with coach Anatoli Puddubny for the last few months at the Gun for Glory Academy and I am thankful to Lakshya and Vascon for the support they are providing me in this respect," said Rahi.
It was, however, a disappointing end for the other Indian challenger. 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anisa Sayyed finished 21st with a score of 572, while national champion Sushma Singh managed a score of 570 to finish 26th.
In the 10m air rifle event, none of the three Indian contenders managed to reach the final with national champion Apurvi Chandela finishing 30th with a total score of 407.8. Pooja Ghatkar was India's best performer with a score of 410.3 while Elizabeth Susan Koshy managed to shoot a score of 409.4 to finish 25th.