Saurabh Chaudhary, who participated in his first senior event, showed amazing calm after his age to win the 10 m men's air gun event with a new score for the music record in Palembang and to become the youngest Indian to pack an Asiad gold. This was only the fifth gold for India in the history of the games.
Another Indian, 29-year-old Abhishek Verma, also a first-timer at a major event, finished third and claimed bronze. Chaudhary aggregated 240.7 while Verma had a total of 219.3 in the final.
There was more good news in store for the Indian shooting team, struck by accusations of tantrums, bickering between coaching staff and temperament problems among young shooters. Sanjeev Rajput, a veteran of many battles at 37, won silver in 50m rifle three positions.
It was a remarkable achievement for Chaudhary. The Junior World Cup Champion was picked in Palembang for the established Jitu Rai. His performance proved that the 16-year-old earned the trust of the selectors.
In Chaudhary's village, Kalina in the Meerut district, there were celebrations with family members who exchanged sweets, attended visitors and danced to the rhythm of dhols throughout the day. Saurabh is a class X student and the youngest of three brothers and sisters. His father Jagmohan Singh is a sugar cane farmer and mother Brijesh Devi, a housewife.
"We are all very happy for him, because he has made the whole country proud, his father was always worried about the fact that he was pursuing a career in shooting, but he has now proven himself to the world", mother Brijesh Devi told TOI.
"It all started with plastic guns that we bought as a child, and soon developed a penchant for bursting balloons by using air guns at local fairs, but none of us had ever thought he would ever keep winning gold for the country, said Nitin Chaudhary, the older brother of Saurabh.
From plastic rifles to air rifles to Asiad champ
Chaudhary's gold came after an exciting match with a former world champion – Japan's Tomoyuki Matsuda – who dominated the finale and led all the way to the penultimate shot. After an average start in the final, in which he came with three consecutive sub-10 shots, the Indian 10-plus scores consistently shot to bridge the gap between him and the leader.
Chaudhary, who started the last 1.9 points behind the Japanese, reduced the gap to only 0.4 for the last two shots.
An 8.9 at a crucial moment by the Japanese led the Indian who closed the game with shots of 10.2 and 10.4. Matsuda's 10.3 in the final shot did not affect the outcome when the Japanese ended one point behind to catch silver. London Olympic gold medalist Jin Jongoh of South Korea finished fifth.
"It was a difficult field, but I did not think much about it, I just concentrated on my game and won," said the gentle Saurabh.
In rifle 3 positions, Rajput was in charge of the start of the last five shots, but his 8.4 brought him to third position. Four consecutive 10-plus shots brought him back to the gold medal, but in the end he just finished behind China's Zicheng Hui. Takayuki Matsumoto claimed the bronze.
After the silver, his first individual medal on the Asiad, Rajput said he hoped to get a job soon. He was dismissed last year as assistant coach of the Sports Authority of India.
"I do not have a job, I still go on because of my love for the game," he said. Talking about his event, he said that the competition on rifle 3 positions in Jakarta was as heavy as the Olympics.