London: Armyman Vijay Kumar turned out to be the unlikely hero as he lifted the sagging Indian spirits when he fought a nerve-wracking battle with five other top marksmen to clinch the silver medal in the men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event at the Olympic Games here today.
The 26-year-old army subedar, belonging to the 16th Dogra Regiment, displayed ice cool temperament to give the silver lining to India’s stuttering campaign in the 40-shot final to finish runner-up behind gold medal winner Leuris Pupo of Cuba.
The fact that Pupo needed to equal the world record score of 34 out of 40 to clinch the issue in his favour shows the intensity of the battle involving six top shooters that included world champion Alexei Klimov of Russia, who finished outside the medal bracket.
The others in the thrilling finale were the Chinese duo of Ding Feng, who ended up with the bronze behind Kumar who tallied 30, and Zhang Jian and German Christian Reitz.
Kumar, who became the second Indian medal winner at London Games after fellow marksman Gagan Narang, gave cheers to the Indian camp with his splendid performance after badminton hope Saina Nehwal tripped at the semifinals earlier in the day.
Narang, who won the 10m air rifle bronze to open India’s account here on July 30, could not even make the finals of the 50m rifle prone event today, an indication of how tough the competition is at this level.
Kumar started the final with a bang by finding the mark in the first of the eight rounds involving five shots each. He found the target 30 times out of 40 attempts in the series comprising eight rounds of five shots each.
He is the fourth Indian shooter to win a medal at the Olympics, following the footsteps of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (silver in 2004 Athens), Abhinav Bindra (gold in 2008 Beijing) and Narang.
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