London: Army sharp shooter Vijay Kumar today 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.
Kumar beat back the challenge of world champion Alexei Klimov of Russia, Chinese duo of Ding Feng and Zhang Jian and German Christian Reitz in the 40-shot final to finish runner-up in a thrilling finale behind Cuba’s Leuris Pupo who shot his way to the gold with a world record equalling score of 34.
The 26-year-old army subedar from Himachal Pradesh found the target 30 times out of 40 attempts in the series comprising eight rounds of five shots each.
This is India’s second medal in the ongoing quadrennial extravaganza after fellow marksman Gagan Narang’s bronze in the 10m Air Rifle event on July 30. This was also the country’s fourth medal in shooting in Olympic history.
The other medal winners are Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (silver in 2004 Athens) , Abhinav Bindra (gold in 2008 Beijing) besides Narang.
Kumar started with a bang, hitting the target all five times and kept himself in the hunt for a medal by consistently finding the target.
After a perfect five out of five at the start, Kumar, a double gold medallist in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, found the target four times in the second and third series, but missed it twice in the fourth.
He came back strongly by finding the target four times in the next three rounds and assured himself of a silver. In the last round after Pupo shot four to clinch the gold, Kumar seemed to relax a bit and missed three targets.
The bronze medal was won by Feng with a tally of 27. M
In the final, Kumar was assured of a medal after the the elimination of the trio of Klimov (23), Jian (17) and Christian (13) leaving himself, Pupo and Feng in the fray.
The silver was in his bag when Feng missed twice in the seventh round and Kumar replied with four.
Kumar had earlier lifted the Indian shooting team’s spirit after the flop show by Narang, who failed to qualify for the final of the 50m Rifle Prone, by entering the finals of his event through the preliminaries.
En route to his total score of 585, Kumar became the second shooter to break the previous Olympic record of 583 to give a hint of his potential during the second stage of qualification.
Placed fourth in the list, Kumar, who had scored 293 in stage 1 of the qualification yesterday, shot a series of 98 97 97 in the second stage to take his total score to 585.
He shot a sequence of 99 96 98 at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
The Army man then successfully competed with five shooters for a medal.
Pre-Games medal favourite Ronjan Sodhi had yesterday failed to qualify for the double trap event.
Klimov had created a new world record by shooting 592 but he could not replicate that in the final.
He scored a total of 592 after Stage 2, breaking the existing world record of 591 and Olympic record of 583, with 294 points in Stage 1 and a staggering 298 out of 300 in Stage 2.