Granada: Jitu Rai put on a stunning show at the 51st ISSF World Championships here Tuesday winning a historic silver medal in the men's 50m pistol event and also becoming the first Indian shooter to book a berth for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Young rifle shooter Ayonika Paul topped the qualification round in the women's 10m air rifle event but missed out on an Olympic berth after she finished eighth in the final round. A top-six finish would have ensured her a ticket to the Rio Games.
Jitu, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, shot a total of 191.1 to fetch the silver while the gold went to South Korean Jin Jongh (192.3). Chinese shooter Pang Wei (172.6) settled for the bronze. Jitu's silver was India's maiden from the pistol event.
Jitu had finished third in the qualifying round with a score of 565, that included 15x, while Jin topped the round with a world record score of 583.
The 27-year-old Jitu was in great form in the final round and had only four poor shots. He was right on top after the first three shots and what followed next was a neck-and-neck battle with Jin for the gold medal, that finally went to the Korean.
Jitu, currently ranked fifth in world rankings, is having a dream year after having won the Commonwealth Games gold medal at Glasgow in July-August earlier this year. This is his fifth consecutive international medal in 2014.
"It is an extremely proud moment for us to see Jitu Rai become the first Indian athlete in all Olympic events to qualify for the Rio Olympics. We were all very confident about the way Jitu has been shooting and he has repaid our faith in an emphatic manner. We hope that this is the beginning of many more such successes in the coming days," said Raninder Singh, president of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), in a statement.
The other Indians in the fray in the 50m pistol event, Gurpal Singh and Om Prakash, failed to qualify for the final round after a poor show in the qualifying. Gurpal finished 33rd while Om Prakash was 38th.
There were also high hopes from 22-year-old Ayonika, who topped the qualifying round in the women's 10m air rifle event with 420.8 points, but she faltered in the final round to finish eighth with a score of 80.9. Her compatriots Kiranjit Kaur and Raj Chaudhary finished a disappointing 44th and 67th respectively.
The gold went to Italian Petra Zublasing with a score of 207.1 while Chinese Yi Siling got the silver with a total of 206.8. The bronze went to Germany's Sonja Pfeilschifter with a score of 185.9.
India are also expecting a medal from former world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, who shot a perfect 100 in the men's trap in the qualifying round and was joint first with Englishman Ling Edward. Sandhu's compatriot and former junior world champion Kynan Chenai, however, failed to qualify for the final round as he finished 72nd with a score of 94 while Prithviraj Tondaiman was 78th with a similar score.
Earlier, Indian shooters put up a disappointing show with Olympic gold champion Abhinav Bindra failing to qualify for the finals of the men’s 10m air rifle event. The 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallist missed the cut as he finished 10th in qualification relay 1. Besides Bindra, Sanjeev Rajput finished 13th while Ravi Kumar was a disappointing 31st.
A total of 64 quota places for the 2016 Olympic Games are up grabs from the World Championships, in which 2,000 athletes from around 100 countries are participating in more than 50 events.