Asian Games: Mesmerising Sift Kaur Samra wins first rifle gold for India with world record

She went to the subsequent National Shooting Championships aiming to take one last shot at the sport before concentrating on her studies. She set the national record in that event in Bhopal and decided to continue.

Hangzhou: Just a year or so back, Sift Kaur Samra was contemplating quitting shooting to concentrate on MBBS studies as she was finding it difficult to juggle studies with sports.

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She went to the subsequent National Shooting Championships aiming to take one last shot at the sport before concentrating on her studies. She set the national record in that event in Bhopal and decided to continue.

On Wednesday, Sift Kaur made history for India by becoming the first rifle shooter, male or female, to win an Asian Games gold medal, bagging the yellow metal in Women’s 50m Rifle 3-Postitions with a World Record to boot.

The 22-year-old shooter, who was asked to repeat First Year MBBS as she could not appear for the exams because of shooting, came up with a sensational, record-breaking performance in the Women’s 50m Rifle 3-positions Individual competition at the Fuyang Yinhu Sports Centre as she shot a score of 469.6, a new World Record. 

She also set a new Asian Games record and the Asian Record to finish on the top in one of the most difficult of the shooting competitions as it tests the shooter’s abilities in kneeling, prone and standing positions.

Sift broke the previous world record of 467.0 held by Seonaid McIntosh of Great Britain, who set the mark at the ISSF World Cup in Baku in May this year, as she finished ahead of Qiongyue Zhang of China (462.3) and compatriot Ashi Choksey (451.9). It could easily have been a one-two result for India but for a poor score by Ashi Chouksey on her final attempt as she lost out to her Chinese opponent.

This was also the first gold medal by an Indian rifle marksman, male or female, in the Asian Games since the sport made its debut in 1962. Of the previous nine gold medals that India have won in the Asian Games, eight have come in pistol events while one was in shotgun (trap). She is only the second Indian woman shooter after 

India’s Ashi Chouksey (451.9) claimed the bronze medal in this category finishing behind China’s Qiongyue Zhang (462.3).

“It feels very good. It’s a very limited and precious opportunity, and I feel blessed to be part of it,” Sift Kaur said on becoming an Asian Games champion.

Earlier, Sift and Ashi along with teammate Mannini Koushik had won the silver medal in the Women’s 50m Rifle 3-positions Team event.

“Shooting is very unpredictable, maybe one day you are at the top and the other day you don’t perform well,” Sift Kaur said about finishing second in the Team event.

Sift Kaur had finished second in the qualifying round as she helped India bag a silver medal in the Team competition along with Ashi Chouksey and Manini Kaushik.

“The only thing we can do is focus on ourselves, our technique and process, and not compare ourselves with the other teams. (It’s about) just focusing on ourselves and competing with ourselves,” she added.

But the young shooter, who has won her first senior medal — a bronze in the ISSF World Cup 2023 held in Bhopal, was in her own zone in the final as she shot superbly to set a new world record.

In the final in the kneeling position, she shot 154.6, the best among all finalists, and in prone, the Indian had a total of 158 for a total of 312.6, establishing an early lead that she maintained till the end.

Her compatriot Ashi Chouksey had moved into the second position before the final shot but a poor score of 8.9 meant she lost the chance to overtake the Chinese and could only get a bronze.

“The last shot was heartbreaking for me – I just missed the timing. At first, when I took the rifle I didn’t get the target, so I just took a break and that’s where my timing got missed. The next time I took it, there was less time left. It was difficult to shoot on the time, that time, so I missed the shot,” said Ashi after the final.

“It usually happens on the first and last shots, when your heart is beating fast. It’s just a part and parcel of life and I’ll learn from this for my next match,” she added.

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