India’s Jitu Rai claims gold in shooting as South Korea misses out

Unheralded Zhang Mengyuan also wins as China grabs three of the four shooting golds.

India's Jitu Rai poses with his gold medal after winning the men's 50m pistol individual final of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. Manan Vatsyayana / AFP
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INCHEON // Unheralded Zhang Mengyuan stung hosts South Korea on Saturday as China grabbed three of the four shooting golds and India’s Jitu Rai won the other on Day 1 of the Asian Games.

Zhang, who finished 20th in the women’s 10m air pistol at this month’s world championships in Spain, beat Korean favourite Jung Jee-Hae into second spot in the individual event after helping China win team gold.

The Chinese also won the team title in the men’s 50m pistol, before Rai gave India its first gold medal of the Games by snatching the individual gold medal in a dramatic finish.

The non-commissioned officer, in the Indian army, 24, trailed Vietnam’s Nguyen Hoang by 0.2 points with just one shot remaining to decide the winner.

Nguyen managed a score of 5.8 before Rai kept his cool to seal the title with a shot of 8.4 amid loud claps from the stands.

Rai finished with 186.2 points and Nguyen 183.4. Wang Zhiwei of China claimed the bronze with 165.6 points.

Olympic gold medallist Jin Jong-Oh completed a miserable day for the hosts, finishing seventh after being crowned world champion in Spain.

“Winning an Asiad gold had always been on my mind, so obviously this is just great,” said Rai, whose last six world-level finals this year have either produced a gold or a silver.

Rai will next compete in Sunday’s 10m event. “One can’t predict what will happen, all I know is that we will all start on zero.”

China claimed the first ever gold medal of the Incheon Games when the women’s 10m pistol shooters combined to snatch the team gold ahead of defending champions South Korea who wound up fourth.

Taiwan were second and Mongolia third. Medal winners are decided by combining the qualification scores of each team member, a rule that ruined the host nation’s chances.

Kim Jang-Mi and Jung Jee-Hae took the first two positions in the qualifying round, but team-mate Oh Mink-Yung came in 28th.

China’s legendary coach Wang Yifu said the pressure of performing at home may have got to the Koreans.

“We could not take victory for granted because Korea is very strong in this event,” Wang told Chinese reporters. “But I am happy our girls did well.

“The Koreans were let down by one shooter. That happens in this sport. That is why we have to make sure we perform consistently.”

Jung, who won the event at the worlds, said she felt a “little shameful” after losing the gold to Zhang.

“I am very excited at getting a medal, but also a little shameful for not winning gold,” she said. “But I will do my best next time.

“Actually all the attention after winning the world championships made me a bit uncomfortable. I just wanted to enjoy the Asian Games. This experience will do me a lot of good.”

Shweta Chaudhry of India picked up a creditable bronze ahead of China’s Zhou Qingyuan and Olympic champion Guo Wenjun.

Chaudhry, a silver medallist in the team event at the 2006 Doha Asiad, bounced back after a tough year to overshadow her more favoured compatriots, Heena Sidhu and the Malaika Goel, 16.

“I had my worst performance ever at the world championships, so it means a lot to me to come back strongly at the Asian Games,” said Chaudhry, who finished 68th in Spain.

“Spain left me a bit shattered but I knew I had it in me to do better and I showed that today. A bronze in such a tough competition is very satisfying.”

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