In a historic achievement, Indian shooters Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Khan won gold and silver respectively at the 2019 Asian Shooting Champioship at Doha. This is the first time India has achieved a 1-2 finish at this event in the men's skeet category. The two marksmen were initially tied for the first spot at the score of 56.
The ensuing shootout saw Bajwa emerge victorious 6-5 to walk away with the gold while his teammate took silver. However, the value of their achievements wasn't restricted to winning medals alone. These two men have also qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
This has taken the number of Indian shooters that have booked a spot for the 2020 games to 15 – the highest ever. In the last Olympic Games, the Indian shooting contingent consisted of 12 individuals.
The achievement of Bajwa and Khan received acknowledgement from high places. Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted about the triumph of the Indian duo and expressed his joy at their success.
"Congratulations to Angad Bajwa and Mairaj Khan for adding to India's Olympic quota places! This is first time in Indian Shooting history, Indian Skeet Shooters winning Gold & Silver in a Asian Shooting Championships," the Minister wrote on his timeline.
There was also applause from Raninder Singh, president of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). He said on Twitter: "15 quotas and a very special 1st & 2nd in Skeet. Angad and Mairaj - Bravo boys super proud of you two. Way to go team India you exceeded my estimate by an additional quota!"
While Bajwa and Mairaj made history, it is important to not forget that other Indian shooters have also accomplished a lot in the ongoing championship. In the 10m air pistol mixed team event, Indian duo of Manu Bhaker and Abhishek Verma secured another gold for India.
More good news came from men's rifle-3 position where Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar secured a bronze which earned a spot for him in the Olympics.
Shooting has been a rich source of medals for India at Commonwealth and Asian Games. India's only medal in 2004 was won by Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore in double-trap category. In 2008, Abhinav Bindra clinched India's first-ever individual gold in Olympics at Beijing. Four years later, it was the turn of Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang to win a silver and bronze respectively in the London Games.
However, the Rio Games were a setback as the Indian shooters returned empty-handed. In his final Olympic appearance, Bindra came close to winning a medal but finished fourth. Let's see how many of these 15 men and women win a medal next year.