Bindra to face stiff competition from Zhu, Narang in 10m air rifle event; Saina makes a strong start

Defending champion Abhinav Bindra is expected to face a stiff challenge from Beijing Games silver medallist Qinan Zhu and compatriot and former world record-holder Gagan Narang, as India await her moment of Olympics glory in the men's 10m air rifle event, in London on Monday, says a report in The Times Of India, adding that Bindra may not be tipped as the favourite, but that could be a blessing in disguise for it takes off the pressure a bit.

Even in Beijing it was Narang who went in as the favourite, following his world record scores, but in the end Bindra showed nerves of steel to clinch the moment.  Experts are predicting an open contest, pointing to China's Zhu and Italy's Nicco Campriani as the shooters to beat. After losing to Bindra, Zhu has participated in 15 ISSF events and won six of them. He has also made it to the podium 10 times while missing the finals just once.

Meanwhile a DNA report says that expectations are surging once again as India's golden boy Abhinav Bindra, along with compatriot Gagan Narang, will take the range at the Royal Artillery Barracks Monday to defend the men's 10metre air rifle gold he won four years ago in Beijing.

“As per the current form of the world's best shooters, a qualification score of 598 should easily get Abhinav and Gagan into the finals, meaning they have the liberty to shoot two shots each on the ninth ring out of the 60 shots. In shooting, the difference in qualification points of the ultimate gold-medal winner and the 10th place finisher is not be more than two or three points,” says the report, adding that an additional nine would make things tough for them but they could even qualify with a 597 in the bottom four out of the eight finalists.

A point lesser than that, 596, will certainly not be a clear qualification and shooters would need to go through a shoot-off to win the bottom slots in the finals.

Meanwhile Saina Nehwal outplayed Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland 21-9, 21-4 for a bright start for the league competition in her group in women’s badminton at the Wembley Arena on Sunday, says a report in The Hindu.

“In a match that lasted just 24 minutes, Saina was fluent and stepped up her game to collect a clutch of points midway through both the games to outplay the Swiss. Sabrina, who had qualified for the Games by reaching the quarterfinals of the 2012 European Championship in Karlskrona, Sweden, could not provide any resistance to Saina. The 22-year-old Indian took 12 minutes to wrap up the first game, before sealing the issue in her favour by winning the second game in just 10 minutes,” says the report.