Focussed on target, Gagan Narang shoots to glory, wins India’s first medal in London Games

Gagan Narang has been on a mission: he has single-mindedly prepared for the event, killing every distraction at the bud itself. During the last four years since Beijing Olympics, he was either at a camp or in a competition, keeping pressure at bay. He was careful to not raise any expectations either, allowing Deepika Kumari and even Bindra to steal the limelight, says a report in The Times Of India.

“He won gold at the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and even at a World Championship; but somehow he managed to stay in the background, focusing on his one goal: a medal. He was almost immaculate in the qualifying round, finishing 598 out of 600. The stage was set for the real challenge,” writes the paper, adding that by the first set of shots itself, however, it became clear that the gold and silver were beyond his grasp; worse, he was locked in a tight, nervy battle for the bronze with China's Wang and Holland's Hellenbrand.

“A 9.7 in the next set him back further; but the killer came in the seventh and eighth rounds: 9.9 and 9.5. But luckily, Wang too slipped badly. Narang regained his composure with a 10.3 and sealed the bronze with a stunning 10.7. Chubby and hardly an epitome of fitness, Narang didn't betray the emotional turmoil within: he gritted his teeth, clenched his fist and, only much later, raised the rifle over his head in triumph. Unlike Leander Paes, who wept without a care in the world as the Tri-colour was hoisted in the summer of 1996, in Atlanta, he didn't allow tears to overwhelm him. Mission accomplished, maybe in the privacy of his room, he will indulge them,” says the paper

Meanwhile a report in The Indian Express says that for close to four days, Stanislav Lapidus lay on a hospital bed, 40 km away from the Games Village, feverish and shivering with his blood tests proving inconclusive on the precise cause of his illness that had kept him away from his favourite shooting disciple, Gagan Narang but on Sunday night, he demanded that he be discharged and allowed to watch his ward in action. The coach’s golden tactical touch, however, brought a much needed bronze medal.
“It was tactically wrong when he shot those 9s. He should have rested before the 52nd, 53rd shot. He didn’t. But after that we steered him back on track,” said the Kazakh, who believes Gagan’s result washed over all the bitterness of the antibiotics he was subjected to. “His medal cured my sickness faster than the medicines,” he said, allowing his ward to speak to the media after months of cocooning him with a gag-order. “Today is okay, after tomorrow, not okay,” he boomed, having said earlier that he wasn’t content with just the bronze, even as Narang prepares for his other two events — 50m prone and 50m 3-positions.

Meanwhile a report in The Telegraph says that the “stone” was growing heavier by the minute. Gagan Narang was slipping, his chances hanging by a thread while China’s Tao Wang was suddenly shooting like a million dollars. “The large Indian crowd at the Royal Artillery Barracks, gathered to watch the 10m air rifle event that was one of the country’s best medal hopes, had already seen Beijing hero Abhinav Bindra crash out in the qualifiers. Now, in the final, Narang was under “pressure”. Ten-point-three, the Hyderabad boy shot. He was hanging on. Now the last shot. Ten-point-seven. The crowd had broken into bhangra. Narang had the bronze; India its first medal at the London Olympics. Sports minister Ajay Maken sported a wide grin. But India’s man of the moment just looked relieved,” says the report.