CHENNAI: Ankur Mittal was in a two-way battle with current world-record holder James Willett to win double trap gold at the ISSF World Cup in Acapulco on Wednesday.
The same pair had been re-acquainted after going shell for shell at the New Delhi World Cup less than a month ago. It was neck and neck for the majority of the final but Mittal’s nerves — he missed three targets in quick succession — meant Willett took first place with a new world record.
So, halfway into the Acapulco final it was understandable why Willett was considered the favourite even though it couldn’t be any closer. Both were on 37 points. Even otherwise, Willett is a household name among the shooting fraternity. He may be only 21, but he is already the No 1 in this category. Mittal? He wasn’t even in the top 20 (he is No 9 now) until a month ago.
But the Sonepat shooter has already learnt his lessons. The finger on the trigger was calmer this time as he exacted revenge over Willett to win 75-73 (out of 80 targets). And in a poetic way, the 26-year-old equalled the Australian’s world record while winning his first-ever gold at this level. “Dream come true,” was Ankur’s reaction. “It was great to win my first ever World Cup gold. The conditions weren’t all that great but I somehow managed and I am delighted to get over the line.”
Ronjan Sodhi, a former No 1, knows a thing or two about getting over the line in double trap.
“Winning in a sport like shooting, given you can lose it because of decimal points, requires immense control of your emotions and you need to be very composed as well.
“Luckily, for Ankur, he is both. In the events that I have shot with him, one thing has always stood out for me. How he is very calm. He is smiling when he loses or when he wins. That’s an invaluable trait in a shooter.”
However, Mittal will have to wean himself of double trap after competing at the Asian and Commonwealth Games next year.
“Given it will no longer be an Olympic sport, Mittal will have to start concentrating on trap from 2018,” Ronjan said.
“It’s all about medals at the Olympics but I have full confidence in his abilities. He started out as a trap shooter and it won’t take very long for him to get going in the format he started out,” the 37-year-old added.