NEW DELHI: Like Christian Bale delivering an intense masterclass in The Dark Knight, Jitu Rai always seemed to be buried in thoughts, albeit with plenty of success.
But this time, contrary to his nature, he seemed to be at ease. Relaxed, not afraid to speak his mind, and with a pleasant smile on his face, his body language reflected a person who’s discovered a new side of himself.
One could spot him strolling nonchalantly here at the Karni Singh Shooting Range, exchanging talks with everyone who bumped into him. In any sport, pressure can get the better of anyone. Despite possessing extreme talent, the tendency to overthink blurs out the main goal. Jitu knows it.
Having missed out in the last two competitions at home, the 29-year-old’s eye-catching win in the ISSF World Cup’s 50m pistol event was a welcome one. It was not an easy win, though. After 14 shots in the finals, he was staring at an exit (last spot) following a string of poor scores. As per the need of the hour, he hit a near-perfect score to recover and march all the way.
Perhaps, a win at the mixed gender event helped him ease into the competition. “Maza aya, maza aya (it was fun),” was Jitu’s first reaction after the victory on Wednesday. “I wanted to win gold as a combined World Cup was being held for the first time in India. I wanted to start the season on a winning note and see the Tricolour fly the highest in front of home fans,” he added.
This was Jitu’s third consecutive medal in the event, after a mixed-gender gold and a bronze effort on Tuesday. “I didn’t have a perfect start, but I guess that’s the fun of the sport. I like it that way. Uncertainty is part of the game, otherwise there is no excitement. It was a nice outing,” the Khel Ratna awardee said.
India pistol coach R Pandiyan, who has known Jitu since the latter’s early days in the army, was thrilled.
“He had told that he will go for gold, and he fulfilled the same. “He has been the most-consistent shooter for the last few years. He is diligent. This is no surprise and he deserves it.”
Another Indian, Amanpreet Singh, showed class of his own, finishing behind Jitu to settle for silver. Iran’s Golkhandan Vahid won the bronze medal.
Before the commencement of the tournament, Jitu was already a popular figure. With this blockbuster hit, he has sealed his name as one of India’s main protagonist in the sporting arena.
Results: Men’s 50m pistol: 1. Jitu Rai, 2. Amanpreet Singh, 3. Golkhandan Vahid. Women’s skeet: 1. Kimberly Rhode, 2. Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit, 3. Chloe Tipple.