It is an event where India has an Olympic medal but has hardly won anything on the international stage. In fact, the Olympic medal and the two previous world cup stage medals were all won by one man, Vijay Kumar. Anish Bhanwala broke that jinx after 12 years, when he won bronze in the men's 25m rapid-fire pistol on the final competition day of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol in Cairo, Egypt.
It was his first senior individual World Cup stage medal as well and he earned it the hard way, coming through three shoot-offs enroute to what will be a landmark day in the 20-year-old's career.
Italian Massimo Spinella won gold with 32 hits in the medal match, over World Championship silver medallist Clement Bessaguet of France who fell short by two hits after 40 shots.
Anish had bowed out in bronze position after 30 shots with 21 hits. He however ensured Rio Olympic Champion Christian Reitz of Germany was denied a medal as the German got knocked out after 20 shots with 13 hits to his name.
Anish's effort meant that India finished the Cairo World Cup with seven medals, including four gold, to top the standings.
Dedicating the medal to his personal coach Harpreet Singh who according to Anish, "also reached many finals for India but could not win a medal," the youngster admitted that it was a "dream come true". He said after the medal match, "I had come fifth in two finals before and was determined today to win my first world cup medal."
Giving an insight into his state of mind during the shoot-offs Anish said, "I was focussing on keeping myself calm and it paid off. In the national camp, we have been training on how to self-regulate during pressure situations and it helped today. The tougher one was the fourth series in the medal match, where I had to beat the former Olympic Champion. I told myself this is the series which will make my dream come true, visualised it and executed perfectly. That made me happy."
On how his teammate's performance over the past few days affected him, Anish said, "It is actually a positive thing. I saw two finals yesterday. When you see Aishwary and others do well you tell yourself, I can also do this."
Anish qualified for the ranking round in sixth place with a score of 581. He was in second place overnight and shot 287 in the rapid-fire round to make the cut. He found himself alongside Frenchman Yan Chesnel, the Czech Republic's Matej Rampula and Massimo, in the second of the two ranking matches. While Christian and Clement went through to the medal match from the first ranking round, Massimo and Anish came through from the second. But not before, going through three shoot-offs against Yan. They tied the first two with three and four hits each. In the third, Yan finally wilted with two hits and Anish shot four to go through.
The youngest in the medal match, Anish began with a bang, getting five hits out of five in the first rapid-fire series of shots while all others opened with three hits each. He had a tough second series though but came back with a strong four-hits in the third to jointly lead the match with 11 hits along with the Frenchman Bessaguet. In the fourth, all three save Bessaguet got five hits and Anish was back in the lead and assured of a medal. Christian Reitz was knocked out at this stage with 13 hits.
Anish then had two average series of two and three hits respectively and bowed out in third, as Massimo went on to win.
In the final event of the World Cup, the women's 50m rifle 3 positions, India finished outside the medals. Sift Kaur Samra shot 585 in qualification to finish in 16 th spot while the two other contenders, Manini Kaushik (584) and Anjum Moudgil (593) finished 22nd and 27th respectively. Ashi Chouksey and Shriyanka Sadangi, playing for ranking points only, shot scores of 579 each respectively.
The ISSF World Cup Rifle/Pistol bandwagon now moves to Bhopal, India, where the year's third world cup stage is scheduled from March 20-27, 2023.