New Delhi: On and off, here and there, Indian shooters called the shots in 2014, but it was ‘Pistol King’ Jitu Rai who truly lived up to the sobriquet with a stunning display, leaving the other big guns gazing at the dizzy heights he touched in his annus mirabilis.
As a whole, India did not set the stage ablaze with their guns at the Glasgow Commonwealth and Incheon Asian Games or the various World Cups and World Championships, but they did just enough to maintain the consistent run that had begun at the turn of the century.
Rai was the standout performer by some distance though well-established names such as Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Manavjit Singh Sandhu, among others, too excelled on and off. And so was the younger lot like Ayonika Paul, Apurvi Chandela and Mohammad Asab to name a few.
Army marksman Rai though deserved to be at the top given the red-hot form he displayed through the year. If 2013 was about near misses, Rai won nearly everything in 2014, and he won them in style too, rewriting records on a few occasions.
What makes it even more special is that Rai achieved all these in his maiden year in competitive international shooting.
A historic gold at the World Cup, a record triumph at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, a silver medal at the World Championships that got him a quota place for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and then another gold at the Incheon Asian Games, Rai was on the centre of podium in some of the world’s toughest international tournaments.
And he won them all in a span of few months. That he has just won the gold medal in the 58th National Shooting Championships is a fair indicator that the purple patch continues unabated.