Shahzar Rizvi wins 10m air pistol silver at World Cup

Photo courtesy: Shahzar Rizvi

India's Shahzar Rizvi won silver in the 10m air pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in Changwon, South Korea on Tuesday after a hard-fought final which saw him narrowly miss out on gold. This was only Rizvi's second appearance at the World Cup.

Rizvi had won gold in the same event in his maiden World Cup appearance in Guadalajara, Mexico, earlier this year, where he also set a new world record in the final.

Rizvi shot a score of 239.8 in the final, only 0.2 points short of Russia's Artem Chernousov, who won gold with a total of 240. Chernousov led for most of the final before Rizvi caught up with him in the last four shots. Bulgaria's Samuil Donkov rounded off the podium places with a score of 217.1 in the final.

Rizvi had missed out on a berth at the recent Commonwealth Games as Jitu Rai and Om Mitharval were selected ahead of him. Rai and Mitharval went on to win gold and bronze respectively in the same event in Gold Coast.

Rizvi had also won gold in the 10m air pistol event at the National Championships. Prior to that, he had won gold at the Commonwealth Shooting championships held at Brisbane's Belmont Shooting Complex -- the same venue where the Commonwealth Games were held.

"I couldn't understand why I was dropped. I thought I was shooting really well," Rizvi told ESPN earlier this year. The decision also took Rizvi's coach Ronak Pandit by surprise. "It was a jolt. Based on his recent results, I was sure he was going to be picked," said Pandit, who also wrote a letter to the federation asking them to reconsider their decision.

But there was no change to the Indian squad. "The Federation had their limitations. They have to send a reduced team size and the fact that both Jitu and Om Prakash participate in two events (10m pistol and 50m pistol) went in their favour," said Pandit.

Rizvi, who hails from a family of competitive shooters (cousins Riyayan and Shaul are both national level double trap shooters while his brother shot pistol at the national level) in Mawana, near Meerut, found success early in a career that began in 2012. He won a national gold in 2015 and another at the Asian Championship in 2016. But even though he was considered a talented prospect, he had begun to feel he was stagnating. And so in March last year, he began working with Pandit, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist who also coaches multiple World, Commonwealth and Asian Games medallist Heena Sidhu.

Pandit reminded Rizvi of the target he had set when the latter had first approached him. "He told me that his goal was the Olympics. And if that was the target, the Commonwealth Games need not be a priority. I told him that while he might not be okay with the decision, he had to use it to steel himself for the future, I explained that shooting is a measurable sport. His scores would have to speak for themselves."

In Changwon, Rizvi finished sixth in the qualification round with a score of 582. Rai and Mitharval, the other two Indians in action in the same event, failed to qualify for the final after finishing 38th and 11th, respectively, with scores of 575 and 581.

Rizvi had clinched the gold medal with a world record score in a memorable maiden ISSF World Cup appearance in Guadalajara, Mexico earlier this year.

Meerut-based Rizvi shot a world record 242.3 in Guadalajara to win gold, beating the 239.7 score shot by reigning Olympic champion Christian Reitz of Germany.

After the win in Mexico, Rizvi said he was targeting gold at three World Cups -- Changwon, Fort Benning in USA and Munich, with the last two scheduled for next month. "I might not get a chance to win gold at the Commonwealth Games but becoming the number one shooter in the world is bigger than that," he had said.

Rizvi may not have won gold in Changwon but he didn't miss out by much. With a medal at each of the two World Cups this year, he appears on his way to becoming the top-ranked shooter in the 10m air pistol event.