SINGAPORE, April 10 — Pumping her fist after hitting a perfect score of 10.9 on her final shot, Indian shooter Mehuli Ghosh thought she had bagged gold in the women’s 10m air rifle at the Commonwealth Games yesterday. What the 17-year-old did not know then was that the contest was only just heating up, resulting in a thrilling final shoot-off against Singaporean teenager Martina Lindsay Veloso.
With both shooters’ scores tied at 247.2 points after 24 shots in the elimination final, the shootout for gold went down to the wire at Brisbane’s Belmont Shooting Centre.
Just a year older than her rival, Martina held her nerve and calmed her shaky hands, as she followed up Mehuli’s 9.9 shot with a 10.3 to clinch Singapore’s first gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
This time, it was Martina who was pumping her fist in the air, as the rising young star celebrated her first Commonwealth Games gold of her career.
Mehuli had to settle for silver, while defending champion Apurvi Chandela, 25, won the bronze.
With the air rifle finals now contested over 24 shots instead of 20 from the previous Games in 2014, Martina’s joint-score of 247.2 with Mehuli was also a new Games record, eclipsing the previous best of 206.7 (20 shots) set by Chandela four years ago.
Martina, who finished fifth in the event four years ago in Glasgow, said: “It was very nerve-racking, I saw on the screen that it was a shoot-off so I knew it wasn’t over yet.
“Every shot was intense. I was shaking, and I’m still shaking now. I told myself to take my time, and that I could do this.
“It’s my favourite event (air rifle), so winning the gold medal... I’m really happy and thankful for all the support everyone has given to me.”
However, the celebrations will have to wait, as the 18-year-old will be competing in two more events: The women’s 50 rifle prone on Thursday and 50m rifle three positions on Friday.
“I’ll go back and celebrate a little bit then rest and recover from this overwhelming excitement, refocus and get my head back in the game,” she added.
Martina’s gold medal win came as a relief for Team Singapore’s 17-member shooting contingent, which saw defending champion Teo Shun Xie missing out on a podium spot on Sunday after placing seventh in the women’s 10m air pistol.
There was also disappointment yesterday for veteran Gai Bin, a three-time gold medallist at the 2010 New Delhi Games, after he finished a disappointing seventh in the men’s 10m air pistol final.
Unlike their Team Singapore colleagues, there was no such joy for the table-tennis players as they continued to struggle on court.
On Sunday, the defending champions, the Singapore men’s team, were first relegated to the bronze-medal match after a 3-2 loss to India in the semi-final. They were then beaten to the bronze by England yesterday after losing the encounter, 3-0.
Ahead of the Games, Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee had said that she wanted her players to aim for an unprecedented clean sweep of seven gold medals. But the paddlers have failed to deliver on the big stage so far.
The women’s team, which has won every team event since the sport debuted in Manchester in 2002, was led by world No. 4 Feng Tianwei. They crashed out to the unfancied Indians in the gold-medal match on Sunday.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the men’s and women’s table-tennis teams won the bulk of Team Singapore’s eight-gold-medal haul, pulling in six golds. Shooters Teo and Jasmine Ser added two to the collection with victories in the 10m air pistol and 50m rifle three positions respectively. — TODAY