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Manavjit wins gold

New Delhi: Trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu returned to form with a bang when he won the gold medal in the World Cup at Tucson in the US on Friday night. Competing against a strong field that included two-time world champion Michael Diamond, the 37-year-old Indian came up with an impressive score of 121 in the qualifications and 13 in the final.

This was Manavjit’s second World Cup title since 2006 in Zagreb.

Manavjit’s show was definitely the best by an Indian in the shotgun section since the new rules had been introduced after the Olympics.

While most of the Indian trap shooters were found struggling to come to terms with the change of rules, Manavjit himself looked out of touch for a long time. Once the number three in the world in his event, Manavjit is placed 16th in the latest rankings.

A delighted Manavjit, who trains in Italy, said: “I had prepared for this World Cup throughout the winter season. We had several championships and trials in India in the last few months… My hard work has paid off,” he said.

On Friday’s competition, Manavjit said: “We had some of world’s best shooters competing. Winning the match against Diamond has been definitely challenging, but, in the end, you have to hit your own target and the final score is what it is. I was a steady performer in the final.”

Under the new rule, the scores in the qualification rounds are not carried over and the shooters in the final would have to make fresh starts.

In Tucson, Manavjit left behind Diamond in the both the qualifications and the final. Diamond’s scores were 119 and nine. The Aussie, who has two Olympic gold and more than a dozen World Cup titles under his belt, ended fourth.

The bronze medal went to Alexey Alipov of Russia, who shot 121 and 12. Ireland’s Derek Burnett, who topped the scoring in the qualifications with 123, failed to replicate his form in the semi-finals.

Having won a gold in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, Manavjit saw a steady rise in his career that included four Asian Games silver medals and equal number of gold medals in the Asian championship.

His career reached a great height in the 2006 World Cup in Zagreb, but failed to do much in the three Olympics he participated so far. In the London Olympics, the lanky shooter failed to reach the final and could finish only 16th.

But this win will warm Manavjit up nicely for the busy international calendar ahead, with the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Asian Games all lined up from July to September.

As many as 64 quota places for 2016 Rio Olympics will be up for grabs at the World Championships, scheduled to be held later this year in Grenada, Spain.