Indian shooters Manish Narwal and Singhraj Adhana won gold and silver, respectively, in the mixed 50m pistol SH1 event at the Tokyo Paralympics on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Narwal shot a Paralympic record score of 218.2 to take the gold medal, while Singhraj, 39, shot 216.7 to win silver. Sergey Malyshev of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) took bronze with a score of 196.8.
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Narwal's medal is India's third gold medal of these Paralympic Games after Avani Lekhara in the women's 10m air rifle standing SH1 event and Sumit Antil in the men's javelin throw F64 category. Singhraj's silver, meanwhile, is his second medal of these Paralympics after he won bronze in the men's 10m air pistol SH1 event, where Narwal had finished seventh in the final.
Singhraj is now the second Indian to win multiple medals at these Games. On Friday, Avani Lekhara won bronze in the women's 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 event to add to her gold. Overall, three Indians have now won multiple medals at a single edition of the Paralympics, the other being Joginder Singh Bedi, who won three of India's four medals in 1984. Singhraj is also the fifth Indian with multiple Paralympic medals overall, the others being Devendra Jhajharia and Mariyappan Thangavelu, .
Officially, India's medals tally at the Tokyo Paralympics now stands at 15 medals. As it stands, three more medals are certain, with Pramod Bhagat, Suhas Yathiraj and Krishna Nagar having advanced to the gold medal matches in their respective badminton men's singles divisions. India's medals tally well exceeds their previous best of four medals, at the 2016 and 1984 Paralympics.
In qualification, Singhraj had finished fourth with a score of 536-4x (x indicates an inner 10), while Narwal finished seventh with 533-7x. Akash, India's other entrant in the event, missed out on the eight-shooter final after finishing 27th with 507-3x. In the final, Singhraj appeared to carry over his qualification form. The 39-year-old from Bahadurgarh, Haryana, finished the first competition stage of 10 shots in first place while Narwal was in fifth place at the time, thanks to several shots in the 7s.
Singhraj dropped to second after the first two elimination shots, while Narwal was tied fifth and even seemed in danger of elimination himself. Narwal managed a good next couple of shots to stay in fifth as Serbia's Zivko Papas was eliminated, while Singhraj dropped to fourth. The top three at that stage were Malyshev and China's Lou Xiaolong and Yang Chao.
Narwal then shot two great shots of 10.4 and 9.3 to move up to second, while Singhraj moved 0.1 clear of Yang to take third place. Narwal and Singhraj continued to shuffle between second and third, while Malyshev stayed at the top. Malyshev then managed poor shots in his last four shots to drop down to third, allowing the Indians to take the top two positions. Narwal and Singhraj managed similar scores in their last two shots, but Narwal's cushion of 1.9 points allowed him to get the Paralympic record and the gold medal.
Singhraj suffers from a limb impairment. Coming from a low-income background, Singhraj found it difficult to make ends meet and continue shooting. "My wife sold her jewellery to support my shooting dream," he told India's Press Information Bureau (PIB) in an interview leading up to the Tokyo Paralympics. During the lockdown enforced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he built a range at home to prepare for Tokyo as well as the 2024 Paris Games.
Singhraj made his international debut in 2018, winning the 10m air pistol SH1 silver at the World Shooting Para Sport World Cup held in Al Ain, Dubai. He won silver again at the event the following year, before winning gold there earlier this year. Singhraj also won bronze in the mixed 50m pistol SH1 event at the 2018 Asian Para Games. In addition to his shooting career, Singhraj has served as the chairman of Sainak Public School in Faridabad, near Delhi.
Manish Narwal began pistol shooting in 2016 in Faridabad, Haryana. A big fan of football, Narwal wanted to pursue the sport, but couldn't do so beyond the local club level due to a congenital impairment in his right hand. On the suggestion of a close friend, Narwal's father took the boy to the TenX Shooting Academy in Ballabgarh, Faridabad.
Narwal, who counts Lionel Messi and Usain Bolt as his idols, announced himself on the big stage by winning the P1 men's 10m air pistol SH1 gold and the P4 mixed 50m pistol SH1 silver at the 2018 Asian Para Games. He went on to win bronze at the 2019 World Championships and was conferred the Arjuna Award in 2020. At the Para Shooting World Cup in Al Ain, UAE, earlier this year, he broke the world record en route to gold in the P4 mixed 50m pistol SH1 event. Narwal is currently ranked fourth in the world in the men's 10m air pistol SH1 and second in the world in the mixed 50m pistol SH1.