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ISSF World Cup 2019: From Munich disappointment to maiden senior World Cup gold – How Elavenil Valarivan rose to her best in Rio

At ISSF World Cup In Munich, Germany, in May this year, Elavenil Valarivan found herself on the verge of winning her first senior World Cup medal in Women’s 10m air rifle. After failing to reach the finals in the first two World Cups this year in New Delhi and in China, the Ahmedabad shooter had made it to the finals in Munich with a score of 632.7 in the Qualification round, just behind India’s Apurvi Chandela.

Indulged in thrilling battle for the bronze medal with China’s Xu Hong, Elavenil shot a 10.6 and 10.7 to reach a total of 208.3. Hong’s first shot earned her a 10.5, which meant she needed at least 10.8 to make it top three. Her next shot, got her exactly as much, and the Indian shooter missed out on the medal by a margin of 0.1.

Determined to correct her mistakes from Munich, the 20-year old Elavenil entered the World Cup in Rio earlier this week. On Wednesday, she went on to win the gold in Women’s 10m air rifle, becoming the second Indian after Apurvi to bag the yellow plate in this category in 2019 at World Cup tournaments. Speaking to Hindustan Times in an exclusive telephonic chat, Elavenil revealed that her focus was primarily on rectifying the mistakes she made three months ago.

“Munich was a really good learning experience. Earlier, I was rushing to shoot, I was very quick, I was not waiting and not taking any breaks. The mistakes I made, I tried to correct in Rio, I was not thinking of anything else. I tried to work on my techniques rather than just rushing to shoot. I also made an adjustment on my alignment,” she said.

It was a near dominant performance from Elavenil in the final in Rio. After finishing 4th in the Qualification round with a score of 629.4, the shooter found herself on the top position after the completion of first stage in the Final. Throughout the Elimination rounds, she kept her eyes glued to her target to maintain the lead. By the end, the Indian was 1.1 points ahead of Britain’s Seonaid McIntosh. With gold on the line, she shot a 10.4 and a 9.6. In reply, McIntosh’s first shot earned her a 9.8, which immediately meant that she would be unable to beat Elavenil for the top prize.

“It’s always special winning your first gold. I am really happy. I still have not come down from the high of the achievement. I have received lots of calls and messages. It’s just a happy moment for everyone,” she said.

“The senior players were also really happy. Even Apurvi di came out and congratulated me. So it was a really special moment.”

With the Gujarat shooter bagging the top prize in Brazil, India have emerged as the powerhouse in Women’s 10m air rifle category, with the nation bagging three gold medals out of possible four this year in ISSF World Cup tournaments. With Tokyo Olympics next year, there is a rise in expectation that Indian shooters might bring the much-awaited Olympic gold back home.

“Definitely, India have been doing really good. We have been doing really well in almost every category. We have a real good chance of grabbing gold in Olympics,” Elavenil attested to India’s rising prominence in the sport.

But does this add to the pressure? “It does not. If one person wins, then the other person gets motivated to do better in the next game. It is an added advantage. It will motivate the others to improve the game,” she added.

Despite winning the gold, Elavenil has not won India an Olympic quota, as Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi have already earned the two maximum quotas available for Tokyo in Women’s 10m air rifle category. But the final call of deciding India’s Olympic contingent lies with the NRAI and the young shooter is confident she might make it to Tokyo next year.

“There are chances I could be considered for Olympic contingent. Let’s hope for the best,” she signed off.

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