Sift Kaur Samra: Once med student, now world-record gold medallist at Asian Games

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Shooting is a sport of fine margins, where the difference in finishing position often comes down to tenths.

At the Asian Games today, Sift Kaur Samra shot that theory out of the sky, winning India’s first individual gold medal in Hangzhou with one of the most dominant performances ever seen in the 50m rifle 3 position final.

  • He finished 7.3 points ahead of the silver medalist, reigning world champion, Zhang Qionggui of China.

  • He broke the final world record with a whopping 2.6 points – after setting the Asian Games record in qualifying.

  • He dominated the final from the third series, never taking the lead once he claimed it, putting more distance between him and the next series.

And he did it across 3 different locations, one of the more terrifying disciplines of shooting.

It takes a significant level of both physical and mental strength to achieve this. But Samra (22) has already shown that she has mental capacity: she has cleared NEET, the notoriously tough all-India medical entrance exam, and was a medical student at GGS Medical College in Faridkot. He dropped out after a year, when his sporting success forced him to choose between becoming a doctor and a shooter. He chose shooting, as unconventional as the choice.

Shooting and medicine don’t have much in common and balancing the two fields, both of which require above average smarts and focus, takes a special effort.

Still, Samra’s hunger for a challenge was evident in the way she competed Wednesday. In tennis, a phrase is often used when a player hits exceptionally well – seeing the ball like a soccer ball. That day, it seemed like Samra was seeing the bull’s-eye goal like football, or at least better than all his competitors.

A lead of more than 7 points in a full-strength shooting final is a rarity. To do this in a long drawn final like 3P is remarkable.

Long-distance running equivalent to 50m rifle 3P shooting; Targets are farther away than in other range events and shooters must manage external factors such as wind conditions while maintaining a time limit. A shooter has to set up and adjust their sights three times without losing concentration. And they have to do the whole sequence twice in a few hours, from qualification to final.

Samra both passed. His numbers in the finals are mind-blowing:

He claimed the lead after the first kneeling series of 15 shots, but was only 0.1 points ahead of Zhang.

After the second prone series, at 30 shots – he was 0.9 points ahead of second-placed Indian Ashi Chowksi.

After 35 shots he was 2.8 points ahead of Chouksi.

After 40 shots, he had a big 5-point lead and secured all but gold as single shot eliminations began.

“I was looking at the scores in all three categories. My position was strong so I knew if I took the lead early (prone), I would do very well. I knew I had to do very well on the knees.” He told about his plans in the finale. “In the first round, I wasn’t that good in my first five shots. But the others weren’t doing well either, so I thought I could recover.”

Earlier in the morning, he showed his consistency in 3 positions with a Games record-equaling score of 594 (out of 600). For context, China’s Jia Xiu began qualifying with a perfect score of kneeling and prone – 400/400. While standing, the least stable position of the three, he had just 194.

Samra started shooting in Standard 9 after a casual outing at a shooting range in Punjab made him aware of his talent. “I was an accidental shooter. A shotgun shooter, my cousin introduced me to shooting. My first state event went well and all my relatives told my parents that I should take up shooting. Luckily, it worked out and I am now A shooter.” said the 22-year-old.

He has done well at the national level and made his name at the junior international level with five medals at the Junior World Cup and a gold medal at the National Games last year. His first ISSF World Cup medal, a bronze in the 50m rifle 3P, came in Bhopal earlier this year. In August, he won gold at the FISU World University Games and then followed it up with a fifth-place finish at the World Championships that ensured India a Paris Olympic quota.

In September, he is an Asian Games champion with a final shooting that followers will remember for some time.



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