Baku (Azerbaijan): Young and gritty Sift Kaur Samra gave ample proof of her immense potential, earning India its sixth Paris Olympic quota place, though she missed the coveted medal by finishing fifth in the women's 50m rifle three-positions event at the ISSF World Championship here on Monday.
The 21-year-old, who had earlier this month won gold in her favourite event at the World University Games in Chengdu, qualified for the final with a national record score of 589.
But despite her heroic effort, she could not overcome the challenge of the Chinese who won the gold and silver, with Zhang Qiongyue clinching the top podium finish with a finals score of 465.3 and her country-mate Han Jiayu bagging the silver with 463.5.
American Sagen Maddalena won bronze, while Sift finished with a score of 429.1.
"I am feeling so excited about winning the quota and it was really a fun match for me. The experience was really great, because my 'kneeling' position was not that good in qualification but my 'standing' was very good. I am proud of my 'standing' position today. It means a lot for me and the country as it's the first 50m quota among women," said the young shooter.
Samra had a 'kneeling' score of 192 and shot superb 199 and 198 in 'prone' and 'standing' positions in the qualifying round to aggregate 589.
However in the finals, Samra slipped to eighth early on in the 'kneeling' position but pulled herself up in 'prone' and 'standing' to climb steadily to fifth.
India have now won three Paris Olympic quota places at the Worlds here, with Mehuli Ghosh in the women's 10m air rifle and Akhil Sheoran in the men's 50m Rifle 3-Positions being the other two.
India are third on the medals table with four gold and three bronze medals behind powerhouses China and the USA.
Overall, India have so far won six Paris quota places. Bhowneesh Mendiratta (men's trap), Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil (men's 10m air rifle) and Swapnil Kusale (men's 50m rifle 3 positions) are the other three Indians to have secured the 2024 Olympic quota places at last year's ISSF World Championship.
The Indian trio comprising Samra (589), Ashi Chouksey (590) and Manini Kaushik (582) finished fifth in the team category with an aggregate of 1761.
Sift began the final with a 10.1 but some inconsistent shooting meant that she was in seventh place as early elimination loomed at the end of the 15-each 'kneeling' and 'prone' positions shots. The fight at the top was between the two Chinese Han and Zhang and the American Sagen Maddalena.
Continuing with her sublime form in the 'standing' position early in the day, Samra moved up to fifth at the end of the first five shots with a series of 53.
But 9s for her 37th and 38th shots put her back in danger of elimination. She just managed to bounce back to sixth place first and then with another 10 moved back up to fifth after the 41st.
She was then 0.7 behind the Olympic champion Nina Christen whom she beat on the shot with a 10.3 to Nina's 10.2, but it was not enough.
Rapid-Fire pistol men well-placed
Men's 25m rapid-fire pistol shooters were in pole position after Qualification Stage 1, with Adarsh Singh and Anish Bhanwla shooting solid 'precision' rounds to be second and seventh respectively in the individual event.
While Adarsh shot 295, Anish was two points adrift at 293. The third Indian, Vijayveer Sidhu, was in 32nd spot with a score of 287 out of 300.
Only the top six make it to the final in the event.
The second rapid-fire round of qualification will take place on Tuesday with the final also later in the day.