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Shooting: The incredible numbers of Saurabh Chaudhary

In Dec 2016, at the National Shooting Championships in Pune, Saurabh Chaudhary shot a below-par 562 in the 10m Pistol event.

Shooting: The incredible numbers of Saurabh Chaudhary

Kapil Choudhary

Updated: 22 March 2022 6:32 AM GMT
In Dec 2016, at the National Shooting Championships in Pune, a 14-yr old Saurabh Chaudhary shot a below-par 562 in the 10m Pistol event. His score placed him a lowly 112th among all shooters, and as low as 14th even in the Youth category (U-18). Thus, despite the fact that he had already won a Silver in the Junior (U-21) category at the Asian 10m Championships in Tehran a few days earlier, not many would have expected what was to come from this boy in just the next couple of years. Since that day, Saurabh has blazed the Indian, and International, Air Pistol shooting scene pocketing for himself an Olympic Quota, a World Cup Gold, the Asian Games Gold, the Junior World Championship Gold, the Youth Olympic Games Gold, a Junior World Cup Gold, a Junior Asian 10m Championship Gold, a Youth Asian 10m Championship Gold, and Final World Records in both the Senior and the Junior categories!! And that is his performance in just the individual events. In the relatively new mixed team event, Saurabh has a World Cup Gold, an Asian 10m Championship Gold, a Junior World Cup Gold, a Junior World Championship Bronze and a Junior Asian 10m Championship Gold besides holding the Junior World Records (along with Manu Bhaker) in both the Qualification and the Finals!! He further has in his kitty 4 Golds, a Silver and a Bronze awarded for team performances at various World and Asian events (across age categories), for a total of 18 major international medals, including a whopping 15 Golds, in just under 2 years. And he is still over a month shy of his 17th birthday!
India managed to grab only one Olympic quota in "Home" ISSF World Cup earlier this year.

The Consistency

The below table shows Saurabh's results as an individual, in both domestic as well as international competition, post the 2016 National Championship. It should be noted that in many domestic competitions, a single qualification score is shot by all shooters and it is then used as the basis to qualify shooters for the final in the senior, junior and youth categories. So a young shooter like Saurabh can qualify for 3 different finals based on just one qualification score. It can be seen from the above table that, in a sport known for its extreme unpredictability, Saurabh has shot a total of 32 qualification scores in the past two years and a bit, of which only 2 of his scores have failed to qualify him for the final!! Unfortunately, those two low scores – a 572 and a 569 – came at the Jan 2018 National Selection Trials, and probably cost him a spot in the Gold Coast bound Commonwealth Games team. He eventually made his senior international debut, amidst considerable criticism from some quarters, on one of the biggest stages of them all - the Jakarta Asian Games - and has never looked back since.

Since the 2016 National Championship, Saurabh has also shot in 43 finals, finishing among the medals 36 times, and taking the Gold an astonishing 28 times. In his last 14 finals since June 2018 (which includes 8 international tournaments), Saurabh has climbed to the top of the podium 12 times, missing out just on the 2018 National Title (where he finished 2nd to Omprakash Mitharwal) and the recent Asian 10m title (where he compensated by taking Gold in the Mixed Team event with Manu Bhaker).

Qualification Score Analysis

The below table shows the average qualification scores for the world's most well-known 10m Pistol shooters, including some junior shooters as well, since the beginning of 2017. Only the global ISSF events and the continental championships have been considered, and shooters with less than 3 registered scores during the period have not been included. It can be seen that Saurabh's average score of 581.22 places him behind only shooting legends Jin Jongoh (London Olympic Champion, Beijing Olympic Silver Medalist, Current World champion and Current World Record holder with 594 shot in 2009 besides numerous other achievements in 50m Pistol) and Christian Reitz (Current Rapid Fire Olympic Champion, now starting to make a name in 10m Pistol as well), besides relative newcomer Artem Chernousov (World Championship Silver Medalist and 2018 Changwon World Cup Champion). https://twitter.com/TheBridge_IN/status/1099685574015881216 Saurabh is also one of only 5 shooters to have an average of 581 or higher, which is around where the finals cut-off tends to be for many high-level competitions (though the Delhi World Cup in February saw an incredible cut-off of 583). Further, post his poor Jan 2018 selection trials, Saurabh has a brilliant average of 582.25 across 8 international competitions and 582.75 across 8 domestic competitions!! However, in these 16 competitions, he has also failed to hit 581 six times, which can easily cause him to miss the final in a World Cup or a World Championship, indicating some chink in the armour.

Finals Score Analysis

While Saurabh's qualification performance has been impressive, what has truly boggled the mind is his consistency in finals, which have one of the most unpredictable competition formats across all sport. The below table shows the average final scores of the most well-known shooters since the beginning of 2017, which is when the current format of the 10m pistol finals was adopted (earlier, there used to be fewer shots in the final). Only the global ISSF events and the continental championships have been considered, and shooters with only a single final appearance during the period have not been included.
Expectedly, Saurabh is right on top with an average single shot score in finals of 10.09. Further, not only is his average the highest, but it has also been built up over a total of 9 finals, more than anyone else! Of the above shooters, he is also one of only two to have appeared in the finals of all the tournaments he has participated in, the other being junior shooter Sung Yunho. Over the entire 24 shots in a final, his superiority translates to an average advantage of 1.8+ points over all other shooters, barring Christian Reitz over whom Saurabh has an average advantage of almost a full point. Further, if all of Saurabh's finals since the 2016 National Championship are included, domestic as well as international, even then his average single shot score drops to only 10.07, across a whopping 43 finals! From the Junior World Cup in June 2018 to the Delhi World Cup in 2019, Saurabh shot a total of 13 finals in all, with a mindblowing single shot average of 10.165, which translates to a 24-shot score of 243.96!! For comparison, the senior World Record going into the 2019 Delhi World Cup was 243.7, and of course, Saurabh smashed it in Delhi with a 245 on his way to a World Cup Gold and an Olympic Quota. During this period, Saurabh also shot a scarcely believable score of 248.2 in the December 2018 selection trials, a full 3.2 points over his own future World Record.
An incredible 2018 it has been for the young shooter. Speaking of world records, it should be noted that the ISSF follows a policy whereas scores shot in junior/youth tournaments are not recognized as senior world records, but those shot in senior tournaments by young shooters are recognized as junior world records. As a result, even currently, Saurabh's Junior Finals World Record of 245.5 is higher than his senior Finals World Record of 245. Also, as expected, only performances in recognized international competitions are considered for records. The net result is that since July 2017, Saurabh has equalled or exceeded the at-competition-time Finals World Record a monumental 20 times!! 8 of these scores are equal to or higher than even his own current recognized Finals World Record of 245. In addition, he has also bettered the 12-yr old Junior Qualification World Record once, and come within one point of equalling it on three separate occasions. There is no doubt that in a few short months since he made his international senior debut at the Asian Games, Saurabh Chaudhary has captured the imagination of Indian sports fans and shot to the top of everyone's Olympic medal contender lists. His entry to the top level of the sport and consistency has been unparalleled, and he has already shown that he is a prodigious talent with a calm head on his shoulders. Expectedly, he drew the biggest home crowd to cheer him on at the recent Delhi World Cup and delivered, under pressure, in style. However, while no one has quite done what he has done in such a short period, Indian shooting has seen many shooters in the past falter at the big stage that is the Olympics and then subsequently lose motivation and fade away. If Saurabh can only keep his focus till Tokyo 2020 and beyond, while handling the increased pressure and attention that will surely come his way, then there are no limits to what he can achieve.
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