Going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Saurabh Chaudhary was India's biggest medal hope. He was expected to win two medals – one each in Men's and Mixed 10m Air Pistol, and become the youngest Indian to stand on the Olympic podium.
Even though these expectations were a bit unrealistic, no one really felt so because of his consistent performances. He had finished on the podium in almost every event he played individually and was one of the most feared mixed pistol shooting pairs alongside Manu Bhaker.
It was supposed to be his Olympics. An Olympics where Saurabh Chaudary calls the shots (pun intended).
But, things transpired in a completely opposite manner at the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo. There was not even a single podium finish for Saurabh. Instead, there were two seventh-place finishes.
From being projected to return with two medals and honours from Tokyo, Saurabh will now return to immense criticism and scrutiny. How the tables turn!
Though he ends his campaign at the Tokyo Olympics without a medal, the 19-year-old has, so far, been the best Indian shooter, and it is not even close.
Saurabh Chaudhary made it to the top eight in both the events he competed – the only other Indian shooter who reached this far, Manu Bhaker, achieved it teaming up with him.
Saurabh Chaudhary topped the qualification rounds in both his events – the only other Indian shooter who did it, Manu Bhaker, achieved it teaming up with him.
Saurabh Chaudhary hit two perfect 100s – one each in both his events, in the qualification rounds in Tokyo – No other shooter present in Tokyo could match this.
In fact, Saurabh Chaudary, in Tokyo, shot way better than he had been shooting in the year 2021. His average score after 60 shots in 2021 before the Olympics was 584.4, as per a report in ESPN. In the Tokyo Olympics, he shot 586 in the Men's 10m Air Pistol.
These are some of the things which one should take note of before blasting out at the 19-year-old for returning back home without an Olympic medal.
But, if he was so good, then why did he not win a medal? Fair question.
The simple answer to this is probably nerves.
In both events, Saurabh Chaudhary topped the qualification stage and then faltered.
While former Olympian, Heena Sidhu, did talk about his grouping being low in the Men's 10m Air Pistol in the final and him not getting the time to adjust it in an interaction with ESPN, he did not seem to be his usual self, at least on television.
There was a sense of nervousness, and that probably led to his downfall.
On the Mixed 10m Air Pistol front, too, Saurabh faltered a bit in his first series of ten shots in Qualification Stage 2. A 96 out of 100 is not bad, but you expect better from him.
But unlike the Men's final, Saurabh Chaudhary actually recovered in the mixed event with an impressive 98 in his second series. Unfortunately, he did not get the necessary support from his teammate and crashed out of the Olympics without winning a medal.
ABHINAV BINDRA— The Bridge (@the_bridge_in) July 27, 2021
2004 Athens - 7⃣th in 10m Air Rifle
2008 Beijing - 🥇 in 10m Air Rifle
2021 Tokyo - 7⃣th in 10m Air Pistol
- 7⃣th in 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team
2024 Paris - 🥇🥇?
#SaurabhChaudhary | #Shooting | #Tokyo2020 | #Olympics pic.twitter.com/7Wep8s0a22
Saurabh Chaudhary has time and again proven his class at the highest level. He has defeated the best shooters in the world with relative ease and has brought countless laurels to India.
He gave it his all in Tokyo, but the others were just exceptional. Saurabh Chaudhary is not even 20-year-old and has a long road ahead.
Yes, criticism is obviously warranted, but it is important that we do not drown ourselves completely in that and appreciate Saurabh Chaudhary a bit, for he is a gem.