India return from the Munich World Cup with their best result at a World Cup. Apart from topping the medals tally, India will also be satisfied with two more Olympic quotas, the return to form of one of their stars and the knowledge that they are the side to beat in mixed team events.
Here are the takeaways from the event:
Best ever result
Apart from the five gold medals and a silver - over twice that won by second place China (two gold, two silver and five bronze) - India earned two more Olympic quota places. India now have seven Olympic quotas in just the rifle and pistol categories. There were impressive perfomances elsewhere too with young rifle shooter Sunidhi Chauhan just failing to make the final of the 50m three positions event.
While the result is something national coaches like Samresh Jung have been working towards, he admits the magnitude of the performances still takes some getting used to. "From a coach's perspective, we have done really well. We have won two quotas and finished on top of podium. Munich is the centre of shooting and it's considered the most competitive World Cup event. To come up trumps over here in the year before the Olympics is a very satisfying result," says Samresh Jung, coach of the pistol shooting team.
Saurabh, Apurvi demonstrate class
There's a reason why Apurvi Chandela is ranked the best 10m air rifle shooter in the world currently. She's won gold medals in two of the last three ISSF World Cups after all. If her win at the Delhi edition of the tournament was a comprehensive triumph, her performance in the final in Munich was all about digging herself out of a tough situation. Having started in the worst possible fashion with an opening shot of 9.9, Chandela fought back with every subsequent shot to claim the gold by .2 points.
Saurabh Chaudhary, 17, isn't the highest-ranked shooter in his event, a travesty going by his performances. He too won his second World Cup of the year, following a gold on debut in New Delhi. What's more, he actually improved on what was already a world record performance, setting a new mark in Munich. What will be particularly terrifying to his competitors is that Chaudhary's coaches believe he still has some way to improve.
Manu seals a quota
While Saurabh's blip at the Asian Airgun Championships was thought to be a temporary blip on an otherwise steady career graph, Manu Bhaker had been going through a prolonged rough patch of late. Ever since she won the gold medal in the 10m pistol event at the Youth Olympics last October, she had struggled at competitions at the world level. An Olympic quota seemed frustratingly out of reach over the last two World Cups. With every slip-up, the pressure seemed to tell visibly on the 17-year-old, who had won a World Cup gold medal on debut at the Guadalajara World Cup in March last year.
When a quota slipped through her fingers courtesy a gun malfunction in the final of the 25m pistol event on Wednesday, there were concerns over just how the teenager would be able to cope with the setback. Bhaker, though, showed great temperament to shrug off the blow and clinch an Olympic quota a couple of days later in the 10m air pistol event. Bhaker might have been the favourite to win the 25m pistol quota, but it was Rahi Sarnobat who won gold and a quota place in that category. The fact that Bhaker won a quota means the earlier slip shouldn't cost her much, also boosting Sarnobat's chances of travelling to Tokyo in the process.
Mixed team sweep
While Chandela, Chaudhary and Bhaker are accomplished in their own right in the individual events, there's no shooting event that the Indians have come to dominate as much as the mixed team events. Of the six mixed team gold medals that have been awarded in the 10m pistol and 10m rifle categories at the three World Cups so far, India have won all but one. Divyansh Panwar and Anjum Moudgil have won two of the three gold medals in the 10m air rifle event while Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker have laid down the marker with their third straight gold medal.
While their hunger for medals is impressive as it is, the fact that they cruised to a 17-9 win over Ukraine's Olena Kostevych and Oleh Omelchuk, who have seven Olympic Games and three Olympic medals, including a gold medal, shows just what a special pairing theirs is.