Podcast: Anjali Bhagwat Recalls Her ‘Champion of Champions’ Clash
The year was 2002. Anjali Bhagwat had already become the ‘Golden Girl’ of Indian shooting, courtesy four gold medals at the Manchester Commonwealth Games. In all her four finals she set new records.
But this wasn’t enough. A true sportsperson is always known for his or her hunger and it was no different for Anjali. She wasn’t done yet. The World Cup Finals that same year in Munich – her first World Cup finals - was her pinnacle.
Unfortunately, she had to settle for a silver in the final, but it was the match later– the Champion of Champions match - which gave her career new wings and thus became the Greatest Game of Anjali Bhagwat’s life.
Anjali had become the first Indian shooter to win a silver at a World Cup in Munich after which she was invited to the elite Champion of Champions event where no other Indian had ever competed.
She was the world number 1 in rifle shooting at the time and Lioubob Galkina of Russia, who had beaten her to the gold in Munich, was part of the mixed male and female field who lined up against her
The men were now completely out of the picture. And only the women had made it to the top three - Gao Jing from China, Lioubob Galkina of Russia and India’s Anjali Bhagwat.
After the shoot-out where we all started from zero, Galkina was the first one to get eliminated and I was there with the Chinese shooter. She was supposed to be the best shooter at that point of time. She was World No 1 and was known for final shoot-outs. She used to shoot very strong final and everybody thought that she will win. I was the newcomer.Anjali Bhagwat
The crowd was rallying for Anjali. It was an atmosphere every sportsperson yearns for but not Anjali. The chanting was clouding her concentration, but the shooter had already devised a plan to get past it.
We have been given 50 seconds for a shot. So, for the last shot I decided Gao would go first so that I can patiently focus on my target. Gao shot 10.4 and everyone started applauding as Gao was leading. Then it was my turn and very patiently and coolly I released my shot and it was 10.6. I bettered her, and I won the Championship.Anjali Bhagwat
With the final shot of 10.6, Anjali sealed the fate of the match and a new history was scripted in her already illustrious shooting career. She became the first and till date the only shooter from India to be crowned ‘ Champion of Champions’.
When I took my last shot I had already realised that I have done enough to win the crown. This is the greatest title a shooter can get in a particular year. I was the Champion of Champions defeating all the top male and female shooters in the world. I was very happy that I had won that title for my country for the first time.Anjali Bhagwat
(This story was first published on 4 September 2018 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives on the occasion of Anjali Bhagwat’s birthday)