London: Expectations are surging once again as India`s golden boy Abhinav Bindra, along with compatriot Gagan Narang, will take the range at the Royal Artillery Barracks Monday to defend the men`s 10metre air rifle gold he won four years ago in Beijing.
As per the current form of the world`s best shooters, a qualification score of 598 should easily get Abhinav and Gagan into the finals, meaning they have the liberty to shoot two shots each on the ninth ring out of the 60 shots.
In shooting, the difference in qualification points of the ultimate gold-medal winner and the 10th place finisher is not being more than two or three points.
An additional nine would make things tough for them but they could even qualify with a 597 in the bottom four out of the eight finalists. A point lesser than that, 596, will certainly not be a clear qualification and shooters would need to go through a shoot-off to win the bottom slots in the finals.
The job is half done after the qualification round. After a break, the top eight finalists will then play a final ten-shot match, the score of which will be added to their qualification scores to decide the winners.
Abhinav and Gagan have left no stones unturned in their preparation for the Games.
Abhinav has shown fine form as he shot a qualification score of 598 and 104 in the finals to win gold at a competition in France recently.
Although all the competitors are capable of a final berth, but Abhinav and Gagan will face the stiffest challenge from Chinese shooter Zhu Qinan, who won a gold in 2004 at Athens.
Zhu had settled for a silver at Beijing behind Bindra and was seen in tears at the podium.
Another Chinese Wang Tao is also being seen as a strong contender. He has never shot less than 595 at any of the World Cups he has participated in. However, the London Games will be his first Olympics.
Besides the Chinese challenge there is also the current world Champion, Italian Niccolo Campriani. Incidentally, Bindra and Campriani have the same coach Gabby Buehlmann.