Grime, Guts & Glory: That sum up Subedar Vijay Kumar’s silver medal win at London Olympics

Vijay Kumar brought India her second medal and this time a silver at London Olympics, when the Armyman fell just four shot behind Cuban Leurius Pupo in the finals of 25m rapid fire pistol event here on Friday.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the 26-year-old Subedar with the Gorkha regiment is known to control the number of times he blinks his eyes, not to mention his breathing pattern. “Vijay Kumar may not be the most recognised faces in Indian shooting, but as his compatriots performing with him will tell you, he is an unstoppable force — cool, consistent, and after today, an Olympic silver medal winner,” says the report, adding that as quiet in glory in the 25 m rapid fire pistol event as he was in the run-up to it, all Kumar said after his impressive performance was: “We need to control our nervous system.”

Nerves must have come into play when, entering the four-second rapid fire finals on Friday, he ranked fourth. However, then the discipline set in, and Kumar started with brilliant a 5 on 5 target, and kept steady, notching 30 even as the field thinned down in the eliminations. Finally, he was just four shots behind Cuban Leurius Pupo.

Meanwhile a report in The Times Of India says that nearly 150 sharpshooters danced in joy on Friday at the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. It was a special night for them - their colleague Vijay Kumar had bagged an Olympic silver.

Among them was Pemba Tamang whose friendship with Vijay dates back to more than nine years, when the latter joined the unit in Mhow. Pemba and Vijay quickly struck a close bond and emerged as two of Army's best shooters, says the TOI report, adding that the pair went on to win the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold in the 25m rapid fire pistol (pairs) event besides earning more laurels subsequently.

Tamang, one of India's reserve shooters in the 25m rapid fire pistol, believes there is a world of difference between the Vijay of 2006 and 2012. "A shooter is like good wine, he improves with age. The same is true with Vijay, whose mental strength has improved with each passing year. That facet of his game came to the fore in the final today as well."

According to a report in Hindustan Times, Subedar Vijay Kumar of the 16 Dogra regiment took to shooting because he was meant to defend the borders of this nation. "On Friday he chose to redefine the borders of his own achievements by nailing an Olympic silver. Infantrymen shoot pistols, that’s what they are trained for. Over 25 metres, Vijay likes to do it at a level that is better than every other man in the world except one,” says the HT report, adding that this has to be the most gruelling and nerve-wracking of all shooting events.

“The 25m rapid-fire event is the ultimate challenge for a shooter as you have just four seconds to nail five targets.  To put it in context, Gagan Narang had 75 seconds to take a shot during his 10m air rifle final. Of course, these guys have a far bigger target. The hit zone is five circles of 13cm spread over three metres. The catch, however, is the small window in which you have to shoot. This was the first Olympics that saw the introduction of this format, which first came around in 2009 on the international circuit. What makes it even more pressure prone is the elimination format which comes into effect after four series (each series comprises of five shots and there are eight in total). Thereof, one shooter drops out after a set of five shots till the last two are left,” says the report.

“Vijay was assured of a medal when he and Ding Feng of China were tied at 24 points after the sixth series. The pressure that had built up steadily had seen the world record holder, Alexei Klimov, wilt by the fifth series — he actually got only two on target once. Vijay could have relaxed, but he came up with four bullseye to sideline the Chinese who had got only three. That turned the bronze into glitzier silver,” adds HT.

The 26-year-old Vijay has to be one of the most poised, calm and unruffled winners of the Games. Or, perhaps, the poise and confidence came from sharing the room with Gagan, the bronze-medal winner in 10m air rifle.

He just raised his hand to acknowledge the cheers and smiled away shyly. The triple gold-medal winner at the Delhi Commonwealth Games is not much for theatrics as he only took the flag to pose for pictures at the insistence of the photographers. Call your correspondent traditional if you may, but it was a joy to see the respect with which this shooter handled the Tricolour. But, then, what else would you expect from an army man?