The shot that clinched Olympic silver for Vijay Kumar

Vijay Kumar continued India’s solid display in shooting by winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

London 2012 was one of the most successful Olympic Games for India with its athletes claiming six medals - two silver and four bronze.

Among those medallists for India was an army subedar by the name of Vijay Kumar who clinched a sensational silver medal to continue the nation’s newfound shooting prowess.

Like father, like son

Hailing from a small village in Himachal Pradesh, Kumar was the son of an Indian army subedar, Banku Ram.

He was apparently fascinated by his father’s army guns and that fascination later piqued his interest towards shooting.

Following in his dad’s footsteps, Kumar joined the army in 2001 where his affinity for shooting continued. He was transferred to the Army Marksmanship Unit a couple of years later and began training professionally under the tutelage of Russian coach Pavel Smirnov.

The pistol shooter quickly rose through the ranks in a sporting sense, and won two gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

At the next Commonwealth Games held on home soil in New Delhi, Kumar bagged three golds and one silver medal as attentions turned towards the 2012 Olympics.

Vijay Kumar (R) and Gurpreet Singh both won gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games
Vijay Kumar (R) and Gurpreet Singh both won gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth GamesVijay Kumar (R) and Gurpreet Singh both won gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games

Destination London

Kumar made London 2012 after clinching silver at the ISSF World Cup in Fort Benning in 2011.

Having failed to qualify in the 10m air pistol, the Indian bounced back in the 25m rapid fire pistol.

He scored 585 out of a possible 600 to reach the six-strong final in fourth place with world champion Alexei Klimov leading qualifying in a new world record of 592.

The final round comprised eight rounds of five shots each, making a total of 40 shots.

Kumar and Klimov shot the only perfect opening rounds, but the Russian quickly faded out of contention.

After a three in round one, Cuba's Leuris Pupo had three perfect fives to lead after the first four rounds on 18 with Kumar and China's Ding Feng tied for second on 16.

Vijay Kumar shoots in the London 2012 25m rapid fire pistol final as Leuris Pupo waits his turn
Vijay Kumar shoots in the London 2012 25m rapid fire pistol final as Leuris Pupo waits his turnVijay Kumar shoots in the London 2012 25m rapid fire pistol final as Leuris Pupo waits his turn

With the worst shooter eliminated after four rounds, and then subsquently after each round until there is a winner, Pupo, Kumar and Ding all scored four in rounds five and six to guarantee themselves medals.

Then came round seven and Ding's three against Kumar's four saw the Indian secure silver at least.

The gold looked unlikely with Pupo also scoring four to take a lead of two into the eighth and final round.

In the event, Kumar could only manage two to finish on 30 with Pupo scoring another four to equal the final world record of 34 and clinch gold.

But Kumar's silver was the highlight of his career.

London 2012 25m rapid fire pistol podium (L-R): runner-up Vijay Kumar, winner Leuris Pupo, third-placed Ding Feng
London 2012 25m rapid fire pistol podium (L-R): runner-up Vijay Kumar, winner Leuris Pupo, third-placed Ding FengLondon 2012 25m rapid fire pistol podium (L-R): runner-up Vijay Kumar, winner Leuris Pupo, third-placed Ding Feng

A true professional, Vijay Kumar returned to the Indian Army immediately after London 2012 and continued to serve as he helped India to silver in the 25m centre fire pistol team even at the 2014 Asian Games.

He retired from the army in 2017 after ending his sporting career, but as one of India’s four shooting medallists at the Olympics he continues to be an inspiration for the next generation of Indian medal hopefuls.

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