Vijay Kumar was at his firing best at the crunch as he clinched the silver medal and the Olympic quota place in the 25-metre rapid fire pistol event in the shooting World Cup in Fort Benning, US, on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Himachal lad, a Subedar with the army, lost the final shoot-off 1-4 in a dramatic anti-climax to Christian Reitz of Germany, after having caught up with him with a perfect round in the last series.

With the new format for the rapid fire event, nullifying the qualification scores for the six shooters, Vijay Kumar with 584 was on par with Olympic bronze medallist Ding Feng of China who had topped with a score of 589.

Nerve-wracking performance

After the bottom three shooters were eliminated after the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of 4-second series, Vijay found himself tied with the Chinese with 24 points. It was a nerve-wracking performance, as Vijay beat the Chinese 5-3 in the second shoot-off after the two had tied 4-4 in the first shoot-off, to ensure the Olympic quota place.

The best was yet to come, as Vijay unleashed a perfect 5 to match the eventual gold medallist who shot 4 in the eighth and last series of the final. However, in the shoot-off Vijay could muster one point to four by the German who also secured the Olympic quota.

Incidentally, in the final any shot that is 9.7 or above is considered as one, and the rest is treated as zero. In the 4-second series, a shooter fires at five targets in one motion within four seconds.

Second silver

It was the second silver in a World Cup for the six-time National champion, as Vijay had won a similar medal in Beijing in 2009.

In fact, he had made the World Cup final that season and finished fourth in the competition meant for the top-10 performers of the season.

After a string of below par scores in the last two World Cups in Sydney and Changwon when he shot 572 and 543, it was an impressive performance by Vijay, coached by Pavel Smirnov hired by the army, to have come up with a career-best score in qualification and an authoritative performance in the final.

Quite interestingly, Vijay, the triple gold-medallist in the Commonwealth Games at home, had failed to win a medal in rapid fire pistol in the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year, but pocketed individual bronze medals in the air pistol and centre-fire pistol events.

Vijay became the seventh Indian shooter, after Gagan Narang, Hariom Singh, Sanjeev Rajput, Ronjan Sodhi, Annuraj Singh and Rahi Sarnobat to clinch an Olympic quota for the London 2012 Games