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Mathew T George
Mathew T George

RIO 2016

Felipe Almeida Wu

96FelipeAlmeidaWu AFP

10m air pistol, Brazil

Felipe Almeida Wu’s profile photo on Facebook was posted on Valentine’s Day 2013. It shows Wu sitting on the rail of a walkway leading to Gibraltar’s Europa Point Lighthouse. Dressed casually in a full-sleeved black sweater and beige trousers, his black spiky hair cropped close, Wu is smiling at the camera. In the backdrop is the Mediterranean, the light and the cliff on which it stands. If you look closer, there is something in the water—a buoy or a sailboat under bare poles. And, then, on the horizon, a row of mountains marching away into the fading evening light.

There is no lady in the Valentine’s Day photo; the man looks deeply content. Not surprisingly, there is very little on the reclusive 23-year-old. Like our own Abhinav Bindra, he has stayed out of the party pages. Perhaps, most shooters are like them. Solitary and focused. They let their guns do the talking.

On June 25, Indian media went to town when Jitu Rai pipped three-time Olympic champion Jongoh Jin of Korea to clinch the 10m air pistol silver at the ISSF Shooting World Cup in Bangkok. Rai shot an impressive 199.5. The gold went to Wu, who shot a total of 200.0. And, that is why he is on everyone’s list to win the gold at home, in Rio.

But, the heat in Rio can be murder on pistol shooters. Experts say that a particular problem for pistol competitors is that over the course of their event, their hands can change shape in the heat. In a sport where everything from sights to grips is bespoke, a swollen hand could be a game-changer.

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