It has been the worst first week for Indians in Asian Games history. They began well on day one but afterwards, their performance has not been much to talk about. Except in shooting and aquatics, the sizeable Indian contingent has failed to put up any creditable display belying the expectations of a billion Indians and other fans around the world. Even in shooting and archery, where most of their medals have been won, big names like Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Anjali Bhagwat and Deepika Kumari have failed to live up to their bloated reputations. On Friday, India added the second silver to their medals tally apart from a bronze but elsewhere, the participants recorded failures. The silver came from men’s team in 25m centre fire pistol competition and bronze from a rare performance by Sandeep Sejwal in swimming. Saina Nehwal and P Kashyap crashed out of medal contention in Badminton and Deepika Kumari failed in women’s recurve. The one silver lining in an otherwise dismal scenario has been provided by India’s men and women squash players, Dipika Palikkal, Joshna Chinnappa, Saurav Ghosal, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu. Both men and women’s teams have entered the final and at least two silvers are on line for India. If any of these teams clinches gold, India’s standing could go up several notches but they will be far below the Chinese, who have bagged 91 golds by Friday.
India began Friday morning on a happy note as the pistol team of Vijay Kumar, Pemba Tamang and Gurpreet Singh finished at second place behind China to claim the silver in 25m centre-fire pistol competition. With 1740 points, they came striking close to the Chinese shooters, who finished with 1742 points. With a larger number of inner tens, the Indian trio would have won the gold by just equaling China’s score. This was India’s eighth medal in shooting competitions but 6 of them have come from team events. Jitu Rai and Abhinav Bindra are the only shooters to win individual medals, which indicate the intense level of competition at Incheon. There was, however, disappointment for the Indian women’s team of Lajja Gauswami, Tejaswini Muley and Anjali Bhagwat, who finished sixth in 50m Rifle 3 Positions Team Finals.
In swimming’s 50m breaststroke event, Sandeep Sejwal began well by finishing first in his heats by clocking 28.25 seconds. In the final, Sejwal lost 0.01 seconds but still won the bronze. The performance of the 25-year-old Sejwal should provide a much-needed encouragement to young swimmers back home to take the sports seriously. Sejwal is the holder of national-records 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke events, he set at the World Swimming Championships in July 2009. He is also the lone Indian, who qualified for breaststroke event at 2008 Beijing Olympics.
However, in badminton, from where much was expected, Indian challenge was over on Friday with both Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap Kashyap losing their singles matches. It may disappoint their fans but the two Indians played against two of world’s best badminton stars. Nehwal lost to the former world champion and current world No.3, Yihan Wang of China while Kashyap played against Malaysia’s undisputed king of badminton Lee Chong Wei. Wang, who holds an 8-1 record against Nehwal, began by losing the first game but came back strongly in the second and third to beat Nehwal 18-21, 21-9, 21-7. Kashyap was simply outplayed by Chong Wei 21-12, 21-11. In the other matches, Kidambi Srikanth lost to Wanho Son of South Korea 21-19, 11-21, 18-21; the mixed doubles Indian pair of Manu Attri/Sikki Reddy lost 18-21, 23-21, 15-21 to Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo of Singapore and in men’s doubles quarter-finals, Attri and Sumeeth Reddy lost 12-21, 19-21 to Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.
Friday was highlighted by another impressive show by India’s men and women squash players. The women’s team of Dipika Pallikal, Joshna Chinappa and Anaka Alankamony outplayed South Korea 2-0 and the men’s team of Mahesh Mangaonkar, Saurav Ghosal and Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu also scored a 2-0 win over Kuwait. Incidentally, in the team event, Ghosal beat the same Abdullah Almezayen to whom he had lost in the gold medal match.
In boxing, Shiva Thapa (56kg) advanced to the quarter-finals after referee stopped the contest within a few seconds against Pakistan’s Nadir. Also through to the quarters was Kuldeep Singh (81kg), who defeated Thailand’s Anavat 2-1. But Akhil Kumar (60kg) lost a close battle against Philippine’s Charly Suarez.
In tennis, Indian women’s doubles team of Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare beat Mongolia’s Enkhbayar/Dulguunjargal 6-0, 6-0 to reach quarters. But Ankita Raina crashed out of women’s singles with a 2-6 6-4 1-6 defeat against Japan’s Eri Hozumi in the third round. In the singles, Sanam Singh beat Hyeon Chung of South Korea 7-5 6-1 and Yuki Bhambri beat Indonesia’s Christopher Benjamin 6-3, 6-3 to reach quarters. In men’s doubles, Sanam Singh/Saketh Myneni beat Alhaqbani/Ahmed of Saudi Arabia 6-0, 6-1 to make it to the quarterfinals but in mixed doubles Ankita Raina-Divij Sharan lost 4-6, 2-6 to Korea’s Mi Yoo- Yongkyu Lim in a second round match.
In other fixtures on Friday, India’s archers failed in individual events but there is still a chance for women’s team of Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Laxmirani to make it to semi-finals. In hockey, women’s team thrashed Malaysia 6-1 to qualify for the semi-finals; in Golf, Udayan Mane put himself in medal contention with a superb six-under 66 at the midway stage to be tied at the third spot. He is now just three shots behind South Korea’s 17-year-old boy Youm Eunho, who leads the field. Indian men put up a disappointing show in Volleyball losing to Iran in straight games but women’s team beat Maldives 3-0 to reach quarterfinals.