Vinesh Phogat expectedly delivered a historic wrestling gold, the shooters picked up momentum with a couple of silver medals and an unexpected podium finish was assured in Sepak Takraw on a fairly good day for India at the 18th Asian Games.
Adding to the cheer was the defending gold-medallist men’s hockey team’s 17-0 hammering of hosts Indonesia in its pool A lung-opener.
There were disappointments too with an Olympic-medallist, wrestler Sakshi Malik, finishing without a medal for the second day running, seven-time gold-winner men’s kabaddi team losing for the first time in its Games’ history and both the men’s and women’s badminton teams getting knocked out of medal hunt.
However, there was plenty to celebrate with Vinesh’s gold being the biggest reason of them all. It was India’s first gold since women’s wrestling was introduced in the Games in 2002 Busan edition.
The Haryana-grappler, who will turn 24 this Saturday, gave herself an early birthday present with a performance that was all style, brushing aside her rivals with remarkable ease in the 50kg category.
“I had targeted gold. I had 3-4 silvers at the Asian level and I was determined to win a gold today. My body responded well because I had trained well and God was also kind. So everything mixed up well for me today,” a teary-eyed Vinesh said after the triumph.
At the shooting ranges of Palembang, Deepak Kumar (10m air rifle) and Lakshay Sheoran (men’s trap) added the silver touch, while the men’s sepak takraw team created a flutter by advancing to the semifinals away from the spotlight.
It was a case of breakthrough medals for both Deepak and Lakshay, shooters with contrasting career paths.
The 33-year-old Deepak did not mind the long wait for a major medal, 14 years after he picked up the sport.
Lakshay, on the other hand, picked up the gun only four years ago as a teenager and at 20, is now a silver-medallist at the Asiad, equalling the feat achieved by former world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu at the 2006 Doha edition.
There was good news coming in for India in the rowing competition as well. Dushyant Chauhan and the Indian men’s quadruple sculls team finished first in their respective heats to reach the finals.
Dushyant, who won a bronze at the single sculls in the Incheon Games four years ago, clocked 7:43.08 to emerge the fastest in heat 1 and second overall.
The quartet of Sawarn Singh, Dattu Baban Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh qualified comfortably for the final, clocking 6:15.18 seconds. They finished the fastest overall.
On the tennis court, India’s singles specialists, including second seed Ramkumar Ramanathan and Ankita Raina, made smooth starts, also in Palembang. Joining them was Karman Kaur Thandi, who won comfortably to make the next round.
It was Jakarta which gave India the biggest moment of the day in Vinesh’s gold but it was also Jakarta where some major disappointments came for the country.
The biggest perhaps was Sakshi’s medal-less campaign, which ended with an embarrassing loss on Technical Superiority to North Korea’s Sim Jong Rim. The final scoreline read 2-12 and added another big-ticket disappointment to Sakshi’s CV after the bronze in a lacklustre Commonwealth Games field earlier this year.
Similar was the story of the star-studded badminton teams, both of which went out in the quarterfinal stage.
Olympic silver-medallist P V Sindhu and H S Prannoy shone bright but couldn’t get enough support from the rest as India lost in the women’s and men’s team events respectively.
After the women’s team went down 1-3 to top seeds Japan early in the day, the men’s team put up a spirited effort before losing 1-3 to hosts Indonesia, knocking them out of medal contention.
A shock loss to Korea gave the seemingly invincible kabaddi team a reality check but there medal hopes remain alive as it was a group A game.
India lost 23-24 to South Korea, who won the bronze medal at the Incheon Games four years ago, in a match that went down to the wire.
The Indian gymnastics contingent also ensured a disappointing day in office as they failed to qualify for the finals in the men’s team event, finishing ninth with a score of 229.950, 0.35 points behind Iran.
The men’s team comprised 2010 bronze-medallist Ashish Kumar, Rakesh Patra, Gaurav Kumar, Yogeswar Singh and Siddharth Verma.
At the Aquatics centre, India made the finals of the 4x200m finals but the quartet of Shrihari Natraj, Saurabh Sangvekar, Avinash Mani and Neel Roy ended 7th overall with a timing of 31.90sec.