Amit Panghal displayed a soldier’s grit to stun the reigning Olympic champion for India’s only boxing gold and two 50-plus bridge players proved that age is just a number with their top finishes as the country achieved its best ever medal haul at the Asian Games here.
India equalled its best gold medal haul by touching 15, something that last happened back in 1951, and the overall tally surpassed the 65 in Guangzhou by three this time.
Apart from the 15 gold, India picked up 24 silver and 30 bronze medals for a brilliant show that helped them finish inside top-10 at eighth for the third consecutive time.
Starting the day at 13 gold, Armyman Amit was up against quite a few odds as he took on reigning Olympic and Asian champion Hasanboy Dusmatov, the man he narrowly lost to in the world championships quarterfinal almost a year ago.
Read: Amit outwits Olympic champ to claim India’s only boxing gold at 18th Asiad
The day ended with the men’s hockey team redeeming itself to an extent by beating arch-rivals Pakistan 2-1 to walk away with a consolation bronze medal.
But the gutsy 22-year-old, the only Indian to make the boxing finals, prevailed 3-2 as India ended its boxing campaign at the Games with a gold and a bronze, which was won by Vikas Krishan in the middle-weight category.
Amit showed immense tactical brilliance, especially in defence to outmanoeuvre the Uzbek, who has an iconic status in international boxing.
“I had lost to him before, so I had to take revenge. Coach Santiago (Nieva) and other coaches had prepared me well. In the semifinal, I did not play the first round well, here I did not repeat that mistake,” Amit said after the bout.
Today’s win marks the highest point of Amit’s meteoric rise to the top, starting with an Asian Championships bronze last year.
Then came two men, who would be nearing retirement in any contemporary job, but made their Asian Games debut in a debut sport.
Two old friends -- Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath Sarkar -- quietly added a gold to India’s tally as the focus remained on traditional sports.
Also Read: 'Bridge is a game based on logic' - Pranab Bardhan
Bardhan, at the age of 60, became the oldest man in Indian contingent to win a medal at the Games as he and his 56-year old partner finished the men’s pair event with a score of 384.
They edged out China’s Lixin Yang and Gang Chen, who finished with 378 points after five rounds of the competition.
“I could not sleep last night and ate only fruit in breakfast. It’s tough, the blood circulation shoots up with tension, we beat China and Singapore, it’s great result for us,” said an elated Sarkar, who taught bride to students at Jadavpur University, said.
Bardhan, who had a construction business, said, “Bridge is more challenging chess. It’s the most competitive indoor game.”
India finished third overall with one gold and two bronze medals. India had won a bronze each in men’s team and the mixed team events.
There were big surprises in shooting and wrestling, with women bringing gold for the first time, and in rowing too.
Read: India women’s squash team settles for second straight silver
The squash players, who had shocked powerhouse Malaysia in semifinals, though were stopped in their tracks by Hong Kong in the women’s team final and they had to settle for a silver.
Sunayna Kuruvilla and India number one Joshna Chinappa lost their respective singles as the team suffered its second defeat against Hong Kong in a space of three days.
A silver was a creditable performance nonetheless, having surprised defending champions Malaysia in the semifinals on Friday. With a runners-up finish, India equalled their best ever performance at the Games. They had also reached the final at Incheon four years ago.
The Indian contingent ended with five medals overall including the women’s team silver, the men’s team bronze and three bronze medals in the individual event.
The Indian men’s hockey team maintained its recent domination over arch-rivals Pakistan with a 2-1 win, ensuring a consolatory bronze medal after a below-par performance in the tournament.
Akashdeep Singh scored a brilliant field goal in the third minute while Harmanpreet extended India’s advantage in the 50th minute off a penalty corner before Muhammad Atiq increased the heart rate of the fans with a strike in the 52nd minute. In the end, India managed to hold on to the lead.
World number five India, who came into the tournament as defending champions, lost to Malaysia in the semifinals.
They go back home with a bronze, having beaten 13th ranked Pakistan for the second time in the last three months. India had beaten Pakistan 4-0 in the Champions Trophy in June.
To add to the joy, India went past its best-ever medal show at the Asiad here on Saturday. It finished with a total of 69 medals – 15 golds, 24 silvers and 30 bronzes - bettering the 65 it had collected at the 2010 edition in Guangzhou, China.
However, when it came to the gold count, it was equal to the total won in the Asiad’s inaugural edition in New Delhi in 1951. China is currently on top of the table with 287 medals, including 131 golds.
(With inputs from PTI)
Latest on Sportstar
- French Open 2023 Highlights: Swiatek beats Haddad Maia, Muchova upsets Sabalenka to set up summit clash
- French Open 2023: Swiatek beats Haddad Maia, faces Muchova in final
- WTC Final - IND v AUS Day 2: Advantage Australia as India fights to avoid follow-on, top order fails
- IND vs AUS, WTC Final: Australia on top after India’s top-order collapse on Day 2
- WTC Final, IND vs AUS: Smith’s mantra to success- “Stay in the moment”