90 golds come India’s way

Madhurika Patkar, the table tennis star, emerged as the third sportsperson to win four gold medals and the first such outside shooting. She won the women’s singles, doubles, mixed and team gold medals to emerge the toast of the Games.-

India had a rich haul of 175 medals in the recent SAG in Dhaka and maintained its reputation as the leading sports nation in the region. Over to S. Sabanayakan.

India strode like a colossus at the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka, making the 12-day, 23-discipline Games its own. Sweeping almost everything in sight, India finished with a mighty haul of 90 gold, 50 silver and 30 bronze medals for a total of 175. India’s reign has continued since the first Games in 1984.

There were many moments of joy, a few moments of disappointment, too. With the preparation for the Commonwealth Games in full swing, almost all those who represented India at the Games came from such camps and it showed in their performance.

India’s hegemony in international hockey having ended long ago, the followers of the game looked forward to the team’s triumph at least in these Games. And what a disappointment it was when India lost the most sought after gold medal to its chief rival Pakistan 4-3 in the tie-breaker after a 1-1 draw during regulation and extra-time play. The 5-1 triumph in the league stage and total control in the first half of the final had given a clear signal of India’s domination. But then the team lacked killer-instinct at the crucial moment.

The Indian football team’s elimination in the semi-final stage to host Bangladesh also hurt. True, India had fielded mostly under-19 boys, but the team’s inability to stitch together even a few moves of three to four touches during the 0-1 loss was incomprehensible. That too after eliminating defending champion Pakistan 5-1 in the league stage! Even the bronze medal eluded India when Maldives handed it a 1-3 defeat in the tie-breaker. That the Indian women brought home the gold medal, outplaying Nepal 3-1 in the final was some consolation for the nation.

India’s 31-37 loss to Pakistan in the handball final was shattering indeed. Going down to Pakistan was a National shame, but then losing to a team which had no experience of playing on a synthetic court was perplexing. That India beat its arch- rival in the group league but failed to produce the winning formula in the final gave a clear hint of the health of the sport in the country. Players who are over the hill, self-promoting officials at the helm for decades and lack of planning at the grass-root level were some of the ills that contributed to the downfall in this discipline.

The Indian cagers losing to Afghanistan twice in the competition was mystifying indeed. The 64-65 defeat, albeit by the narrowest of margins, showed India’s inability to go past a determined opponent. After levelling the score at 58, the Indian hoopsters failed to match the Afghans in technique and tactics. That the Afghans, whose sport was in a shambles owing to years of war, could come up with such a performance should force India to rearrange its priorities.

Gagan Ullalmath (middle) emerged winner in the 400m freestyle swimming event. Mandar Divase (left) took the silver and Israr Hussain (right) the bronze.-

Popular disciplines like swimming and athletics brought medals in a heap for India. Devoid of big names, India’s performance in track and field was encouraging, but there was nothing much to shout about. India picked up 10 golds and Sri Lanka almost matched it with eight. Four went to Pakistan, while Nepal took the marathon gold.

The loss of the sprint gold medals was the most disappointing aspect for India. Sri Lanka’s Shehan Abeypitiyage and Pakistan’s Naseem Hamid emerged the fastest athletes of the Games. Interestingly, Naseem became the first woman track star from Pakistan to win a gold medal. Long jumper Shabana Akhtar (Dhaka-1993) and high jumper Rehana Kausar (Kathmandu-1999) were the only other athletes to win for Pakistan.

Bibin Mathew became the first Indian to break the Sri Lankan monopoly in men’s 400m. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi, who won the 200m in a personal best time, was denied the sprint double by Abeypitiyage. There were a couple of more achievements for the Indians. Mohammad Ibrar won his first international gold medal in long jump and T. Balamurugan, a winner in the first South Asian junior meet in Colombo in 2007, took the 400m hurdles gold.

Chaminda Wijekoon became the first Sri Lankan to win the metric mile and discus thrower Basharat Ali spiked the Indian domination by successfully defending his title.

Significantly, G. Gayathry (100m hurdles) and the 4 x 400m relay team denied Sri Lanka a complete sweep of the gold medals in the women’s side. Only Sri Lankan high jumper Priyangika Madumanthi came close to breaking a meet mark, equalling Sangeetha Mohan’s Islamabad (2004) mark of 1.81m.

In a bizarre happening, Rajendra Bahadur Bhandari of Nepal was adjudged the winner of the marathon after it was found that the course was almost seven metres short! Bhandari, a double gold medallist at Colombo in 2006, had tested positive for drug abuse then and had been stripped of his medals. He was reinstated only recently! Ajith Bandara Adikari of Sri Lanka was second and Ram Singh of India third. The event’s time was withheld and the matter referred to the Asian and the International federations.

Sri Lanka's Shehan Abeypitiyage and Pakistan's Naseem Hamid emerged the fastest athletes of the Games. Interestingly, Naseem became the first woman track star from Pakistan to win a gold medal.-

Indian swimmers produced 11 Games records in winning 16 gold medals out of 19 events. Sri Lanka picked up the remaining three medals. Virdhawal Khade became the first swimmer to win a triple crown (50 free, 50 fly and medley relay), all in record time. Sandeep Sejwal (100 and 200 breaststroke), Arjun Jayaprakash (50 breaststroke and medley relay), Rehan Poncha (200 IM and medley relay), Aaron D’Souza (100 free and medley relay), Shubha Chittaranjan (50 free and 50 fly) and Sri Lanka’s Mineka Karunarathne (50 and 100 backstroke) were the other six to win a double crown each.

India came out of the shooting range with a rich haul of 19 gold, nine silver and five bronze medals. There were 22 events in all. The icing on the cake was the National record-breaking performance by Surendra Singh Rathod in the 50m rifle three position. He also improved the Games record. Rathod and compatriot Om Prakash had the distinction of winning four gold medals each.

In winning the 10m air rifle individual gold medal, India’s Imran Hasan Khan produced a new Games record. Bangladesh’s Asif Hossain Khan established another Games record in the team event.

There were two records in the women’s section with Sharmin Akhter Ratna getting one in the team championship of the 10m air rifle event and India’s Sonia Rai producing the second in the 25m pistol team event.

India grabbed all the gold and silver medals in table tennis, winning five individual and two team events. India essentially fielded up and coming players. The two experienced ones were Soumyadeep Roy and National champion K. Shamini.

The best part was Madhurika Patkar emerging as the third sportsperson to win four gold medals and the first such outside shooting. She won the women’s singles, doubles, mixed and team gold medals to emerge the toast of the Games.

It was a 100 per cent record in the boxing competition for India. Its three pugilists — Amandeep Singh (light-fly), Suronjoy Singh (fly) and Chhote Lal Yadav (feather) — won gold medals with ease.

Virdhawal Khade became the first swimmer to win a triple crown (50 free, 50 fly and medley relay), all in record time.-

Amandeep defeated Mohammad Aref of Afghanistan; Suronjoy outboxed Muhammad Wassem of Pakistan and Chhote Lal outclassed Faysal Mollah of Bangladesh.

Tarundeep Rai and Dola Banerjee won individual gold medals in the archery competition. It was Rai’s maiden title, while Dola defended the crown she won at Colombo. The two team gold medals went India’s way. In the only reverse, India’s top archer Jayanta Talukdar lost in the semifinals to a local lad and had to settle for a bronze medal.

Indian golfers disappointed by taking the team silver, while host Bangladesh swept the top three medals in the individual event and won the team gold too.

India played second fiddle to Pakistan in the squash event. It took the team silver and both the bronze medals in the individual category. Pakistan won the team and individual gold and individual silver.

India was bestowed the honour of hosting the 12th Games in 2012. IOA President Suresh Kalmadi and Secretary General Randhir Singh received the Games flag and torch from the Bangladesh Olympic Association President, Gen. Abdul Mubeen.

If the Games had a spectacular Opening Ceremony, the Closing Ceremony, to send off the mascot Kutumb, sportspersons and officials of the eight participating countries was enthralling. But for some technical hitches because of inexperience, the Games showcased Bangladesh’s emerging status in this region as a sporting nation.