Dutt’s the hero

FEELING VERY BUOYANT. Sandeep Sejwal of India, who won the bronze medal in the men's 50m breaststroke event.-PTI

The Indian coaches, finally, seem to find the key to make the wrestlers click — at least in Yogeshwar Dutt’s case. It was a key that had been missing for the last 28 years when the nation went without a gold medal in wrestling in the Asian Games. By Stan Rayan.

September 28: No gold medal for India for almost a week and now, there are three in two days with wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt winning the nation’s fourth gold of the Games.

The Indian coaches, finally, seem to find the key to make the wrestlers click — at least in Yogeshwar’s case. It was a key that had been missing for the last 28 years when the nation went without a gold medal in wrestling in the Asian Games.

The Diary learns that Yogeshwar’s right calf muscle was hurting after his semifinal bout and that he was a bit worried about it since there were just about a couple of hours left for the final. However, coaches Vinod Kumar and Anoop Kumar brought up a strange topic to distract him from the pain. They spoke to the Olympic bronze medal winner about the Kargil war and how the Indian soldiers, despite being aware that they could fall to bullets, went on. “You must forget the pain and win the gold for the country,” they told him.

Yogeshwar does just that and grabs the gold. He is a treat to watch when on a roll.

Suddenly, India, so far in the 17th spot in the medals table, rises to ninth with four gold, five silver and a clutch of bronze medals. The Diary is happy; so are all the Indians.

Khushbir Kaur has always impressed the Diary. She is young and pretty, but put her on the road and it will be tough for anyone to catch up with her.

Almost every time Khushbir, a footballer turned walker, races, there is news. Today, she becomes the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in walking at the Asian Games. The Diary salutes the tough girl.

September 27: Where should the Diary go? Should it go to archery, where India has a chance of winning a historic gold, or should it make it to squash, where the Indian men and women are playing Malaysia in the hope of winning gold medals, which would be the nation’s first in the Asian Games? That is the big confusion.

Finally, the Diary decides to go to both places and then to the athletics venue.

The Diary’s trip to the Gyeyang Centre proves to be a rewarding experience, as the Indian compound archery team (Rajat Chauhan, Sandeep Kumar and Abhishek Verma) strikes gold after leading through all the four sets. Surprisingly, the Koreans — the best in the World and Olympic champions in recurve archery — wobble on the homestretch. One of the Koreans even scores a poor seven that hands India a huge advantage.

Rajat Chauhan tells the Diary that the Indian team is indeed the Asian champion in compound archery and it beat Korea in the final in Taipei.

That ends the dry seven days without a gold medal for India, which had won its first yellow on the opening day of the competitions, thanks to shooter Jitu Rai.

The Diary then rushes to the Yeorumul Stadium and is just in time for the final women’s singles match of the Malaysia versus India final. Malaysia, which has World No. 1 and Asian Games singles champion Nicol David in its ranks, is the hot favourite. Though India’s Anaka Alankamony and Dipika Palikkal try their best, it is no good against their strong rival.

In the men’s team championship final, India, surprisingly, starts as favourite. Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu gives India a good start and a little later, Saurav Ghosal, the silver medal winner in the singles, goes through a lot of agony before pulling it off against Beng Ong Hee.

Suddenly, India climbs a few rungs in the medals table, and is just outside the top ten, behind Malaysia.

There is a lot of drama at the athletics venue, the Asian Games Main Stadium. The Diary is quick to spot Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, the fastest Asian in the world this year. Femi promises to run the men’s 100m under 10 seconds.

So will he break his compatriot Samuel Francis’ Asian record of 9.98s?

“That’s my goal. I think I can,” says Femi.

September 26: With the World and Olympic champions in the fray, Indian swimmers rarely make a splash in the Asian Games. Since 1951, only Khazan Singh (silver; 200m butterfly; 1986) and Virdhawal Khade (bronze; 50m butterfly; 2010) have won medals in swimming at the Asian Games.

Sandeep Sejwal, coached by Nihar Ameen in Bangalore, joins the list by winning the bronze medal in the 50m breaststroke event.

September 25: It is turning out to be a dry day for India in Incheon. But wait a minute, what’s that the Diary hears?

Sawarn Singh wins the bronze in the men’s singles sculls event at a venue that is more than 100 kms from Incheon. Thankfully, M. V. Sriram, the Chennai-based Rowing Federation of India Secretary, comes on the phone. And the Diary gets to speak to Sawarn and hear his story of how he overcame a painful back to win the medal.

If only the other federation officials had been as helpful…

Getting in touch with coaches and federation officials is a problem. One hears that many of them are not keen to buy a local sim — it costs $50 — because of the cost involved.

Sadly, that is how Indian sport operates.