India at Tokyo Olympics, Week 2: When Aditi Ashok missed a medal by a whisker

Aditi Ashok, ranked 200th in the world, gained immense respect from the golfing world during the course of her journey to the fourth spot.

Aditi Ashok of India makes a putt on the 16th hole during the final round of the women's golf event at the 2020 Summer Olympics.   -  AP

Golf was among at least 10 of the 18 events where Indians were expected to be among the also-rans. But for Aditi Ashok’s brilliant play, marked by amazing consistency, the performances would have matched the expectations.

If Anirban Lahiri (tied 42nd) and Udayan Mane (56th) in the 60-player field hardly made their presence felt, Diksha Dagar got a taste of top-flight golf by finishing 56th, after being a last-minute inclusion in the women’s field of 60 players.

READ: Aditi: I'm happy I could play a part in helping golf grow in India

Aditi, ranked 200th in the world, gained immense respect from the golfing world during the course of her journey to the fourth spot. She missed the medal by a whisker but received tremendous praise for her efforts over four days.

For the record, American golfers won both gold medals. Xander Schauffele took the men’s gold followed by Rory Sabatini (Slovakia) and Pan Cheng-Tsung (Chinese Taipie). In the women’s section, Nelly Korda justified her reputation of being the World No. 1. Home favourite Mone Inami took the silver ahead of former World No. 1 New Zealand’s Lydia Ko.

Aditi gave a stellar performance, returning cards of 67, 66, 68, 68 on the par-71 Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Best of Tokyo 2020: Aditi gets India to wake up and learn golf

With the advantage of hindsight, it could be said that given the journey between course and the Games Village that could be covered in around 90 minutes, it would have been a good idea to allow the players to stay at hotels within walking distance of the course.

If Anirban was looking to improve upon his Rio showing with good friend and PGTI regular S. Chikkarangappa being his caddie, Aditi had her mother on the bag during the second Olympic campaign.

As it turned out, only Aditi’s performance — in second place after being two shots ahead of the third-placed quartet — kindled hopes of an unexpected medal for the Indian followers.

Aditi stayed in the hunt till the start of the 17th hole on the final day. Thereafter, World No. 11 Lydia Ko unleashed a terrific shot from the 17th tee to break away from Aditi. Two narrowly-missed birdie-putts pushed Aditi out of contention for a medal. Aditi, not a long-driver, displayed some superb skills on and around the green. Her short game caught the eye of the experts. The way she read the lines of her putts on the green made one of the commentators hail her “super natural abilities”.

Unlike in Rio, Aditi made a nation turn to golf, for a change.

— Rakesh Rao

Boxing

Satish Kumar of India in action against Ricardo Brown of Jamaica at the Tokyo Olympics.   -  REUTERS

 

Amid Lovlina Borgohain’s success and other bigger names’ failures, Satish Kumar, the first Indian super heavyweight boxer to qualify for the Olympics, gave a heartwarming performance in the Tokyo Games.

After ensuring a podium finish by reaching the semifinals of the women’s 69kg, Lovlina lost 5-0 to World champion and eventual gold medallist Busenaz Surmeneli of Turkey and took the bronze medal.

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Satish, a lesser-known name among the +91kg boxers, began his campaign on a brighter note as he beat Pan American bronze medallist Canada-based Jamaican Ricardo Brown 4-1 to reach the quarterfinals.

READ: World Boxing Council announces formation of India Committee

Satish, despite getting medical attention for a cut above his left eye, boxed with determination and suffered some pain due to the giant Jamaican’s head-butting.

In the semifinal fight, Satish — an Asian championships, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games medallist — made light of his injuries and fought bravely before losing to World champion and top seed Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan 5-0.

The towering Jalolov, the eventual Olympic champion, acknowledged Satish’s valiant effort inside the ring. The Indian left the ring with a big smile despite the pain and defeat.

— Y. B. Sarangi

Equestrian

Fouaad Mirza of Team India riding Seigneur competes during the Eventing Jumping Team Final and Individual Qualifier at the Tokyo Olympic Games.   -  Getty Images

 

Fouaad Mirza entered the Olympics with two Asian Games silver medals to his credit. Alongside him was the horse that partnered him for those two podium finishes in Jakarta — Seigneur Medicott. However, expectations on the rider from Bengaluru weren’t as high as his credentials demand, owing to how niche equestrian is as a sport in India. Mirza is only the third Indian to make it to the Olympics in the sport (Indrajit Lamba in the 1996 Atlanta Games and Imtiaz Anees in the 2000 Sydney Olympics were the others). Despite that, the 29-year-old made an impact in a 62-rider field, finishing 23rd overall in the individual eventing category.

READ: Fouaad and Mickey in Tokyo: A man, his horse and their work behind the scenes for Olympics

Eventing is the triathlon equivalent in equestrian sports and includes dressage, cross country and show jumping. Riders are marked according to the penalties (errors) they make and so lower the penalty points, better the pair is ranked. Mirza and Medicott put on an impressive show in dressage, finishing ninth (28 penalty points) in a roster which included the likes of Olympic medallists Andrew Hoy, Sandra Auffarth (also Mirza’s coach) and world number one Oliver Townend among others. A technical fault at the start of the cross-country course caused Mirza to finish the course in eight minutes instead of the allowed seven minutes and 45 seconds, taking his total to 39.20 points. This pushed him down to 22nd place. In the show jumping stage, Mirza and Medicott incurred just 8.00 penalty points, taking their total to 47.20 and finishing 25th — securing a place in the medal round. His total meant he was out of contention for a podium finish but he bettered his position to finish 23rd.

This placing does not truly reflect the quality of this pair’s performance. The cross-country score undid the good work otherwise managed by them in this discipline. Given that they did not have any course penalties through the run and were penalised for exceeding the time, a timed finish would have placed Mirza higher and perhaps even given the tournament favourites a run for their money. Medicott was impressive in dressage, barely showing signs of strain, was smooth over the obstacles and at home all through the course.

Promising things lie ahead for the Mirza camp, with their sights now set on making a mark at the World Equestrian Games and qualifying for the Asian Games.

— Lavanya Lakshmi Narayanan