Indian hegemony continues

Golden quartet… (from left) Chabungbam Rameshori Devi, Konsam Suchitra Devi, Mahitha Mohan and V. Rejani with their medals after winning the women’s 30km road team trial.-AP Golden quartet… (from left) Chabungbam Rameshori Devi, Konsam Suchitra Devi, Mahitha Mohan and V. Rejani with their medals after winning the women’s 30km road team trial.

The first week of competitions at the South Asian Games was all about India’s might and the febrile challenge posed by its rivals. S. Sabanayakan reports from Dhaka.

India’s performance in the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka matched its reputation as the superpower of the region. It strode like a giant, brushing aside the challenge posed by its competitors including its neighbour on the North-Western border, Pakistan. By the end of the first week of competitions, the Games had an unmistakable resemblance to the past 10 editions where India had reigned supreme.

Dwarfed in the Olympics and playing not so significant a role in the Asian Games, India has had reasonable success in the Commonwealth Games. But nothing compares with the nation’s performance in the South Asian Games, which the Union Sports Minister, Dr. M.S. Gill, referred to as South Asia’s own ‘Olympics’.

India had a fantastic start to the Games, winning its first gold medal, in cycling, on the second day at Khulna, Bangladesh’s southern divisional headquarters. From thereon, it started to rain gold for India.

Pakistan’s Khurram Shahjad who won the gold in the 85kg class.-AP

The first week of the Games was significant for India’s clean sweep of gold medals in badminton. With the two National champions, B. Chetan Anand and Trupti Murgunde, spearheading the challenge at the Woodenfloor Gymnasium, India won the team championship gold medals, defeating Sri Lanka 3-0 in both the men’s and women’s finals. India also won the gold and silver medals in individual events for a final tally of seven golds and five silvers.

With each country allowed to field two players in each event, all the five finals were all-Indian affairs. Chetan Anand, the top seed, displayed his class and craft in subduing the young R. M. V. Guru Sai Dutt in the title round by two games to nil; Sayali Gokhale, seeded No. 1, won the women’s singles gold defeating Trupti, who retired after losing the first game.

The top-seeded men’s doubles pair, K. T. Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas, too had it easy in the final as Anand and V. Diju retired after losing the first game 21-19. Aparna Balan and Shruti Kurian, the top seeds, downed the second-seeded P. C. Thulasi and Ashwini Ponnappa for the women’s doubles gold. The mixed doubles crown went to the top-seeded pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Diju, who defeated second-seeded Aparna Balan and Thomas 2-0.

Sri Lanka won two silver and six bronze medals while Pakistan and Bangladesh won three bronze medals each. Nepal finished with two bronze medals. All the semifinalists were awarded bronze medals.

Gold for Sri Lanka

In cycling, Sri Lanka prevented an Indian sweep of gold medals on the final day of the four-day competition at Khulna by winning the 170km road race mass start for men. Rajender Bishnoi (India), Janaka Hernanth Gonagalage (Sri Lanka) and Nisar Ahmed (Pakistan) were tied with a time of 4:48.34s, but the Sri Lankan was adjudged the winner, followed by the Indian and the Pakistani.

The opening event, 30km road team time trial for women, saw the Indian quartet of Chabungbam Rameshori Devi, Konsam Suchitra Devi, Mahitha Mohan and V. Rejani clocking 44:22.15s to win the gold. Pakistan (Ayesha Amin, Misbah Mushta Ali, Rahila Banu and Sidra Sadaf) won the silver in 47:04.06s, while Sri Lanka (Lasanthi Krishna, Nilaka Shyamal, Nirushani Perera and Pushpa Rani) settled for the bronze in 47:07.08s.

Prabin Gonewale of India (centre) holds Pakistan’s Abdul Mukhatar in a kabaddi match. India’s dominance in kabaddi continued at the South Asian Games in Dhaka.-AP

The men’s foursome of Amandeep Singh, Harpreet Singh, Rajendra Bishnoi and Sabu Ganager, helped India win the 80km team time trial gold, clocking 1:44:11.81s. Pakistan (1:45:59.11s) took the silver and Bangladesh (1:46:44.11) the bronze.

Mahitha Mohan gave India its third gold in cycling, winning the women’s 50km road race mass start in 1:25.42s, ahead of Lasanthi Krishna Goonathilaka (Sri Lanka), who clocked 1:28.34s. India’s Rameshori Devi took the bronze in 1:28.35s.

Two Bangladeshi cyclists were disqualified — one for receiving assistance midway through the race from a local official who used his motorcycle to push the competitor’s cycle forward for quite a distance and the other for failing to take the mandatory U-turn.

India, Pak. to the fore

India and Pakistan stole the show in judo, winning five and three gold medals respectively. Of the six weight categories for men (the women’s section had two weight categories), India failed to win a medal in the 100kg and did not field a judoka in the 81kg. The gold medal winners for India were: Akram Shah (60kg), Balvinder Singh (73kg) and Vikram Solanki (90kg) in the men’s section, Ningthoujam Gomti Chanu (52kg) and Lourembam Brojeshori Devi (63kg) in the women’s category.

For Pakistan, the gold medal winners were Aiatulla (66kg), Tanveer Ahmed (81kg) and Zahid Iqbal (over 100kg). It also picked up three silvers and a bronze.

Making amends

Indian weightlifting was in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Having been fined heavily by the International Weightlifting Federation for doping related issues, India could take part in the South Asian Games only after its governing body had paid the first instalment of the fine.

Against this background, the six-member team, coached by Harnam Singh, did well by winning three gold, two silver and a bronze medal from the five weight categories it participated in.

India had two lifters — Rustam Sarang and Omkar Shekhar Otari — in the 62kg class and both of them won medals. Both the Indians and Muhammad Istiaq Ghafoor of Pakistan had identical lifts of 258 kg, but Otari was declared winner on lesser body weight. Ghafoor took the silver while Sarang the bronze.

India’s Mallisetty Srinivasa Rao and Pakistan’s Sajjad Amin Malik had a total lift of 327kg (150 snatch and 177 clean and jerk) each in the 105kg class, but the former won the gold on lesser body weight. Sandeep Kumar won the gold in over 105kg class with a total lift of 335kg.

Pakistan was the second best with a haul of two golds, three silvers and a bronze.

Indian spikers’ ninth title

India has an enviable record in SAG volleyball. Only twice has it lost the gold medal to its main rival Pakistan — in Islamabad in 1989 and Dhaka in 1993. (India’s coach G. E. Sreedharan said on the eve of the final against Pakistan, “India will remember the Dhaka defeat”.)

With the two teams squaring off once again in Dhaka, India defeated Pakistan 23-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-16 at the Shahid Soharawardy Indoor Stadium in Mirpur to win the gold.

Playing with its best possible combination, the defending champion did everything right after losing the first set where its blocking and receiving was below par. India was brilliant in the next set, vastly improving its play in all departments. Thereafter, it was India all the way as Pakistan had no answer to the champion’s firepower.

In the semifinals, India outplayed Maldives 25-21, 25-12, 25-14, while Pakistan got past Sri Lanka 26-24, 25-21, 25-19.

Sri Lanka took the bronze, defeating Maldives 25-15, 25-16, 25-18.

India unbeatable

Ever since kabaddi was introduced at the South Asian Games, India has been ruling the roost. So it was no surprise that the nation retained both the men’s and women’s titles with ease.

Five nations contested in the men’s section, while four teams vied for the top honours on the distaff side. The two sections were played in a single round-robin and expectedly India topped both with an all-win record.

In the final, where India met Pakistan for the second time in the tournament, the contest was even more one-sided with the final score reading 29-11 in favour of the former.

Indian women defeated Bangladesh 34-20 in the final to pocket the gold. Nepal and Bangladesh won the bronze medals in the men’s section, while Sri Lanka and Nepal settled for the bronze medals in the women’s category.