Memorable in many ways

Gold after 28 years... Members of the Indian men’s hockey team celebrate after defeating arch-rival Pakistan in the final of the Asian Games in Incheon.-AP

The hockey gold in the Asian Games was won after 1998, at the expense of Pakistan, while five-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom accounted for the country’s first gold in women’s boxing in the Asian Games. Kamesh Srinivasan on India’s showing in Incheon and Glasgow.

For the strong emotional attachment that Indian sports fans have for hockey and the superstar boxer Mary Kom, the gold medals for both in the Incheon Asian Games, compensated for all that was missed during the year!

The hockey gold in the Asian Games was won after 1998, at the expense of Pakistan, which had earlier won the league encounter between the two teams. Five-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Mary Kom accounted for the country’s first gold in women’s boxing in the Asian Games.

Incidentally, Indian men who had won two boxing gold medals in the last Asian Games were not able to win much except for two bronze medals in Korea. After the washout in the London Olympics, it was another big blow for Indian boxing, particularly after the four — Mandeep Jangra, Vijender Singh, Laishram Sarita Devi and Devendro Singh — had won just the silver medals in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There was a lot of anguish for India in the ring as Sarita Devi was denied a chance to make the final in the women’s lightweight section in the Asian Games. An unpleasant drama, as a weeping Sarita refused to accept the bronze medal during the ceremony, led to disciplinary action against her.

After the low of the London Olympics, when the team finished at the bottom among 12 teams, Indian hockey had done well to reach the final of the Commonwealth Games. It managed to keep Australia under check in sliding to a 0-4 defeat, half the margin from the last edition at home in Delhi! The Indian women’s hockey team grabbed the bronze in Korea to make it memorable.

Mary Kom holds the Indian Tricolour after clinching the country's first-ever gold in women's boxing in the Asian Games.-PTI

Yogeshwar Dutt’s gold in wrestling was achieved after a gap of 28 years in the Asian Games. Yogeshwar, double Olympic medallist and World champion Sushil Kumar, the young Amit Kumar and women wrestlers Vinesh and Babita Kumari won gold medals in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Squash star Saurav Ghosal, who had missed match-points in the singles final in the Asian Games, converted his chances the second time around and piloted the men’s team to a rare gold along with Harinder Pal Sandhu, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Kush Kumar. Women stars Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal continued their good work after winning the women’s doubles gold in Glasgow, by clinching the team silver medal in Korea, along with Anaka Alankamony and Aparajitha Balamurugan. Dipika did a fabulous job of winning the singles bronze as well in the Asian Games.

The men’s compound archery team of Rajat Chauhan, Sandeep Kumar and Abhishek Verma asserted themselves as the Asian champions, to add to the precious gold collection for India. The compound team also won a silver and two bronze medals that stood in stark contrast to the fact that the much renowned recurve archers had failed to win a single medal.

India won less number of gold medals in the Asian Games than they did last time in Guangzhou, but the distribution of medals strengthened the belief that there was overall growth. Indian athletics had only two gold medals to show, through discus thrower Seema Punia and the women’s 400-metre relay squad of Tintu Luka, Priyanka Pawar, Mandeep Kaur and M. R. Poovamma. However, Vikas Gowda, Tintu Luka, Khushbir Kaur and Manju Bala did get the silver to make it special.

Seema had won the Commonwealth Games silver earlier. Her effort, along with Arpinder Singh’s bronze in triple jump, gave a healthy picture of Indian athletics in Scotland.

The two kabaddi gold medals were added to the Asian Games collection, but the men had to go through many anxious moments before beating Iran in the final.

Jitu Rai... Asian champion in the men's 50m pistol shooting event.-PTI

A pioneer in the Asian Games since 2002, Sania Mirza powered through to the mixed doubles gold with Saketh Myneni, even as the latter pocketed the men’s doubles silver with Sanam Singh. The Youth Olympics silver medallist and former world No. 1 junior, Yuki Bhambri, won bronze medals in singles and doubles (in partnership with Divij Sharan). Sania also helped Prarthana Thombare to the doubles bronze, a first for Indian women’s tennis in the Asian Games. Overall, it was a healthy haul for the squad that was without leading players such as Somdev Devvarman, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna.

What stood out among the performances of the Indian sportspersons was the nonchalance with which pistol shooter Jitu Rai won the gold in the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.

In a season in which he had made everyone to take note of him by winning three medals, a gold and two silver, in the space of nine days in the World Cups, apart from winning the World Championship silver in free pistol behind World and Olympic champion Jin Jongoh of Korea, the 27-year-old Jitu capped the season with a strong finish.

Befittingly, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, presented the medal to Jitu Rai in Incheon, for he was a diamond among the gold!

The magnitude of the achievement was evident from the fact that Jitu Rai was only the second Indian pistol shooter after Jaspal Rana to win the Asian Games gold. He also joined Randhir Singh and Ronjan Sodhi as the only Indian shooters to win individual gold medals in the Asian Games.

The men’s centre fire pistol team of Gurpreet Singh, Vijay Kumar and Pemba Tamang clinched the silver, while seven others, including Abhinav Bindra, Chain Singh and Shweta Chaudhary, managed to pick the bronze medals for India in the Asian Games.

Even in the Commonwealth Games, where the reduction in events and the elimination of ‘pairs’ competition cost India a lot of medals, it was Jitu Rai’s gold, along with Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra’s first individual gold in five attempts that had shined bright for Indian shooting. Apurvi Chandela and Rahi Sarnobat were also first time individual gold medallists in the Commonwealth Games, while nine silver medals revealed the close call that many others had.

Vikas Gowda winning the Commonwealth Games gold in men’s discus was on expected lines as the 31-year-old U.S. based athlete has been proving his class over the years on the big stage. It was only the second athletics gold for India after Milkha Singh’s effort in 1958.

Parupalli Kashyap emulated Prakash Padukone (1978) and Syed Modi (1982) in winning the men’s singles gold in badminton in Glasgow. Two-time World Championship bronze medallist P. V. Sindhu won the individual bronze in the Commonwealth Games and the team bronze in the Asian Games. Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal found the individual medals in the multi-discipline Games quite elusive.

Sathish Kumar Sivalingam won the 77 kg gold in weightlifting ahead of compatriot Ravi Kumar in the Commonwealth Games, with a meet record to boot. Sanjith Khumukcham and Sukhen Dey also added to India’s gold collection. In table tennis, A. Amalraj and Sharath Kamal got the silver in men’s doubles to salvage some pride for the Indian camp in Glasgow.

There were a few rare medals like Dipa Karmakar’s vault bronze in gymnastics in Glasgow and Sandeep Sejwal’s breaststroke bronze in swimming in the Asian Games, or for that matter the bronze medal in sailing in the 29er class by Varsha Gautham and Aishwarya Nedunchezhiyan in Korea, which highlighted the perseverance of these athletes to strive against all odds.