SAG Swimming: Lankan Abeysinghe dents Indian pride

Of the eight gold medals on offer, India finished on top with four gold medals. Colombo-based collegian Matthew Abeysinghe, however, sprung a surprise as he capped a fine display with three gold medals.

India's Sandeep Sejwal wins the 200 metres Breaststroke event at the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Under-rated Sri Lankan swimmers handed down a surprise or two to their fancied Indian rivals on the opening day of the swimming competitions of the 12th South Asian Games at the Dr. Zakir Hussain pool here on Saturday.

Of the eight gold medals decided during the final session of the day, India finished on top with four gold medals, but the confidence expressed by the home team camp of winning all the titles on the eve of the meet stood shattered as Colombo-based collegian Matthew Abeysinghe capped off a fine display to finish the day with three top finishes, each with a new Games record.

The Lankan was on song in the men’s 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly before he superbly anchored his team to a brilliant win in the 400m freestyle relay, leaving the host swimmers in his wake. In the 200m freestyle, Abeysinghe was timed at 1:52.28 as he finished ahead of Saurabh Sangvekar (India) and Md. Mahfizur Rahman (Bangladesh) who came back in 1:53.03 and 1:56.19 respectively.

Abeysinghe's superiority was never in doubt as he took the 100m fly title over his fancied Indian rival Supriya Mondal in style. The Sri Lankan, taking the lead close to the turn of the first lap, was simply unstoppable as he charged back home in 55.42, even as Mondal was left to dig into his reserves to stop Cherantha de Silva from overtaking him.

In the 4x100m relay, the Indian quartet did its best to turn the tide but a last lap spurt by Abeysinghe provided Sri Lanka with a memorable win. The only solace for the home team in the section was Sandeep Sejwal’s record win in the 200m breaststroke, as he stroked to an easy win over Kiran Jaisinghe (Sri Lanka) and Md. Shariful Islam (Bangladesh), touching the wall in 2:20.66.

The Indian women’s team too were pushed to the hilt but somehow or the other they held back the Sri Lankan challenge spearheaded by Hiruni Perera and Ishani Senanayake. But still the Indians were denied a clean sweep of the four titles at stake with Harshitha Jayram and Kalyani Saxena being pushed out of the medals by Catherine Swan (Pakistan), Hasanthi Nugawela (Sri Lanka) and Romana Akter (Bangladesh) in that order in the 200m breaststroke final.

However, there were still moments to cheer as Shivani Kataria clocked a new Games record of 2:08.68 in the 200m freestyle and Damini Gowda pocketed the 100m fly title without much trouble at 1:04.92 before the 400m relay quartet anchored by Shivani staved off the challenge of the Sri Lankans to win the race in a record time of 4:01.95.

Results

Men: 200m freestyle: 1. Matthew Abeysinghe (SL), 1:52.28 – NGR; OR – 1:59.07, 2. Saurabh Sangvekar (Ind), 1:53.03, 3. Md. Mahfizur Rahman (Ban), 1:56.19.

200m breaststroke: 1. Sandeep Sejwal (Ind), 2:20.66 – NGR; OR – 2:21.03, 2. Kiran Jaisinghe (SL), 2:26.17, 3. Md. Shariful Islam (Ban), 2:26.99.

100m butterfly: 1. Matthew Abeysinghe (SL), 55.42s – NGR; OR – 1:00.00, 2. Supriya Mondal (Ind), 55.86s, 3. Cherantha de Silva (SL), 56.08.

4 x 100m freestyle relay: 1. Sri Lanka, 3:30.11 – NGR; OR – 3:37.41, 2. India, 3:30.78, 3. Bangladesh, 3:39.72.

Women: 200m freestyle: 1. Shivani Kataria ( Ind), 2:08.68 – NGR; OR – 2:12.13, 2. Machiko Raheem (SL), 2:09.02, 3. Ishani Senanayake (SL), 2:11.63.

200m breaststroke: 1. Catherine Swan (Pak), 2:48.85, 2. Hasanthi Nugawela (SL), 2:49.17, 3. Romana Akter (Ban), 2:49.60.

100m butterfly: 1. Damini Gowda (Ind), 1:04.92, 2. Hiruni Perera (SL), 1:06.89, 3. Machiko Raheem (SL), 1:07.24.

4 x 100m relay: 1. India, 4:01.95 – NGR; OR – 4:08.72, 2. Sri Lanka, 4:05.07, 3. Pakistan, 4:22.38.

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