Prasanta Karmakar, the para-swimmer-turned-cyclist, made a grand entry into the para-cycling sport by bagging two gold medals for the country at the Hero Asian Para-Cycling Championships at the Buddha International Circuit here today.
But there were more cheers for India in its maiden appearance in the para-cycling event as apart from Karmakar's twin gold, the hosts also bagged three silver and two bronze medals in the championship.
Karmakar, competing in MC 5 class of the Individual Time Trial, clocked 16:55.860s to outwit his compatriot Sachin Verma, who finished with a timing of 17:15.590s in the 10km event.
The duo then lined up again in the 40km Individual Road Race with Karmakar, India's most decorated para-swimmer, striking gold for the second time in the day, followed by his Verma.
While Karmakar finished with a timing of 1:13.31s, Verma clocked 1:14.31s to make it an all-India affair at the podium. Considering that the Indian para-cyclists were competing in the Asian championships for the first time, the seven-medal augurs well for the country.
"It was my first experience as a cyclist. I never expected to do so well as I practised for just 2 to 3 months coming into the Hero Asian Para Cycling Championship. All credit goes to Cycling Federation of India for giving me this opportunity as well as helping me out with the equipment," Karmakar said.
Verma, who also has nine international medals in para-swimming, did appreciate his rival's effort on the road. "He (Karmakar), indeed, proved a better cyclist. I couldn't handle the heat and windy conditions. But I am happy I could come close to his timing," said Verma, who hails from Jabalpur.
India made its first date with para-cycling all the more memorable when Aditya Mehta and Alok Mondal bagged two silver and two bronze medals respectively in MC 3 class in the road race category (10 kms and 40 kms).
In the 10 km road event, gold went to South Korean Yongsik Jin who clocked 13:51.847s. Hyderabad-based Mehta won the silver with a timing of 18:11.297s while the bronze went to Mondal (18:39.536s), who finished ahead of two more Indians — Dharmender Kumar and Chetan Upadhayay.
As for the para-cycling event here, the real contest was between the Koreans and Malaysians, but on MC 4 category, Filipino Arthus Bucay claimed the gold ahead of Malaysian Muhammad Jaib Turano who had to content with the silver medal.
Malaysia also won gold in MC 2 category, while it was Korea all the way in other events, including MC which, apart from the rider, has a pilot occupying the front seat of the cycle to guide the rider pedalling from behind.