On Day 12 of the Rio Olympics 2016 India finally ended its medal drought, with wrestler Sakshi Malik clinching the bronze in the women's 58kg category, after a gritty performance in the repechage round. Sakshi's historic medal gave India much to cheer about on a day that saw fellow wrestler Vinesh Phogat leave the field with a bad injury and Kidambi Srikanth lose to Lin Dan in the quarters.
Here's how India fared on day 12 of Rio Olympics 2016:
A diminutive 23-year-old girl from Mokhra village near Rohtak in Haryana touched the heights of a podium finish in Rio, as Sakshi Malik claimed the bronze medal in the women's freestyle wrestling 58kg category with a spirited comeback victory over Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan. She overturned a 0-5 deficit in a hectic second round to script an 8-5 victory in the medal bout.
Sakshi fought five bruising battles against equally determined opponents in a single day before securing the podium place. She had lost her quarterfinal bout but got a fresh lease of life when her Russian conqueror reached the final, allowing the Indian to compete in the repechage round.
She jumped on the mat with ear-to-ear smile before being hoisted by her coach Kuldeep Singh with the Indian tri-colour draped around her.
It was the fifth bronze in wrestling for India in its long Olympic history stretching back to 1952 Helsinki Games when Kashaba Jadhav became its first individual medallist. She is also the fourth female Olympic medallist from India, joining the ranks of weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari (2000, Sydney), boxer MC Mary Kom (2012, London) and shuttler Saina Nehwal (2012, London).
Sakshi also became the first female wrestler from India to climb the podium in the quadrennial sports spectacle – the other four medals being won by men with two of those claimed by Sushil Kumar in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London.
"Meri 12 saal ki tapasya rang layi (It's the fruit of my persistent hard work in the last 12 years). Geeta didi, my senior had qualified for the first time in London. I never thought I would become the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal in wrestling," Sakshi said with tears of joy.
Sakshi's bronze medal winning feat was like a balm, as it came after Vinesh Phogat was forced out of the 48kg competition due to an unfortunate knee injury suffered during her quarterfinal bout against Chinese rival Sun Yanan. Vinesh had to be stretchered off the arena and the MRI scan confirmed a knee ligament tear. In her earlier bout, she got her Rio campaign off to a rousing start by overpowering Romania's Emilia Alina Vuc 11-0 in the 1/8 round after getting a bye in her opening round.
The 21-year-old was leading 1-0 against the Chinese grappler at the time of her injury.
The match was immediately stopped to allow medical attention to Vinesh. After the Indian physio declared that Vinesh will not be able to continue, Sun, who was leading 2-1, was declared the winner by injury.
Vinesh, who got her injured knee wrapped and put in a brace, was taken away on a stretcher. She was then shifted to the Athletes Village where a clinic has all the facilities for medical test. However, she had to wait about an hour for the MRI, since the machines were busy with other athletes.
India's day began with the elimination of shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, who went down fighting against two-defending champion Lin Dan. Srikanth put up a gritty performance, winning the second game, but the the five-time world champion Dan edged World No 11 Srikanth 21-6, 11-21, 21-18 to enter the semi-finals for the third consecutive time.
In the first game, the pressure of the occasion and his towering opponent seemed to overcome Srikanth as he played a nervous game and the Chinese raced away to a 21-6 win. However, in the second game, Srikanth made a stunning comeback to start with a three-point lead then blazed to 21-11 victory. The Indian youngster elevated his own game and pushed 'Super Dan' into several errors to register a commanding win. In the third and decider game, the Chinese dominated the proceedings initially and showed his big-game mentality. The Indian fought hard to push Dan and even managed to come close, ultimately losing the decider by a close margin of 18-21.
After his quarter-final battle, Srikanth said he was happy with his performance but just could not manage to overcome Dan. "I was never unhappy with the way I was playing. I was always playing well. It's just that I couldn't win or finish the matches well, although at times I was actually dominating."
With this, PV Sindhu remains India's sole shuttler in the fray.
India's teen golfer Aditi Ashok fired a flawless three-under 68 to lie tied seventh after the opening round of the women's golf competition. The 18-year-old from Bangalore, who won the qualifying finals to earn a full card on the Ladies European Tour (LET), picked up three birdies at the 2nd, 10th and 14th holes and parred the rests to stay three strokes adrift of the leader. Aditi had represented India at the Asian Youth Games in 2013, Youth Olympic Games in 2014 and Asian Games in 2014.
In athletics, Tintu Luka ran a poorly judged 800m race and exited from the fray after finishing sixth in her first round heat in 2:00.58 which gave her the overall 29th place from 65 participants. A protege of track legend P T Usha, she holds the national record of 1:59.17 which she created in 2010. She led the field till around 600m before fading on the final stretch to end her second Olympics campaign in disappointment.
With inputs from agencies