Day nine of the Rio Olympics 2016 was probably the most dismal one for India so far, with as many as four strong medal contenders being ousted from contention. London bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal and the men's hockey team were knocked out, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost their bronze medal match and Dipa Karmakar narrowly missed the bronze by finishing fourth in the women's vault event. However, badminton singles players PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth notched up wins to stay alive in the competition.
Here's how all the Indians in action fared on day nine:
Dipa Karmakar may have missed out on a historic medal in the women's vault by a whisker, but she created history for India with a creditable fourth place finish in the final, becoming the country's most successful gymnast.
Dipa averaged 15.066 points, scoring a total of 14.8661 points with her first attempt, which included 6.000 points for difficulty and 8.866 for execution.
The Tripura gymnast then attempted her renowned Produnova vault in her second attempt. Her run up and the spins in the air were perfect, but the landing saw her falter a bit, which ultimately proved to be costly. The judges awarded Dipa 7.000 points for difficulty and 8.266 for execution and the second attempt total of 15.266 saw her finish with an average of 15.066.
Dipa was at the second spot at that stage behind the then leader Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland. But she was pushed to the third spot, after Maria Paseka's attempt which saw the Russian score 15.266 and 15.241 with her first and second attempts respectively.
The 23-year-old Indian gymnast soon dropped to the fourth position, after Simone Biles brilliant gold-winning attempt, and agonisingly missed out on a medal by a 0.15 point margin.
Despite being disappointed at missing out on the medal, Dipa asserted that she was determined to train harder and do better at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. "I am happy to have come fourth. Next time when I come to Olympics, I will do better. Those who won in Vault ahead of me were better athletes," she said.
Simone Biles of the US won the gold with an average of 15.966, while Maria Paseka (15.253) of Russia and Switzerland's Giulia Steingrubber (15.216) took home the silver and bronze medals respectively.
The men's hockey team, which had qualified for the knock-out phase of the Olympics hockey event after 36 years, were ousted from the competition by Belgium after a lacklustre 3-1 defeat, despite having a one-goal lead at the start.
Striker Sebastian Dockeier struck twice for Belgium, putting an end to Indians' hopes of making it to the men's hockey semi-finals for the first time since 1980. India, who last won an Olympic medal – a gold – at the 1980 Moscow Games, faced an aggressive Belgium side that scored thrice after conceding a goal against the run of play in the 15th minute.
Akashdeep Singh deflected from a close angle but Belgium hit back as Dockier equalised in the 34th minute. Dockier gave Belgium the lead in the 45th minute and Tom Boon scored a field goal in the 50th minute to make it 3-1 – the scoreline remained that way till the end.
It was a game that saw Belgium pressed higher from the push-back, peppering Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who even though put up a stunning display, was not able to do enough.
Both the teams went after each other aggressively and Belgium's quick and attacking play kept the Indians guarded. However, the Belgian midfield, led by captain John-John Dohmen proved to be the difference, and they kept marching ahead to the Indian circle.
Belgium, on the other hand, scripted history as they progressed to the semi-finals of the Olympics after a gap of 96 years. They will face either reigning world champions Australia or last edition's runners-up, the Netherlands, in the semi-final.
India's strongest chance of a podium finish at the Rio Olympics were dashed when mixed doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost in straight sets to Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the play-off for the mixed doubles bronze medal.
The Indian pair went down 1-6, 5-7 in an hour and 11 minutes long match. They were broken in their very first service game as the Czech pair utilised their first break point to take a 2-0 lead in the first set. Lucie-Stepanek then consolidated their position, holding their serve, to improve to 3-0 in a hard-fought game. The Indians were totally outplayed in the first set, as they found it difficult to cope up with the Czech attack, getting broken twice to surrender it 1-6 in 27 minutes.
The second set saw a much better showing as they were tied at 5-5 as the set headed for a tight finish. The Indians saved two break points but were ultimately broken, to concede a 5-6 lead. Lucie served for the match and claimed the contest in the first match point itself.
"It's really hard (the loss). I don't know if I will be playing tennis in four years," an emotional Sania said after the loss. "Unfortunately we were not able to produce our best today," she said adding that as athletes "we have to get over losses and try to bounce back."
Another huge blow for India's medal hopes was the shock defeat of London 2012 bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal. The fifth seed lost 18-21, 19-21 to world number 61 Marija Ulitina of Ukraine, in her second match of Group G.
The 26-year-old Indian, a top medal contender, failed to find her rhythm and looked slow as she was not moving well within the court. Saina also conceded a lot of points on misjudgements and was not able to retrieve once the shuttle moved behind her.
Saina started the first game in a dominating way, building a 7-1 lead, but the 24-year-old Ukrainian soon levelled the game at 8-8. She tried to fight back, but Ulitina sealed the game 21-18 in 19 minutes. In the second game, Saina barely managed a slender one-point lead at the mid-game interval. After the interval, things were equal at 15-15, 18-18 and 19-19 before the Ukrainian clinched two points and the match, ending the Indian's hopes.
Saina later revealed that she played with pain in her knee. "I had knee pain and could not give my best. It was heavily strapped, and I tried my best. My movements were not smooth and were painful. It's heartbreaking loss. I also feel very bad about it," said the former world no 1 after her shock loss. She added that the injury happened during training before the Olympics and it got worse after she reached Rio. "It happened just before the Olympics about one and half weeks back. It happened during training and got aggravated after coming here," she said.
However, there was some cheer on the badminton courts for India as both Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu kept themselves in the hunt by reaching the pre-quarters.
Srikanth outplayed Henri Hurskainen of Sweden 21-6, 21-18 in his group H preliminaries encounter. The only Indian to qualify in the men's singles event, he got off to a brilliant start as he raced away with a 11-2 lead with some solid net play and cross-court smashes before wrapping up the first game. The second game saw some stiff competition in the last few points, but Srikanth overpowered his opponent to clinch the match comfortably.
World number 10 Sindhu, two-time World Championship bronze medallist, held off a strong challenge from Canadian Michelle Li. The world number 20 won the first game 21-19 but Sindhu showed tremendous fighting spirit to take the next two games 21-15, 21-17 and qualify for the next round.
Pugilist Manoj Kumar crashed out with a 0-3 loss to Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan in the men's light welterweight (64kg) category.
The Indian fought bravely against one of the top title contenders in this edition of the Games, but ultimate fell to the impressive Uzbek with the judges awarding the three rounds 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 to Gaibnazarov.
The former Commonwealth Games gold-medalist Manoj Kumar put up a spirited show but could not match the power of fifth seed Fazliddin Gaibnazarov. The 25-year-old Gaibnazarov, the World and Asian Championships silver-medallist from Uzbekistan, was consistently better than Manoj but the Indian impressed with his never-say-die spirit.
Shooters Gagan Narang and Chain Singh meanwhile, failed to qualify for the final round of the men's 50 metre Rifle event.
Chain Singh secured the 23rd position among 44 competitors, with a combined score of 1169 including 52 inner 10s at the Olympic Shooting Centre. Narang fared more poorly, managing only the 33rd spot, with an overall score of 1162, including 50 inner 10s.
Only the first eight shooters qualified for the final round.
At the golf course, India's SSP Chawrasia endured a horrendous final round of seven-over 78 to drop 28 places to finish tied 50th, while compatriot Anirban Lahiri closed with a 72 to be 57th. Chawrasia suffered two double bogeys (third and 13th) and four bogeys (seventh, 11th, 12th and 14th) against two birdies on the second and eighth to get a 78 that took his total to five-over 289 (71, 71, 69, 78).
Seven spots behind him was Lahiri, who produced his best round of the week as he got four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey for a 72.
In athletics, Indian athletes were a part of the women's marathon, where OP Jaisha finished in the 89th position, while Kavita Raut finished 120th. Jaisha clocked a timing of 2:47:19 hours, while Kavita clocked 2:59:29.
The event was dominated by Jemima Jelagat Sumgong of Kenya who clocked 2:24:04 to win the gold medal, followed by Bahrain's Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa who clocked 2:24:13 and clinched the silver medal.
With inputs from agencies