Rio de Janeiro: A day after unheralded grappler Sakshi Malik opened India's medal count with a dramatic bronze-winning effort, shuttler P V Sindhu is all set to further showcase Indian women's capabilities at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
Showing extraordinary fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude, 23-year-old Sakshi from Haryana ended India's frustrating medal drought by scooping bronze medal in the 58 kg category in a stunning effort that saw her come back from the dead after losing in the quarterfinals.
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.
Sakshi climbed the medal rostrum with a spectacular come-from-behind 8-5 win over Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan after trailing 0-5 in the first period.
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.
The scene must have been highly inspiring for all and sundry watching it at the stadium In Rio de Janeiro or the millions glued in front of TV sets at home, and would act as the perfect shot-in-the-arm for Sindhu as she prepares to take on Japan's Nokomo Okuhara in the women's singles semifinals.
Sindhu remains the country's lone medal hope in the badminton event after Kidambi Srikanth suffered a fighting loss against two-time defending champion Lin Dan in the men's singles quarterfinals on day 12 on Thursday.
Sindhu scripted a stellar 22-20, 21-19 win against former world number one and London Games silver medalist Wang Yihan to enter the women's semifinals.
A win against Japan's Okuhara in the semifinal on Thursday will assure Sindhu of at least a silver, that would be only the second medal for India at the Games.
There's also the case of freestyle grappler Narsingh Yadav which is to come up before the Court of Arbitration for Sports during the day after the clean chit given to him by National Anti-Doping Agency just before the Games began after a positive drug test in June has been challenged by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
But the inspirational story for India after nearly 12 days of frustrating wait for the elusive medal was scripted by a woman grappler who was not expected to be its heroine.
In fact, Sakshi's sensational third place finish came after her teammate Vinesh Phogat was stretchered off after suffering a leg injury that was later found out as a knee ligament tear in her 48kg quarterfinal bout against China's Sun Yanan.
The medal won by Sakshi 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 medalist 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 grappler 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 in her eyes.
The day commenced with the elimination of Srikanth, who went down fighting against defending champion Lin Dan to dash India's medal hopes in men's singles.
Taking the court a day after compatriot Sindhu had knocked out top Chinese shuttler Wang Yihan to enter the women's singles semis, Srikanth gave Super Dan a tough time before going down 6-21 21-11 18-21 against the World No. 3.
In another disappointment, woman half miler 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. As usual she led the field till around 600m before fading on the final stretch to end her second Olympics campaign in disappointment.
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. She will continue her effort in the second round on Thursday.
All these came before Sakshi brought enormous cheer with the day's proceedings coming to an end.
She stormed into the bronze medal play-off with a dominating 12-3 victory in her 58kg Repechage bout.
Sakshi gave no chance to Purevdorjiin Orkhon of Mongolia as she bagged as many as 10 points in the second period after the scores were tied 2-2 at the break.
She got a shot to fight for the bronze medal despite losing in the quarterfinals as the girl who had beaten her in the last eight - Valeriia - reached the final.
With inputs from PTI