Asian Games 2018: Arpinder Singh, Swapna Barman bag hard-earned golds; Indian paddlers come of age on Day 11
Triple jumper Arpinder Singh could afford to run through his last attempt, secure in the knowledge that it would bring the curtain down after establishing himself as champion.
As they prepared for their last bit of action on Wednesday, they knew victory was theirs to cherish. Only a short span of time stood between them and their Asian Games gold medals. They had worked hard, preparing for and focused on delivering their optimum through their respective competitions to make sure that they would lay their hands on the precious metal.
Yet, they responded to the stimulus of a medal interestingly different. Triple jumper Arpinder Singh could afford to run through his last attempt, secure in the knowledge that it would bring the curtain down after establishing himself as champion. He then acknowledged the cheers of his team-mates and a small bunch of Indian spectators, replete with Tricolours.
Delighted that he had lived up to top billing, he brought together his palms in gratitude and the arms rose aloft as he showed respect to the bunch celebrating his becoming India’s first triple jumper to notch up Asian Games gold since Mohinder Singh Gill in 1970. He also bowed to Romanian coach Bedros Bedrosian in a gesture that symbolised his conservative roots.
Contrast that with Swapna Barman who won maiden Asian Games heptathlon gold for India. Aware that she had to tail her Chinese rival Wang Qingling in the 800m, the final event of the seven-discipline event that confirms all-round supremacy in track and field, she gave it her all and even nudged ahead of her closest rival.
She lay on track, exhausted, but drowning in an amalgam of emotions. There was relief and joy that she had achieved what she believed was possible, even if many others dismissed it as unthinkable a few months ago. It is a lonely event and those who compete in the multi-event disciplines show kinship among themselves.
Yet, it may not have registered in Swapna Barman’s mind that Japanese bronze medallist Yuki Yamasaki crawled on the track to reach her and congratulate her for winning the Asian Games gold, having spent considerable time in rehabilitation to avoid a surgery. The pain she felt after a recent tooth extraction went wrong was perhaps lost in the multitude of emotions she experienced.
It is tough to compare these with sprinter Dutee Chand’s unadulterated exuberance for having won twin silvers, adding the 200m medal to the one won in the shorter sprint on Monday. Yet again, she made light of her diminutive stature by letting her spikes stay in contact with the synthetic track only for fleeting moments, flying all the way through to finish second.
The glory earned in track and field should not take anything away from the table tennis players’ determined effort to quell criticism that while they do well in the Commonwealth Games, they fall short in the Asian Games. In the Hall D in Jakarta International Expo, an hour away from the GBK Athletics Stadium, Indian paddlers delivered yet again.
Veteran Achanta Sharat Kamal combined with Manika Batra, the toast of India’s campaign in Gold Coast, to stun Korean pairs and get to the mixed doubles semi-finals to assure themselves of a bronze medal. For a nation that had never secured a table tennis medal in the Asian Games, the second bronze was a delight beyond expression.
The Indian pair first served notice of its intentions by beating South Koreans Lee Sansu and Jeon Ji Hee 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 10-12, 11-4 and then backed it up with the team from the North Ji Song An and Hyo Sim cha 4-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8 before losing in four games to China’s Wang Chuqin and Sun Ying Sha.
Boxers Amit Phangal (49kg class) and Vikas Krishan Yadav (75kg) eked out contrasting victories but will be India’s only medalists from the ring this time. The bustling Amit Phangal, an Asian bronze medallist last year and a world championship quarter-finalist, employed smart tactics to secure an unanimous verdict over North Korea’s Kim Jang Ryong to make it to the semi-finals.
By assuring himself his third medal in as many Asian Games, Vikas Krishan Yadav has earned his place among the pantheon of India’s most durable fighters and perhaps in its Hall of Fame as well. But the split decision victor over China’s Tangatihan Touheta Erbieke was hard-earned and perhaps a bit fortunate too.
On Maj. Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary, Gurjit Kaur slotted home a penalty corner goal in the 52nd minute against a dogged China to earn India women’s team a place in the final against Japan. India’s tenacity and the hunger to win, talked about in the camp with confidence, came through as it did not let China take more than two cracks at the goal.
Of course, India would be a bit disappointed that it was unable to covert the chances it created with its craft and tactics. Besides seven penalty corners, India found five chances to breach the Chinese citadel. Yet, at the end of an emotionally and physically draining game, India would be happy with the win without worrying too much about the scoreline.
The two gold that India won on Wednesday took its all-time Asian Games tally to 150. As things stand, China picked up 102 in this edition of the Asian Games alone. The continental giants have dominated so much that no two nations could combine to equal China’s tally of gold.
India, which is in eighth place on the Asian Games 2018 charts with 11 gold and 20 silver among the 54 medals it has won so far, can draw much from the performance so far and anticipate a finish that will be its best in Asian Games, both in terms of gold medals won and in terms of overall tally, improving on the 13 gold from 2014 and the 64 medals won in 2010.
Talking of anticipation, all that Swapna Barman and Arpinder Singh could think of at the end of a long day was to try and get some food. They had addressed their own hunger – as also the nation’s need – for a gold medal each. It was time, though, to get back to the Games Village and find themselves a meal to savour. And some beauty sleep.
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