Asian Games 2018: India rowers gain redemption with three medals on Day 6; K Srikanth, HS Prannoy make premature exits

Even a simple narration of comebacks can be stirring. It needed no effort to sense the heart being tugged at three medal ceremonies featuring India in the Asian Games on Friday, including two where the National Anthem was played. They were all clipped together by poignant stories, each of a comeback of sorts.

Friday was memorable for them all.

Gold was redemption for Sawarn Singh Virk, who rowed along with Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh to win the quadruple sculls rowing gold. Sawarn Singh Virk won singles sculls bronze in Incheon four years ago but faded away with an injury and served a year-long ban for an accidental doping infraction.

(From R-l) Sawarn Singh Virk Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh won gold in the men's quadruple sculls. AFP

(From R-l) Sawarn Singh Virk Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh won gold in the men's quadruple sculls. AFP

Dattu Baban Bhokanal, whose father dug wells in the drought-hit Nashik district before he passed, was quick to dedicate the gold to his later mother. Having rowed well in the Olympic Games in Rio, he took time away from the sport before returning to competition. He was very nearly not fielded on Friday after giving up chase in the singles sculls final 24 hours earlier.

The other gold medal that India gained on Friday came through the men’s doubles tennis pair of Rohan Bopanna and left-handed Divij Sharan. For the 35-year-old Bopanna, the gold may come as the ticket to the Arjuna Award that he now fully deserves. Yet, he was among those who had stayed away from national duty in Incheon. It needed a comeback now to set it right.

Similarly, 10m pistol shooter Heena Sidhu shot down a bronze medal in the women’s 10m air pistol event for her maiden individual medal at the Asian Games. She had been part of medal winning teams both in Guangzhou in 2010 and in Incheon in 2014. But to win the bronze here after a game duel was a huge load off her shoulders.

There were two more rowing bronze medals that India collected through Dushyant in lightweight men’s singles sculls and Bhagwan Singh and Rohit Kumar in lightweight men’s double sculls. Squash players Sourav Ghoshal, Deepika Pallikal Karthik and Joshna Chinappa assured themselves of medals by getting to the singles semi-finals.

Yet, there was no joy in the lone silver medal that India got on Friday. With Iran inflicting a defeat on the Indian women’s kabaddi team – a day after their men’s counterparts had ended India’s streak – it was like a knife was plunged and twisted in the hearts of the fans. It was too much to bear and few will like to remember the silver and the men’s bronze medals India got here.

Kidambi Srikanth, India’s top men’s singles badminton player, crashed out in a straight games defeat by Hong Kng’s Wong Wing Ki Vincent and HS Prannoy’s inability to cross the line despite a fightback against Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen set off some questions, including about the men’s squad not offering anything to remember by.

The Equestrian Federation of India’s decision to accept coach Rodolphe Scherer’s idea of changing Jitender Singh’s mount worked in the team’s favour. While Fouaad Mirza, riding the celebrated Seigneur Medicott, was the best on view with 22.40 points in dressage, the Jitender Singh-Dalakhani Du Routy combination had 28.80 points to be fourth.

Jitender Singh had qualified on Viril Peccau CH but the coach felt that India would have a better chance if Dalakhani Du Routy was flown in instead. There was talk of how the EFI has repeatedly committed U-turns with its selection policy and procedure, but it does look like all will be well that can end well. As a team India is placed fourth after dressage.

The men’s golf team continued its good run, with teenager Aadil Bedi taking third place and Rayhan Thomas lying joint fifth at the halfway mark. The men’s hockey team had an 8-0 conquest of Japan but coach Harendra Singh was far from satisfied with the approach on the pitch, especially about 10 missed field goal opportunities and five missed penalty corners.

In the weightlifting arena, Rakhi Halder came a cropped in the women’s 65kg class. As the only Indian woman in the field after three different disasters robbed India of competitors like Punam Yadav (dismissed from the camp for reporting late), Mirabai Chanu (injury perhaps due to over-training and Sanjita Chanu (provisionally suspended on a dope charge), she disappointed.

Having lifted 102kg in the National Championship in Mangaluru earlier this year, Rakhi Halder was unable to register a lift in the snatch division at her chosen entry weight of 93kg. A no lift over three attempts does cause concern and raise eyebrows. After all, much has been invested in an athlete’s development over many months.

The lasting image is of Deepika Kumari sitting on the pavement outside the GBK Archery Field and shedding tears after the Indian recurve mixed team went out of competition at the first hurdle. But another sporting heroine showed that comebacks are possible. Dipa Karmakar somersaulted and flipped with aplomb on the balance beam to finish fifth on her return to competitive sport.

To be sure, for each youngster who has emerged as a flagbearer of Indian sport, some old warhorses have quietly upped the ante and rewritten the sell-by date, daring the new challengers to usurp their places in the Indian teams. Deepika Kumari can draw solace from such stirring tales and return to the field and make an impact. She will have to believe.

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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 23:57:24 IST

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