Asian Games 2018: Rain of silver for India in athletics, equestrian events as big win remains elusive on dramatic Sunday

It was a dramatic Sunday when India kept chasing gold through the day in the equestrian park and the GBK Athletics Stadium. The silver medals kept coming but that big win remained elusive. From the Fouaad Mirza-led three-day eventing team that delivered two silver medals to sprinters Hima Das, Dutee Chand and Muhammed Anas, India discovered that gold was acting pricey.

The 18-year-old Hima Das broke the women’s 400m National record for the second time in two nights, becoming the country’s first woman quarter-miler to stop the clock inside 51 seconds. The brave run, during which she challenged Salwa Naser (Bahrain) saw her finish in second place with a timing of 50.79 seconds.

Hima Das holds the Indian tricolour up after winning silver in the women's 400m final. AP

Hima Das holds the Indian tricolour up after winning silver in the women's 400m final. AP

A few months ago, none would have imagined this daring sprint since she was only a 200m runner.

The beaten-but-not-disgraced story repeated itself in the men’s 400m final where Muhammad Anas claimed silver, even if appearing to lose pace rapidly. This was uncharacteristic of the man who, in the past few months, has conveyed the impression that he has enough gas left in the tank after the 400m to extend his run. But Qatari Abdelalah Hassan was just too good for him.

Dutee Chand’s silver on Asian Games debut was a bit unexpected and therefore warmed the cockles of the hearts of her fans. Having run 11.43 in the semi-finals, when she was the third fastest qualifier, a bronze was the best that many would have expected on a humid evening against runners with longer stride lengths.

Chand made up for lack of height with tremendous grit as she ran the race of her life. Of course, she has run faster – the 11.24 in Almaty in 2016 being her best and standing as the National record – but this was the biggest stage on which she was in with a chance of winning a medal after her remarkable fight against IAAF in Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Two bronze medals from the large bridge squad that made its debut in the Asian Games. The men’s team and the mixed team made it to the semi-finals but had to settle for bronze medals. There were medals for the likes of 60-year-old Jaggy Shivdasani and two 67-year-old women, Kiran Nadar and Hema Deora as well as the Khandelwal couple, Himani and Rajeev.

After days of disappointment, the Indian archery camp provided some good news with victories in the women and men’s compound team events. The trios got to the respective final with victories over Chinese Taipei teams, the women rallying from a five-point deficit at the halfway mark to win 225-222 and the men banking on good scoring in the second and third ends to win 231-227.

Just as the compound archery sides saved India the blushes by assuring themselves of medals, the Indian badminton contingent needed both Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu to guarantee themselves and their team medals. The defeats in the team events and the men’s singles hung over the Indian camp so starkly that it did not matter which colour the two women’s medals would be.

At the famed Istora on Sunday, they posted contrasting wins to wend their way to the women’s singles semi-finals. Saina Nehwal was in control of the big points against Thailand’s Intanon Ratchanok and won 18 and 16 inside 45 minutes while Sindhu needed three games and an hour to quell Nitchaon Jindapol.

The Indian men’s hockey team scored a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Korea to book itself a place in the semi-finals with its fourth win. A match against Sri Lanka remains in group A league before the semi-final, possibly against Malaysia, awaits the Indian side. The Harendra Singh-coached team will be happy it has scored more field goals than the total goals that other teams have got.

Then again, it was not all guts and glory. There was a disqualification that broke many hearts. G Lakshmanan had stepped inside the kerb after he had pulled away from the bunch in bronze medal contention by settling down in the slip-stream of the race leader who overlapped all but the second-placed team-mate. Lakshmanan who finished in third place was disqualified by the officials.

The Indian team protested against the decision, citing the case of steeplechaser Ruth Jebet from Incheon in 2014 when she was reinstated to gold medal. However, after a lengthy hearing during which video replays were watched, the Jury of Appeal decided to over-rule the Indian protest and let the results stay.

It was not the only medal that India denied itself. The 26-year-old Fouaad Mirza, who had spent a whole year and more preparing for this day conceded that he had missed a golden chance. But he had done really well to bring the focus on his sport rather than the machinations that were engineered within the Equestrian Federation of India.

After the eventing team was assured of a silver medal, thanks to Thailand’s riders dropping 20 points on Sunday, Fouaad (asrtide Seigneur Medicott) was left with the bright chance of claiming gold for himself and India. He needed a clear round of show-jumping to clinch the first individual gold medal for India in Asian Games three-day event in 36 years.

Yet, as his luck would have it, his magnificent horse dropped a bar on the second jump to deny India that individual gold. He kept his calm and ensured that there were no further penalties that would deny him the silver. Come to think of it, even a silver medal was unthinkable a few weeks ago when the EFI decided against sending the team to Jakarta.

Had the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) not intervened, EFI would have stuck to its president’s decision to over-rule the selection committee. Despite the numerous flip-flops, the team reached here and landed two silver medals for the country. These were weightier than gold and could have wider ramifications for the sport and the way it is run in India.


Updated Date: Aug 27, 2018 00:32 AM

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