The wait to see the tricolour rise at a medal ceremony in the Asian Games on Saturday seemed to take forever. And the Indian contingent had exhausted the entire gamut of emotions through the day, the one thing missing was the pride and joy that comes along with seeing the tricolour rise on the medal mast – with the National Anthem being played.
And it was in one of the evening’s last competitions that the excruciating wait came to an end. And how! The strapping Tajinderpal Singh Toor, 23-year-old son of a farmer in Punjab’s Moga district, uncorked an unbelievable string of throws to win the shot put gold medal with an Asian Games record of 20.75m to boot.
On a day when India’s 400m sprinters Mohammed Anas and Hima Das sent out strong signals to their rivals that they would have to run error-free races to beat the Indians, Tajinderpal not only satiated the hunger of the Indian contingent but also ended a 16-year wait for India to regain its grip on an event its athletes have has won eight times before.
Toor had a remarkable series. He laid the gauntlet down with a 19.96m with his first throw. None of his rivals came close to matching that. He followed it up with a lukewarm (by his standards on Saturday) 19.15m and a foul. But when it seemed he would be lulled into being relaxed after the exit of Iran’s Shahin Mehredalan and Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Abdulmajeed Alhebshi, he found motivation to get better.
He resumed with another effort over 19.96m, making it clear that he was not letting up one bit. The 20.00m effort was only the second time an Asian had reached that mark this year – he had got 20.24 in the Federation Cup in Patiala on 6 March. His desire was stoked and he aimed to go further than ever before. The 20.75m was a result of that hunger.
India’s premier women 100m sprinter Dutee Chand could have slipped under the radar on a night when Toor and the quartermilers took centerstage but she caught attention with a fine run in the heats. She clocked 11.38 seconds, barely a tenth of second slower than in the National Inter-State Championships in Guwahati on 29 June. She was third fastest qualifier for the semifinals.
Mohammed Anas and Hima Das have been the cynosure for months now, clocking times that have delighted and surprised followers of track and field sport. Anas clocked 45.63 seconds in the first round and followed it up with a dominant 45.30 seconds burst under lights to challenge Qatar’s Sudan-born Haroun Abdalelah Hassan that no quarter would be conceded.
Similarly, the 18-year-old Hima secured a national record with a 51.00 second run, despite finishing second to Bahrain’s Salwa Naser by 0.14 seconds in a fast heats in which both sprinters were determined to win bragging rights ahead of the final. Hima looks set to pounce on any mistake that her 20-year-old rival may make.
Look at the rainbow of emotions that India’s athletes subjected the country to on Saturday.
There was a delight that coursed through the Indian women’s hockey team’s 4-1 victory over Korea in a preliminary Group B league game. Goals by Gurjit Kaur (two penalty corner conversions), Vantana Katariya and Navneet Kaur and some good work under the bar by Savita ensured that India could realistically take top spot in the pool.
There was a strange bitter-sweet emotion that comes along when an athlete loses a match but is assured of a medal. The three Indian squash players, Saurav Ghoshal in men’s singles and Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa, assured themselves bronze medals after losing their respective semifinal matches.
There was relief that unlike the men, India’s best women badminton players cruised to the quarterfinals. Both PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal looked in good touch as they readied themselves for the bigger battles ahead. They are aware that the country expects them to do something really special to make up for the disappointments endured in the badminton hall so far.
There was stunned silence when teenaged pistol shooter Anish Bhanwala came up with a 93 in his final series and missed out on a place in the 25m pistol final.
He will learn to deal with such vagaries that are part of all sport.
And there was some sadness as well that one of the biggest names in Indian sport, the pioneering recurve archer Deepika Kumari would return home without adding to the 2010 team bronze medal to her collection. At 25, she knows that younger archers would come through and start challenging her soon.
She will have to find the fearlessness that Toor brought along with him to the GBK Athletics Stadium on Saturday evening. Or the belief that Fouaad Mirza wore when he was astride Seigneur Medicott in the grueling equestrian event – 3-day eventing. He paired up brilliantly with his mount to tackle the course with aplomb.
There was eager, if nervous anticipation when Fouaad Mirza lined himself up for evening gold with a clear round in cross country despite pressure from a couple of Japanese riders who were among a handful who had finished the 3.9km cross country rides, lasting seven and a half minutes, with no penalties.
He took no pressure and was not in a hurry to complete the course in too quick a time, preferring to conserve Seigneur Medicott’s energies for that final push for gold that will end India’s wait for a maiden individual gold in eventing dating. He will carry positivity and belief when he competes in show-jumping section on Sunday afternoon.
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Updated Date: Aug 25, 2018 23:50:50 IST