Commonwealth Games 2018: Heena Sidhu's 25m pistol gold, boxers' successful run sums up successful Day 6 for India

The mind and the heart have not stopped punching one another over a seemingly simple task as picking gold medallist Heena Sidhu or India’s 400m runners Muhammad Anas Yahiya and Hima Das’ stunning performances to talk about first when drawing the curtain on a long day of seemingly low returns.

On a day when India’s tally of medals went up by two, it would be tempting to let the mind win and cede pride of place to 28-year-old dentist Heena Sidhu for having aced an event that is not her strongest suit. But the heart, as always, has the edge and will have the first say on the incredible runs by the quarter-milers. Pounding rain drew their best from them and won many hearts.

Gold medallist Heena Sidhu, silver medalist Elena Galiabovitch of Australia (L) and bronze medalist Alia Sazana Azahari of Malaysia on the podium after the 25m pistol event. Reuters

Gold medallist Heena Sidhu, silver medalist Elena Galiabovitch of Australia (L) and bronze medalist Alia Sazana Azahari of Malaysia on the podium after the 25m pistol event. Reuters

Assam teenager Hima Das sent India on wild celebrations after becoming the first Indian woman to enter a track final through qualification. The 18-year-old sprinter-turned-400m clocked a personal best time of 51.53 seconds, improving on the 51.97 seconds that she had clocked on debut in the event in the Federation Cup in Patiala last month.

After finishing third in a fast semifinal heats behind Jamaican Anastasia Le-Roy (51.08 for a season’s best) and Botswama’s Amantle Montsho (51.26), she endured a wait for the other two heats to be completed before it was confirmed that she had made the grade as one of the two fastest losers. And when that became known, Indian sports fans erupted in delight.

They continued to celebrate when Muhammad Anas Yahiya powered his way to a National Record time in the men’s final. His gallant effort that saw him shift a gear over the final 70m left him a mere 0.20 seconds adrift of the elusive Commonwealth Games medal. His time of 45.31 seconds in torrential rain was an improvement on his own mark of 45.32 clocked in New Delhi last year.

The 32-year-old Isaac Makwala (Bostwana) expectedly won gold in 44.35 seconds ahead of his 12-year younger teammate Baboloko Thebe (45.09) and Jamaica’s Javon Francis, who ran a season’s best of 45.11 to dash the Indian’s hopes of becoming only the second track star from the country after Milkha Singh to win a Commonwealth Games medal.

India’s 23-year-old did well to embrace consistency and registered improvement in each of the three races in Gold Coast. It seemed quite natural that the heart reached out to him as he realised that he had perhaps ceded too much ground to the leaders in the first 300m or so. He had given his best and few could ask for more.

Indeed, Heena Sidhu led the way when it came to giving off one’s best. Perhaps smarting from her defeat by Manu Bhaker in the 10m air pistol final, she turned in a stellar performance in the 25m pistol final. It was a wonderful show of nerves throughout the Russian Roulette of a final that helped her strike gold quell some of the criticism around her selection.

Coming through qualification only in third place, she kept teasing the guillotine and beat Australian Elena Galiabovitch to win India’s 11th gold and her maiden individual gold in three editions of the Commonwealth Games. Annu Raj Singh, who was second in qualification, was unable to find her rhythm and went out in sixth place.

It is tough to imagine what Sidhu’s scores would have shot if indeed she did not shoot with the sensation of pins and needles in her index finger (the trigger finger) as she pointed out in a media interaction after finishing with a silver in the 10m air pistol two days ago.

Sidhu’s gold in the 25m pistol and Sachin Chaudhary’s bronze in the para powerlifting men’s heavyweight competition with a lift of 201kg that earned him 181.0 points were the only medals India secured on Tuesday but things were not so bleak as the two-medal day would indicate. For, there were many good results that can lead to more medals in the coming days.

All five boxers who were on view assured themselves of medals; Amit (49kg class), Hussamuddin Mohammed (56kg) and Naman Tanwar (91kg) won their second successive bouts. The experienced Manoj Kumar (69kg) had to secure his third win to get to the semifinals and Satish Kumar (+91kg) won his opening clash to get to the medal round.

Five-time women’s world champion and Olympic bronze medallist MC Mary Kom (48kg class) will headline the Indian boxers who will feature on Wednesday. Pinki Rani (51kg) and Sartia Devi (60kg) in the women’s draws and Gaurav Solnaki (52kg), Manish Kaushik (60kg), Vikas Krishan (75kg) among men will fight their quarterfinal bouts.

Above all, there was much reason for India’s hockey lovers to cheer, the men’s team edging out Malaysia 2-1 and the women beating South Africa 1-0 to book their berths in the respective semifinals. Harmanpreet Singh converted two penalty corners in the opening quarter of each half to ensure that the team would have the chance to beat England in the next match and top the table.

Of course, there was disappointment for Gagan Narang and Chain Singh in the 50m prone final. The 34-year-old Gagan Narang went out in seventh place. He needed to overcome the low score of 102.0 in the first stage when the elimination round began. He would have known that he would not be the first to bow out but with two 9s in four shots, he had to retire to the sidelines.

For a while, Chain Singh enjoyed being second behind David Phelps and on top at 144.8 with England’s Kenneth Parr but a 9.5 dragged him down to fourth place. He had three successive 10s but a 9.3 spelt doom when only four shooters were left in the competition. He exited in fourth place, 0.7 points behind the bronze medal winner Parr.

He had no option but to join Gagan Narang and watch Phelps celebrate his 41st birthday in great style with a gold, a dozen years after the Welshman had won his maiden Commonwealth Games gold. Scotland’s Neil Stirton, who was at the bottom of the heap after Gagan Narang’s elimination, rose to win the silver medal.

India will pin its hopes on Jitu Rai and Om Prakash Mitharval to return successful from the 50m pistol event. Medals from either men or women in double trap shooting could be a welcome bonus. Attention will also be on the five boxers who are one bout away from the medal rounds but it will be teenagers — high jumper Tejaswin Shankar and Hima Das — who will have the opportunity to steal hearts again.

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Updated Date: Apr 10, 2018 23:22 PM

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