Ladies first. And nobody will grudge the Indian sportswomen from a variety of disciplines the limelight they drew on themselves and their ilk on what was a Super Sunday for the contingent at the Commonwealth Games.
All of India celebrated the super calm pistol shooting by Manu Bhaker, uninitiated in facing pressure of expectation. Just as it did the Varanasi weightlifter Punam Yadav’s intensity. At the end of a long day, most of India will have dropped everything it was doing to let Manika Batra and her team-matches warm the cockles of its hearts.
Teenaged sensation Manu Bhaker, Punam Yadav and the Manika Batra-led women’s table tennis team picked up gold medals to raise the count by Indian women to five — of the seven that the country’s athletes have won so far. In some ways, 10m air rifle shooter Ravi Kumar and weightlifter Vikas Thakur’s bronze enhanced the value of the gold medals won by the women.
Truth to tell, Ravi Kumar would be disappointed that neither he nor his teammate Deepak Kumar was unable to extend their domination of the qualifying through to the final. The manner in which they stormed their way into the final, finishing at the top of the charts with comfort, suggested that either of them could come home with precious metal.
Vikas Thakur set out to change the colour of the medal from the silver he won in Glasgow in 2014. But he did not reckon with a high-voltage clash for gold between defending champion Steven Kari (Papua New Guinea) and Canada’s 20-year-old Boady Robert Santavy. Their competition took the men’s 94kg weightlifting to heady heights and the Indian settled for bronze.
The Jhajjar-born Manu Bhaker was a picture of composure, one of the traits developed during long hours under pistol legend Jaspal Rana’s tutelage. She blew the opposition away with impeccable shooting in the qualifying and followed that up with similar calm in the 24-shot final. It was only after the golden deal was sealed that she allowed a vestige of emotion to show on her face.
Punam Yadav, a Railway employee, was not as inexpressive, except in the moments when she lifted the barbell off the floor. She made no attempt to disguise the enormous nervous energy that she unleashed when she stepped on the platform. And yet, it was her relieved smile that will stay etched in the mind after a surprise challenge from England’s Sarah Davies fell through in the end.
The 22-year-old Delhiite Manika Batra upset World No 4 Feng Tianwei (Singapore) to give the India women’s table tennis team early hope in the final; the doubles pair of Mouma Das and Madhurika Patkar carried on the good worth with a win against Yihan Zhou and Mengyu Yu to set the stage for Manika Batra to return and clinch the gold with a victory over Yihan Zhou.
Few would have bet on the Indian women’s table tennis team beating England and Singapore in the span of a few hours to take home the gold. Yet, the paddlers and the other two women gold medallists were not the only ones who inspired India on the day.
The women’s hockey team surprised England 2-1 in a Group A match that helped erase memories of a shock loss to Wales and spurred the side towards the semifinals. Pistol shooter Heena Sidhu showed how to stay calm and lift oneself up despite dark clouds threatening doom in a nail-biting final when she finished second to Manu Bhaker despite going close to elimination more than once.
Boxing legend MC Mary Kom won her bout to ensure she will add a Commonwealth Games medal to her rich collection. Sadly, Saniya Sheikh missed the last two birds that she took aim at and went out of the women’s skeet shooting final in the fourth place. The Meerut shooter was on a roller-coaster, being on a high in qualifying and responding to stress by shooting down 11 targets in-a-row but missing three in-a-row and finally the last two shots to miss out on a medal.
The seasoned SV Sunil’s last-ditch goal, one that had opportunism and presence of mind written all over it as much as his unflappable temperament, gave India the much-needed full points from its men’s hockey league match against Wales. The 4-3 win came after a scrappy encounter in which the Welsh fought very hard to try and impose another draw on India.
The women’s hockey team pulled of plucky 2-1 win against fancied England for its second successive victory. Trailing by an Alexandra Danson goal in the first minute, India forced its way back in the game through a goal by Navneet Kaur and forged ahead through a penalty stroke by Gurjit Kaur in the third quarter. Goalkeeper Savita had a good match, making many a save.
The Group A win acquired great importance not only because it took India a step closer towards the semifinal berth but also because it came against a team that included a number of players who formed the core of the British team that won the Olympic Games gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Small wonder then that coach Harendra Singh was pleased with the hard-earned win.
If beating England in any sport in the Commonwealth Games is source of much joy for the Indians, it was doubled when the women’s table tennis team beat the English 3-0 in the semifinals to set up a title clash with Singapore. The Indians won each of three matches, the two singles and the doubles by identical 3-1 margins. The Indians are higher than the English on the ITTF rankings.
The badminton team confirmed its entry in the final with a 3-1 victory over Singapore, Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty dropping the men’s doubles match. Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal won their singles matches quite comfortably and India was able to ride on the win in opening mixed doubles match by Satwik Rankiredy and Ashwini Ponappa.
It was in the fitness of things that it was left to Saina Nehwal to complete India’s victory over Singapore. After all, Super Sunday was mostly about India’s sportswomen and their inspiring countless youngsters to take to sport and motivating the elders to think of sports as a wonderful way to sink into the collective consciousness of the nation.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Apr 08, 2018 18:49:19 IST