Commonwealth Games 2018: Sushil Kumar, Rahul Aware shine as wrestlers hit their stride; women's hockey team lose in semis

Age is but a number, and Sushil Kumar, Tejaswini Sawant and Seema Punia announced it gently, letting their medals do the loud talking. After the likes of weightlifter Deepak Lather, shooters Manu Bhaker and Mehuli Ghosh and sprinter Hima Das raised the banner for a new India at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, some familiar names came back to delight the nation on Thursday.

Commonwealth Games 2018: Sushil Kumar, Rahul Aware shine as wrestlers hit their stride; womens hockey team lose in semis

Wrestler Sushil Kumar won the gold on Thursday. AP

India’s most successful individual Olympic Games hero, grappler Sushil Kumar ensured that his comeback to the Indian team on a multi-discipline stage was memorable. He completed a hat-trick of gold medals, breezing through the 74kg class bouts with the authority of a gladiator. The 34-year-old had to endure the effects of a bruising battle with the Wrestling Federation of India.

Seema Punia became the first Indian woman to win medals in four successive Commonwealth Games when she took silver in discus throw for the third time. She uncorked an opening throw of 60.41m but home favourite and defending champion Dani Stevens took the game away with a brilliant and consistent series of throws, the best being a Games Record distance of 68.26m.

The 34-year-old, who moved base from Haryana to Meerut, joined shooters Jaspal Rana and Abhinav Bindra as the only Indians to claim medals in four successive Commonwealth Games. The gold remained elusive but she found satisfaction after enduring a slump last year when she finished sixth in the Asian Athletics Championships with a best throw of 54.11m.

Shooter Tejaswini Sawant, the 37-year-old former world champion, completed the trio of medallists who sent forget-me-not notes to the nation. She shot 618.9 to get silver in the 50m rifle prone, finishing a mere 2.1 points behind Singapore teenager Martina Lindsay Veloso. Like Sushil Kumar and Seema Punia, she was a picture of composure and purpose.

There was a cause for concern in the buoyant Indian shooting team. Anjum Moudgil seemed off-colour and finished 16th in 50m prone. In an event that allows shooters some time to regroup, it seemed that little effort was made by the Indian coaching staff to try and get her to snap out of a run that saw her score three sub-100 scores. She appeared to have been left to her own devices.

The other Indian athletes who were reason for some disappointment with their sub-par performances were the two women long jumpers, Nayana James and Neena Pinto. Having been given entries in the final, they were unable to seize the opportunity and come up with efforts that went close to their personal bests.

It is not as if these were the only Indians with medals — and stories of their own. Rahul Balasaheb Aware, 26, from Beed district in Mahrashtra found some redemption with a gold in men’s 57kg class freestyle wrestling. He was among the grapplers who had felt hard done by the Wrestling Federation of India in the run up to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in 2016.

Babita Phogat, 28, may have been unsuccessful in retaining the women’s 53kg gold but she became the first Indian woman wrestler to win medals in three successive Commonwealth Games. She was outclassed by Canada’s Diana Weicker in the final bout of the round robin league, especially when the Indian sought to sustain her aggression. India’s productive day on the wrestling mat also saw Kiran Bishnoi claim the women’s 76kg bronze medal.

Of the bronze medals won by Indians on Thursday, discus thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon’s was the most dramatic. Stuck for much of the time in the fourth place behind Dani Stevens, Seema Punia and New Zealand’s Sostina Hakeai, she came up with a last-ditch effort that saw the 23-year-old World Under-20 bronze medallist catapult to third place.

There was no such excitement on the hockey pitch where the young women’s team had a heart-breaking 0-1 loss to Australia in the semifinals. It will have to pick itself up for another battle with England, this time in the bronze medal play off. The home side shut most avenues for the Indian attack, leaving it unable to make headway despite getting into the circle more times than Australia.

At the Carrara Sports Arena, newly crowned World No 1 Kidambi Srikanth led the parade of Indian badminton players into the quarterfinal stage of the individual draw. HS Prannoy, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Ruthvika Gadde made the grade in the singles events. The doubles pairs have also had impressive runs so far.

And at the Oxenford Studios where the squash competition is being held, India’s mixed doubles pairs had contrasting results. Dipika Pallikal and Saurav Ghoshal went through to the semifinals while Joshna Chinappa and Harinder Pal Sandhu bowed out in the last eight stage. The men’s doubles team of Vikram Malhotra and Ramit Tandon entered the quarterfinals.

Manika Batra, star of Indian women’s team gold medal victory over Singapore, entered the women’s singles semifinals as did three of her compatriots in the men’s singles draw. Two men’s pairs, two women’s combinations and three mixed doubles teams have all stayed in the medal hunt, sustaining the good form that saw India win both team events.

With teenager Anish Bhanwala in third place in the 25m rapid fire pistol event at the halfway stage of qualification, more wrestlers on view and some boxing semifinals lined up, Friday may bring in more cheer to Indians, not the least when world junior javelin throw champion Neeraj Kumar come on stage in qualification.

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Updated Date: Apr 12, 2018 22:31:37 IST

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