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Akhil shines bright, others disappoint
August 16, 2008 00:11 IST
Boxer Akhil Kumar on Friday scored a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Russian world champion Sergey Vodopyanov at the Olympic Games in Beijing [Images], lifting the gloom brought about by the end of India's campaign in tennis and virtual end of further medal hopes in shooting.
Doing the unthinkable, 27-year-old Akhil from Haryana stunned Vodopyanov in an edge-of-the-seat bout to put himself just one win away from an Olympic medal in a perfect Independence Day gift to India at the Games.
Trailing 2-6 at one stage, a gritty Akhil, who had said prior to Friday's match that he is inspired by the gold-winning feat of shooter Abhinav Bindra [Images], drew parity in the dying seconds and won on points to reach the quarterfinal of the 54kg category at the Workers' Gymnasium.
The scores were tied at 9-9 at the end of the four-round bout but the five-member declared Akhil the winner on points.
The winner on points is decided by the jury by considering the accepted scores and deleting the highest and lowest scores of the two boxers.
An elated Akhil, who plays his next match on Sunday, insisted he is not ready to settle for anything less than the gold even though he would be assured of a medal if he wins his quarterfinal bout on Sunday.
The Russian world champion grabbed early initiative as he raced to a 6-2 lead midway through the third round.
To make it even more difficult for the Indian, the Russian used both the orthodox and southpaw stance but it did not unsettle Akhil who went on the offensive.
Making a remarkable fightback, Akhil prevailed in the third round to reduce the gap (7-8) and then in the final round, unleashed a a couple of punches bang on target on the Russian to drew parity at 9-9.
The defeat brought the shattered Russian to tears as he clutched his head in disbelief and refused to shake hands with Akhil after the bout.
"It was not easy, for he is the world champion but once I levelled the score, I knew I cannot lose," said Akhil, bathed in sweat.
"It's not possible to assure you of the gold but I can tell you that I'm here to win only gold," said the boxer brimming with confidence and determination.
"I know things would not be easier, in fact it would get even more difficult from now onwards. But I'm here to do my job and return with the gold. If luck decides the outcome, I may return with the bronze. But if confidence is the determining factor, gold is mine," he thundered.
Coach G S Sandhu was effusive in praise for his ward and said, "Only Akhil can do that. He was all along confident and he proved that it was not mere wishful thinking on his part. We are so proud of him.
"The job, however, is not done yet, even though the win would fill him with more confidence. Trailing 2-6, few would have come out winner but he managed that. He is supremely confident and knows what he is going to do."
Away from the boxing ring, India's woes in the continued on Friday as its campaign in tennis came to an end with the defeat of veteran doubles partners Leander Paes [Images] and Mahesh Bhupathi [Images] and further medal hopes in shooting all but over as marksmen Gagan Narang and Sanjeev Rajput failed to qualify for the finals of the 50m rifle prone event.
Paes and Bhupathi were overwhelmed by singles top seed Roger Federrer and his Swiss partner Stanislas Wawrinka who won 6-2, 6-4 in the men's doubles quarterfinal, a grudge match avenging the defeat against the Indian pair in the Athens Olympics [Images] in 2004.
In the quarterfinal match spread over two days due to rain interruption on Thursday night, it took the silky Swiss pair one hour and 22 minutes to triumph and set up a difficult last four encounter with doubles top seed American twins Bob and Mike Bryan.
Federer, smarting under the stunning defeat against James Blake in the singles, teamed up with Wawrinka to unleash his pent-up frustration on Paes and Bhupathi who could only watch the scratch Swiss pair decimating them with clinical precision.
"We just could not figure out what Roger was doing in the court. He proved why he is among the all time greats. Probably, you cannot do much when you have the best player in the world on the other side of the net and with him a player who does not miss anything," Paes said after the match.
Federer said "it was a sweet revenge. I lost to them with Yves Allegro four years ago in Athens".
He said he had expected the Indians to be tougher but anything can happen in the best-of-three-set doubles.
There was no cheerful news for India from the track and field events which began on Friday with chances of the trio of J J Shobha, G G Pramila and Sushmita Singha Roy to be among the 15 finalists appeared dim in the heptathlon competition.
At the end of four of the seven events on Friday, Shobha finished at 29th place, ahead of Pramila and Roy who finished 32nd and 34th respectively.
Shobha, who had won hearts in the Athens Olympics by running despite a torn ligament, totalled 3482 points after four events 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m while Pramila tallied 3419 and Susmita 3391.
The Indians will return on Saturday to compete in long jump, javelin and 800m events.
Meanwhile, the Indian women discus thrower duo of Krishna Poonia and Harwant Kaur came a cropper with poor shows that was nowhere near there personal best.
Poonia, an Asian Games bronze medalist, cleared 58.23m to finish 24th while Harwant's effort was even worse, a dismal 56.42 which was good enough only for a lowly 30th place.
This was a poor show by the duo considering the fact that Poonia's personal best is 63.41, while Harwant's is 63.05.
Finally, Preeja Sreedharan could not repeat or better her personal best and put up a mundane show to finish a lowly 25th in the women's 10,000m event.
The Kerala [Images] runner clocked 32:34.64 to finish 25th among 29 athletes who completed the race.
Preeja had set a new national record by clocking 32:04.41s in London [Images] in June, which also earned her an Olympic B qualification norm.
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