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Rediff.com  » Sports » India's Olympics report card: Sindhu, Sakshi save the blushes

India's Olympics report card: Sindhu, Sakshi save the blushes

Last updated on: August 22, 2016 02:34 IST

- Competing in 15 disciplines with an 118-member contingent, the biggest ever at the Games, there was hope that India would emulate its best-ever tally of six medals, achieved at the London Olympics in 2012. However, the shooters fired a blank for the first time since Athens 2004, and boxers failed to win a medal for the first time in eight years as two unassuming young women saved India the humiliation of returning empty-handed.

PV Sindhu

IMAGE: Silver medallist PV Sindhu celebrates during the medal ceremony after the Women's Singles Badminton competition on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photograph: PTI

Two unassuming young women saved India the humiliation of returning empty-handed from the Olympics for the first time since the Barcelona Games in 1992 with awe-inspiring performances at Rio.

P V Sindhu, at 21, became the youngest Indian to win an Olympic medal after bagging a silver, something never achieved in badminton, while Sakshi Malik's bronze was also a first for women's wrestling in the country.

While Sindhu and Sakshi came up with a scintillating showing, India's first female gymnast Dipa Karmakar did not emerge triumphant, but won a billion hearts after a clean finish in the high-risk 'Produnova' vault before losing out on bronze by 0.15 points.

Dipa Karmakar

IMAGE: Dipa Karmakar of India competes in the women's Vault Final on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photograph: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

That's not all. There were others who did not win a medal but left an impression at the Games.

Lalita Babar. She became only the second Indian woman to qualify for the final of a track event at the Olympics in 32 years -- after P T Usha in 1984 at Los Angeles -- and finished 10th in the 3000 metres steeplechase.

Aditi Ashok, the 18-year-old golfer, did well to get among the top 10 at the end of the second round, but finished 41st with an overall score of seven-over 291.

While those were the high points in India’s poor showing at the Games, there were quite a few lows well, the main being wrestler Narsingh Yadav’s four-year ban by the Court of Arbitration of Sports, which overturned the clean chit given to him by the National Anti-Doping Agency.

The dope shame had returned to haunt India again even as Narsingh claimed innocence. The grappler cried conspiracy but was evicted from the Games Village.

IMAGE: India's Sania Mirza, left, and Rohan Bopanna in action in the mixed doubles event at the 2016 Olympic Games. Photograph: PTI

In more off-field controversy, Sports Minister Viay Goel's entourage was called 'rude' by the Organising Committee, which threatened to cancel his accreditation for trying to bring along non-accredited people to venues strictly meant for those with accreditation.

The Indian athletics contingent's middle and long distance running coach, Nikolai Snesarev, was "detained" at a local police station for half a day and later released by the police after a lady doctor at the Games Village lodged a complaint of misbehaviour.

Far away from home, India's Independence Day celebration also made news for all the wrong reasons when the players were served just peanuts at a function hosted by the Embassy of India in Brazil and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport.

There was nothing to shout about in the on field-show too.

Competing in 15 disciplines with an 118-member contingent, the biggest ever at the Games, there was hope that India would emulate its best-ever tally of six medals, achieved at the London Olympics in 2012.

However, the shooters fired a blank for the first time since Athens 2004, and boxers failed to win a medal for the first time in eight years.

Eight-time gold medallists in hockey, the men's team qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time in 36 years but could not progress, going down 1-3 to Belgium.

IMAGE: Belgium’s Sebastien Dockier, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against India in the men's hockey quarter-final at the Rio Olympics. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

India beat Ireland 3-2 and eventual gold medallists Argentina 2-1, but lost to Germany 1-2 and silver medallists the Netherlands 1-2 before being held 2-2 by minnows Canada in their last preliminary encounter.

They drew Belgium as their opponents in the quarters and lost comprehensively and made another early exit.

Making an Olympic appearance in 36 years, the women's hockey team was beaten by Australia 1-6, Great Britain 0-3 and USA 0-3. It finished with one point, courtesy a 2-2 draw against Japan.

Tennis continued to have its share of controversy as Leander Paes, an 18-time Grand Slam doubles winner making a record seventh appearance, allegedly turned up late for the men's doubles campaign in which he partnered Rohan Bopanna.

The duo's lack of practice was evident and they made a first-round exit, before the women's doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare followed suit.

Later, the mixed doubles pair of Sania and Bopanna raised hopes of a medal before losing to the Czech duo of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka in the bronze play-off.

It was a flop show in archery as Deepika Kumari again failed to live up to the hype and made some costly blunders as the much-fancied women's team made a quarter-final exit, losing to Russia in a shoot-off.

Abhinav Bindra

IMAGE: India's Abhinav Bindra competes in the men's 10m Air Rifle event at the Rio Olympics on Monday. Photograph: PTI

The biggest disappointment was in shooting, from which India earned two medals in London 2012, a historic individual gold from Abhinav Bindra in Beijing 2008, in their total count of four medals from the last three editions.

World No.3 Jitu Rai was the biggest hope in the 10m Air Pistol event on the second day of the Games. He started off under pressure and qualified for the final at sixth, only to be the first to be eliminated with an eighth position.

Next came his pet event, the 50m Pistol, in which he won a World Cup gold in Bangkok earlier this year, but his hopes were blown away by the wind.

Amid the gloom, Bindra, in his fifth and final Olympics, came closest to a medal but finished fourth, edged out by 0.5 points in the shoot-off against eventual silver-medallist Serhiy Kulish of Ukraine.

There was also disappointment from senior pro Gagan Narang, who competed in three events -- 50m rifle 3 position, 50m rifle prone and 10m air rifle, but the London Olympics bronze medallist failed to make an impression in any of them.

The likes of Heena Sidhu, Ayonika Paul, and Apurvi Chandela also failed to live up to the hype, losing in the elimination stage.

National Rifle Association of India president Raninder Singh admitted in making a 'tactical blunder' by allowing personal coaches for the athletes.

Just when the wait for a medal was getting painful, a little-known 23-year-old wrestler from Rohtak fought like a tigress, even as others, including Yogeshwar Dutt, disappointed.

Sakshi Malik

IMAGE: Sakshi Malik celebrates with her coach Kuldeep Malik after winning bronze medal in the women's Freestyle 58 kg Bronze match on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

On a day her more accomplished teammate Vinesh Phogat was reduced to tears following a ligament injury to her right knee that forced her to forfeit the quarter-final bout to Sun Yanan of China in the 48kg freestyle, Sakshi fought back from 0-5 down to beat Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 8-5 in the 58kg category bronze medal match after making the grade via repechage.

The next day, Sindhu, continuing her giant-killing run, breezed past world No.6 Nozomi Okuhara to assure India the first silver in badminton in the Olympics.

Coming into the tournament as world number 10, the 13th seed defeated three higher-ranked players en route the silver.

Sindhu first ousted world No. 8 Tzu Ying Tai in the pre-quarters and world No. 2 Wang Yihan in the last eight before being halted by world No.1 Carolina Marina in a riveting women's singles final that lasted 84 minutes.

For a discipline that only had three participants with a non-existent federation, the boxers showed some promise and Vikas Krishan provided a ray of hope before being outclassed in a tough quarter-final match-up against Bektemir Melikuziev.

Among the other two, Shiva Thapa found himself in the tough half of the draw when he was pitted against Cuban defending champion Robeisy Ramirez, who won by a unanimous decision in the first round of the 56kg bantamweight.

Aditi Ashok

IMAGE: India's golfer Aditi Ashok in action in the women's golf event at Rio Olympics. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/ Reuters

Manoj Kumar won his first round but lost in the pre-quarters to Uzbekistan’s F Gaibnazarov in 64kg light-welterweight category.

The archers were the first to land in Rio a month before the Games to acclimatise themselves and maintained isolation but it hardly translated into performance as they failed to progress beyond the quarters.

In the individual section, Atanu Das, Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi made last 16 exits.

The women's team was fancied to return at least with a bronze and it showed promise while leading 4-2 against Russia before being "blown away" by the winds, losing 4-5 in the shoot-off of the last eight.

For India, the seniormost Bombayla impressed the most with a total score of 72 from her eight arrows, including three perfect 10s, while Deepika flopped with a total of 69.

While Aditi impressed in women's golf, in the men's section SSP Chawrasia endured a horrendous final round of seven-over 78 and drop 28 places to finish tied 50th, while compatriot Anirban Lahiri closed with a 72 and was placed 57th in the sport that returned after 112 years.

In athletics, 27-year-old Lalita Babar of Maharashtra showed the way when she bettered her national record with a time of 9:19.76 seconds to be ranked seventh in the women's 3000m steeplechase and made the final.

Lalita Babar

IMAGE: Lalita Babar competes in the women's 3000m Steeplechase Round 1 on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

However, she was unable to better her showing in the final as she clocked 9:22.74s for a top-10 finish.

In the contingent's last on-field action, the men’s marathoners T Gopi and Kheta Ram clocked personal best timings of 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds and 2:15:26 to end up 25th and 26th respectively.

India also had participation in swimming, judo, rowing, table tennis and weightlifting where their performance was buried by the top competition.

In swimming, Sajan Prakash and Shivani Kataria made inglorious exits from their respective events.

In the 200m Butterfly heats, Sajan finished 41st in a field of 43 swimmers, in terms of timing, while Sajan was a disappointing fourth among five swimmers in his 200 metres butterfly heat.

Judoka Avtar Singh lost to the Refugee Olympic Team's Misenga Popole in the second round of the men's 90kg elimination Round of 32.

Rower Dattu Baban Bhokanal finished fourth in the quarter-finals of the men's Single Sculls and dropped out of medal reckoning.

He clocked 6:59.89 seconds for the 2000m distance, a little more than six seconds behind the third and last qualifier in quarter-final 4.

Dattu Bhokanal

IMAGE: Dattu Bhokanal in action in the rowing men's singles Sculls heat. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Woman paddlers Mouma Das and Manika Batra lost their preliminary round singles matches to higher-ranked opponents in the table tennis competition.

World no. 150 Mouma's challenge was lukewarm and short-lived. Tndian veteran, in her second Olympics, lost to world No 58 Daniela Dodean Monteiro of Romania 2-11, 7-11, 7-11, 3-11.
Debutant Manika, though, put up a good fight before going down to 60th-ranked Polish rival Katarzyna Franc-Grzybowska 12-10, 6-11, 12-14, 11-8, 4-11, 12-14 in 48 minutes in another preliminary round clash.

National champion Sharath Kamal lost his 1st round match 8-11, 12-14, 11-9, 6-11, 8-11 to Romania’s Adrian Crisan while world No 68 Soumyajit Ghosh also made a first round exit, losing to Padasak Tanviriyavechakul 8-11, 6-11, 14-12, 16-11, 11-13 in a well-contested match that was more closely fought than the scoreline suggests.

In weightlifting, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu could not get an overall total in the women's 48kg after failing to lift the weight in any of her three attempts in clean & jerk section. In a field of 12 lifters, she was one of two who did not finish (DNF) her event.

Sathish Kumar Sivalingam finishing fourth in the men's 77kg Group B category. The National record holder lifted 148kg in snatch and 181kg in clean and jerk for a total of 329kg in the six-man competition.