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Rediff.com  » Sports » Latecomers India finally join party at Guangzhou

Latecomers India finally join party at Guangzhou

Last updated on: November 22, 2010 10:55 IST

Indian runners steal the show

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Chinese fans turned out in force to support the hosts on the first night of athletics at the Asian Games on Sunday, but it was two dogged Indian runners who stole the show, giving their struggling team a timely boost.

Low attendances embarrassed organisers into issuing 400,000 new tickets last week, but 70,000 fans in full voice at the Aoti Main Stadium helped banish images of half-full arenas during the opening days.

Most were there in expectation of another swag of medals for the hosts, but it was India's Preeja Sreedharan's gut-busting run on the final straight of the women's 10,000 metres that set pulses racing and brought roars of approval from the stands.

Her gritty sprint to overtake bronze medallist Shitaya Eshete Habtegebrel of Bahrain and burn away for a one-two victory with compatriot Kavita Raut broke China and Japan's longstanding stranglehold over the distance.


Image: Preeja Sreedharan celebrates after winning the women's 10,000m final
Photographs: Reuters
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Sudha Singh overcomes Jin Yuan's late challenge

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China's marathon world champion Bai Xue flopped, however, and Sudha Singh set about pouring salt in the hosts' wounds in the 3000m steeplechase when she fended off a brave challenge from Yuan Jin to win in a photo-finish.

"I didn't expect to get the gold medal so I'm very happy ... I set the previous (Indian) record at the Commonwealth Games but I am very happy to have broken this record here," she said.

The two track and field golds completed a banner day for the rising Asian power, whose performance in the sporting arena has rarely invited comparisons with China.


Image: India's Sudha Singh runs during the women's 300m steeplechase at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou

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Sodhi wins double trap gold

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India's Ronjan Sodhi earlier denied the Chinese a clean sweep of the four shooting golds by winning the men's double trap, while helping his delegation reach five golds from 33 medals.

That was still 141 golds behind the hosts, who were only 19 shy of their 165 at Doha in 2006 and well within reach of their record 183 at the 1990 Beijing Games with six days left.


Image: Ronjan Sodhi

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Part played

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Li Ling did her part for the cause by winning the women's shotput gold after Wang Hao earlier clinched the men's 20km race walk.

Olympic champion Lin Dan prevailed over world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia to win the men's badminton singles and reinforce his status as one of the sport's greatest ever.

The spiky-haired and occasionally hot-tempered Lin ripped off his shirt in a paroxysm of delight following the tense three-set battle then stood at attention to salute raucous spectators.

"I threw my shoes and shirt to spectators to show my gratitude. I want to repay those who backed me for a long time," said Lin, known as "Super Dan" by an adoring public.

Malaysia's disappointment was tempered by their squash players, who swept both the men's and women's singles titles.

Nicol David won her third gold and fourth medal from as many Asiads after beating Hong Kong's Au Wing-chi for the women's title before Mohamad Azlan Iskandar won the men's individual.

"I'm fighting for my country and I've got the whole of Malaysia's support. I have to give it my best shot," David said.


Image: Lin Dan celebrates after beating Lee Chong Wei

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Still fighting

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Taiwan's delegation was still fighting for their disqualified taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun and a rally on Sunday placed further pressure on embattled organisers of the tournament.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou addressed 10,000 supporters in the capital Taipei, many of them wearing taekwondo uniforms, and reiterated his pledge to fight for Yang, who was banned for bringing unauthorised electronic sensors to the tournament.

On the debut of women's sevens rugby, the hosts showed some deft passing and fancy footwork to hand out a 51-0 thumping to South Korea at a packed University Town stadium.


Image: Yang Shu-chun

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All eyes on Liu Xiang

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Having swept the table tennis and dominated the badminton, China can also look forward to at least a silver in the women's tennis after local hope Peng Shuai beat Japan's elder stateswoman Kimiko Date Krumm in three sets in their semi-final.

Date Krumm, who took the title at the 1994 Hiroshima Games, shared a bronze but scoffed at the idea of another tilt at the Incheon Games in South Korea in 2014.

"I will be 44 in four years. I am not a robot," she said.

China's former Olympic 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang slipped into the athletes' village as anticipation grew ahead of his track debut in the heats on Monday.

Liu disappointed millions of home fans when he limped out of the "Bird's Nest" Stadium at the Beijing Games before the start of his Olympic title defence, but still holds his Asian title.

"There's not much to do (here)," wrote Liu in his microblog. "Mostly I don't dare go to places with a lot of people."


Image: Liu Xiang

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