Guangzhou: Ace shooter Gagan Narang fetched the first individual medal for the country by bagging silver medal as India launched their campaign in the Asian Games with two silvers on the opening day of competitions which was marked by the controversial elimination of Olympic hero Abhinav Bindra.
Narang, the hero of the recent Commonwealth Games in Delhi with four gold medals, claimed the silver in the 10m air rifle individual event and then teamed up with Bindra and Sanjeev Rajput to add another silver in the team event.
Barring Narang’s effort, none of the other shooters could make much impression at the Aoti shooting range where Bindra was controversially eliminated in the qualifying stage due to a “technical error” over a particular shot.
The Indian camp cried foul over Bindra’s 42nd shot in the 60-shot preliminaries as they felt the Olympic gold medallist had shot nine but seven points were awarded.
“The score given was a 7 but we were quite sure it was a 9. I went to Abhinav who also thought it was closer to 9 but was not sure about it. Had we protested and we would have lost two points as penalty. It was Abhinav’s call who had the team’s chances also in his mind,” said Indian coach Stanislaus Lapidus.
Narang, the lone Indian to qualify for the individual finals, matched China’s 2004 Athens Olympic champion Zhu Qinan shot for shot before the latter captured the gold by shooting past his Indian Rival in the last three shots.
The 27-year-old Narang settled for the silver after giving Qinan a run for his money in the ten-shot finals. He tallied of 700.7 points behind Qinan’s gold-winning effort of 702. Korean Kim Kwon won the bronze with 700.0.
“I am extremely happy to have carried the Indian flag in the Opening Ceremony yesterday and I am very happy that we have won two silver medals. There are two more events left for me and I am hoping for the best,” said Narang who was initially reluctant to be the country’s flag-bearer as his event was scheduled early this morning.
Away from the shooting ranges, there was little to cheer for the large Indian contingent with the shuttlers and women tennis players being knocked out in the first round of the team events. All the Indian cylists also fell by the wayside in the track events
In the team event, Narang, Bindra and Rajput combined for a score of 1783, a point adrift of gold medal winning Chinese team comprising Jikang Yu, Qinan Zhu and Yifei Cao. Korea settled for the bronze in this event.
While Narang shot a score 597, Bindra and Rajput managed identical tallies of 593.
However, disappointment was in store for India in other events as the women’s 10m air rifle team finished seventh and men’s 50m pistol team could manage only a fifth place finish.
In the individual events, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Omkar Singh was the only among three Indians men’s shooters to qualify for the final of 50m pistol event but eventually finished seventh.
In the women’s individual events, Suma Shirur, Tejaswini Sawant and Kavita Yadav could not even qualify for the finals. The same trio finished seventh in the women’s 10m air rifle team event after totalling 1176 points.
The tennis contingent had a mixed day with the men’s team spearheaded by Somdev Devvarman cruisinng to the quarter-finals but Sania Mirza’s absence cost the women’s team dearly as it crashed out of the team event.
Somdev led a 3-0 rout of Qatar in the second round as he and Karan Rastogi recorded singles wins to clinch the tie.
Rastogi put fourth seed India ahead with a crushing 6-1 6-1 win over Jabor Mohammed Al Mutawa in just 46 minutes and then Somdev clinched the tie by routing Mousa Shanan Zayed 6-0 6-1 in 38 minutes in the second singles rubber.
Somdev later combined with Sanam Singh to make it an all win day by clinching the inconsequential doubles rubber 6-0 6-1 against Mubarak Shan Zayid and Abdulrah Al Hareth in just 35 minutes.
India, who have come without doubles stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, will next take on seventh seed Thailand, which registered a 3-0 win over Sri Lanka.
However, it was heart-break for the Indian eves as Sania opted out of the opening tie against Indonesia owing to an ear problem and the team suffered a 0-3 mauling.
In badminton, the Indians were knocked out of the team events with the men losing 1-3 to Chinese Taipei and the women’s team losing 2-3 to Indonesia in their first round ties.
India’s women paddlers also had a mixed day in the team event as they beat Laos 3-0 but lost to Singapore by the same margin in Group B at Guangzhou Gymnasium.
With one win and a defeat, India are placed second with three points, one less than group leaders Singapore. India now must beat Maldives tomorrow to make it to the next stage.
Chances of Indian men’s team progressing to the next stage suffered a setback as they lost 0-3 to Chinese Taipei in Group D. They will have to beat Vietnam in tomorrow’s tie to make it to the next stage.
The Indians expectedly finished in the bottom half of the results chart in the weightlifting events on the first day.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Soniya Chanu improved upon her CWG performance by lifting a total of 170kg (75+95) but still finished fifth in women’s 48kg category. She had lifted 167kg (73+94) in the CWG.
CWG bronze medallist, Sandhya Rani finished sixth in the eight lifters field with a total of 158kg (70+88), which is seven kilogram less than her CWG effort.
In men’s 56kg, V Srinivasa Rao and Sukhen Dey finished eighth and 10th respectively with below par performances.