Rio de Janeiro: India’s dwindling medal hopes in the Olympic Games suffered a severe jolt when star shuttler Saina Nehwal was knocked out at the group stage while the men’s hockey team also crashed out along with the tennis pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna on a miserable day.
Saina, who was carrying a knee injury into the quadrennial sports spectacle, lost to lower ranked rival Maria Ulitina from Ukraine to make a shock exit. The only bright spots on an otherwise gloomy day, with setbacks coming thick and fast from various quarters, were provided by shuttlers K Srikanth and P.V. Sindhu who atoned somewhat for Saina’s exit by reaching the pre-quarterfinals from their respective groups in men’s and women’s singles.
More disappointment was in store for the contingent when mixed doubles medal hopes—Bopanna and Sania—lost in the bronze medal play-off in straight sets to the Czech pair of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradceka.
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To add insult to injury, the men’s hockey squad, which had qualified for the knock-out phase after 36 years, was bundled out of the competition by Belgium which inflicted a 1-3 come-from-behind victory.
The shooters continued to misfire as rifle shooters Gagan Narang and Chain Singh failed to make the final of the 50m 3-position event, finishing a lowly 23rd and 33rd respectively, to end the country’s dismal campaign.
Women marathoners O P Jaisha and Kavita Raut were also out of depth and finished way behind in 89th and 120th spots clocking unimpressive time of 2 hours, 47 minutes, 19 seconds and 2:59:29 respectively.
Boxer Manoj Kumar lost 0-3 to Uzbek rival Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in the light welter (64kg) pre-quarterfinal bout. The biggest talking point on the disastrous day was the shock ouster of world no. 5 Saina, who created history four years ago in London by winning a bronze medal which was the first by an Indian in the sport. She lost 18-21 19-21 to world no. 61 Ulitina in a match that lasted 39 minutes and later revealed that she played with pain in her knee.