Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Asian Games: Men's snooker team claim silver, bronze for tennis team

Yasin Merchant
GUANGZHOU: The cueists turned out to be the saving grace by bagging a silver medal as the fancied shooters came a cropper on a disappointing third day of competitions in the 16th Asian Games which saw India slip to the seventh position on the medals table on Monday.

With the addition of just a silver and bronze medal, India took their overall medals tally to one gold, four silver and three bronze to drop to the seventh spot on the roster after being in the fifth position on the first two days.

Powerhouse China expectedly did the bulk of the gold collection to consolidate their position atop the table with a tally of 53-20-19 while South Korea (18-13-17) and Japan (13-25-23) were in the second and third position respectively.

It was a heart-breaking day for the large Indian contingent with star shooters like Gagan Narang and Tejaswini Sawant failing to come to terms with the windy conditions at the Aoti shooting range while the performance at the other venues also left much to be desired.

The performance of the snooker team comprising Yasin Merchant, Sneh Aditya Mehta and Brijsh Damani, who gave India their fourth silver, and the bronze-winning effort of the men's tennis team were the highpoints of an otherwise dismal day.

While the snooker team lost to China 1-3 in the final to be content with the silver, the men's tennis team lost to Chinese Taipei with a 1-2 margin in a marathon battle.

The shooters, who have provided the bulk of the medals so far, were a big disappointment as they drew a blank with all of them failing to qualify, handicapped by windy conditions.

The men's hockey team began their campaign on a rousing note by thrashing lowly Hong Kong 7-0 in a group-B league match while the paddlers endured a mixed day in the individual competitions with only Kumarsen Shamini making it to the second round of the mixed as well as women's singles event.

In weightlifting, India's medal hope K Ravi Kumar failed to live up to the expectations as he finished fifth with a below-par performance in the men's 69kg weightlifting.

Ravi Kumar would have won a medal had he repeated his 321kg effort which fetched him a gold in the Commonwealth Games but he could only lift 311kg (141+170) to finish fifth.

Amid the gloom, Grandmaster Sasikiran Krishnan continued his unbeaten run with two wins and a draw on Monday to sit at joint second after the seventh round and remain in contention for a medal in the chess competition.

The snooker trio of veteran Merchant, Mehta and Damani proved too strong for Pakistan as they demolished their arch rivals 3-0 to set up a gold medal clash against hosts China. But they could not get the better of China in the final.

The overcast conditions upset India's hopes for a medal in the men's 50m rifle prone event as the country's shooting trio, including Narang, failed to advance to the finals.

Narang, who secured two silver medals in the 10m air rifle event on the opening day including the team honours, was second-best among Indians by finishing a lowly 24th with 587 points.

But this is not the 27-year-old Commonwealth Games hero's main event at the distance and he would have a shot at the 50m three position competition to be held on November 18.

Hariom Singh, who has already secured an Olympic berth in the same event at the Munich World Championship in August, was 13th from 54 shooters in the qualification stage by shooting 590 marks but this was way behind the 598 he fired at Munich and well behind the 594-595 he has been doing in the practice rounds. Third Indian entrant Surinder Singh Rathod was 27th with a tally of 586.

India's first woman world champion in shooting, Tejaswini Sawant, surprisingly drew a blank as she failed to even qualify for the finals of the 50m rifle prone event.

Sawant finished 11th with a score of 588 in the 50m rifle prone qualifiers, way below the top score of 595 notched up by eventual gold medallist Chengyi Wang of China.

Sawant's compatriots were no better with Meena (586) finishing 14th and Lajja Gauswami ending on the 16th spot with a score of 585.

The trio did not do too well in the 50 rifle prone team event as well and signed off fifth with a score of 1759.

The disappointment continued for India in the men's 25m rapid fire pistol event with the team of Rahul, Gurpreet Singh and Vijay Kumar finishing fourth with a total of 1711.

The three could not make an impact in the individual event as well. While Rahul came 10th with a score of 572, Gurpreet (571) finished 11th. Vijay Kumar, who won an air pistol bronze on Sunday, signed off 17th with a score of 568.

In swimming, Virdhawal Khade narrowly missed out on a medal and ended up fourth in the 50m freestyle event just 0.03 seconds behind the eventual bronze-medallist.

The 19-year-old Khade, who qualified with the fifth best timing of 22.98sec, clocked 22.87sec in the finals.

Khade's performance was still a lot better than his other compatriots - Rehan Poncha, Arjun Jayaprakash, Sandeep Sejwal, Havaldar Rohit Rajendra - who cut a sorry figure in the pool failing to make any of the finals held on Monday.

Playing at less than optimal pace on a bouncy outside turf of the Aoti hockey field, the Indian men's hockey team had no difficulty in brushing aside Hong Kong.

With this win the Rajpal Singh-led India notched up their seventh victory over their rivals in the Asian Games and 12th in all tournaments.

Although they did not look threatening, coach Jose Brasa's boys completely dominated Hong Kong in the entire 70 minutes and pumped in four and three goals respectively in both the halves to start their proceedings in the quadrennial mega-event in style.

India's Ashish Kumar finished a disappointing 23rd in a 24-participant field in the final of the men's individual all-round artistic gymnastics competition, while Sagolsem Somorjit finished a dismal last in the men's all-round nangun wushu competition.

Indian challenge in soft tennis came to an end after both the mixed doubles pairs failed to cross the first hurdle, losing to higher-ranked opponents.

Mixed doubles pair of Jitender Mehlda and Monica Murali Menon became a first round casualty after losing the opening round 5-0 to Mai Sasaki and Hidenori Shinohara of Japan.

In judo, Ramashrey Yadav's hopes of winning an Asian Games bronze medal went up in smoke as he lost in the men's 73kg repechage final at the Huagong Gymnasium.

The 25-year-old Yadav lost 100-1 to Guvanch Nurmuhammedov of Turkmenistan in a three minutes and 37 seconds contest.

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