Monday, November 22, 2010

Asian Games: Somdev takes centrestage as India maintain 8th spot on table

Sanam Singh & Somdev Devvarman
Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Krishan Singh of India during the men's doubles tennis match of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou on November 22, 2010. (AFP Photo)
GUANGZHOU: Tennis star Somdev Devvarman took centre stage by fetching a gold medal in doubles event and also becoming the first Indian to reach the final in men's singles as India clinched three medals to maintain their 8th position on the tenth day of competitions in the 16th Asian Games on Monday.

Somdev teamed up with Sanam Singh to claim the title in the men's doubles event and inched closer to a historic singles gold by moving into the final on what turned out to be a fruitful day for him.

Sania Mirza and Vishnu Vardhan had to be content with a silver in mixed doubles while the men's archery team comprising Rahul Banerjee, Mangal Singh Champia and Jayanta Talukdar bagged a bronze in the team event.

With the addition of three more medals, India's medal tally climbed to six gold, 12 silver and 18 bronze to maintain their 8th position on a day which saw the athletes drawing blank.

Hosts China continued to reign supreme and consolidated their position atop the medal table with a stupendous haul of 154-77-73 while South Korea (61-51-66) and Japan (32-59-67) were in the second and third.

Five-time world champion MC Mary Kom (51kg) and Kavita Goyat (75kg) assured India of at least two bronze medals in women's boxing by advancing to the semifinals with contrasting wins. Santosh Kumar also advanced to the semifinals in the men's section.

After launching their campaign in spectacular fashion by fetching two gold medals, the athletes returned empty-handed on Monday while the grapplers, who accounted for two bronze medals on Sunday, came a cropper in Greco Roman competitions.

The women's hockey team went down to China 1-2 in their last league match but were still in contention for a bronze medal.

The day clearly belonged to Somdev as he pipped Japan's Tatasuma Ito 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 in the semifinals to set up the summit-clash with top seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

Later, he and Sanam Singh combined superbly to win first gold medal for India in the tennis event in this edition of the Games as the sixth seed pair shocked second seed Chinese Gong Maoxin and Li Zhe 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-8 in the final.

However, gold eluded Sania yet again as she and Vishnu Vardhan, seeded sixth, lost the mixed doubles final 6-4, 1-6, 2-10 to second seed Taipei pair of Chan Yung Jan and Yang Tsung Hua.

Somdev and Sanam's gold medal feat assumes significance as India landed here without star doubles pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, gold medallists of the last edition at Doha in 2006, who opted to play in World Tour Finals in London. Rohan Bopanna is also missing from the Indian line-up though he had failed to qualify for the World Tour Finals.

Before Somdev, no Indian had managed to enter men's singles final and India had won only three bronze medals in men's singles in Asian Games. Leander Paes had won it in 1994 in Hiroshima Games and Mahesh Bhupathi and Prahlad Srinath had won it during 1998 Games in Bangkok.

In the showpiece athletics event, medal prospects Mandeep Kaur and Manjeet Kaur finished disappointing fourth and fifth with below-par performances in women's 400m final.

One-lap racer Mandeep Kaur, the leading timer in Asia this season and drawn on the outside lane seven, led the field till the back stretch before flagging behind to finish fourth in 52.99 secs.

National record holder Manjeet, gold medallist in 2002 at Busan and silver medallist four years later in Doha, finished a poor fifth in 53.27, two seconds below her personal best.

In women's hammer throw, national record holder Hardeep Kaur started with a foul attempt before attaining her best effort of the day, 60.54m in her third attempt, to finish fourth.

Sprinters Mohammed Najeeb Qureshi and Krishnakumar Rane both failed to advance to the men's 100m final after finishing fourth in the semifinals.

Spearheaded by Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa, Indian men's and women's racqueters came out with a heartening performance to end the day on an unbeaten note in the squash team events.

Indian men blanked Japan 3-0 in their opening encounter of the day and then went on to secure their third straight preliminary league victory in the event, thrashing Saudi Arabia with an identical scoreline.

In the women's section, Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal and Anaka Alankamony ripped apart the challenge of Chinese racqueters 3-0 in the first outing. They then secured a victory over arch-rivals Pakistan.

India slumped to a 1-2 defeat at the hands of defending champions China in their last round-robin match but still qualified for the bronze medal play-off game against Japan in women's hockey competitions.

With three wins and as many defeats, the Surinder Kaur-led side finished its round-robin league proceedings at fourth position with nine points and will get a chance to defend its bronze medal, which they earned four years ago in Doha.

The Indian trio of Jayanta Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee and Mangal Singh Champia fought through challenging conditions to clinch the men's team bronze after beating Chinese Taipei in the Archery competition.

Like the women, the Indian men defeated Chinese Taipei but with a more comprehensive 220-216 margin as compared to the women's 218-217 victory in the bronze medal play-off.

Incidentally, both men and women lost to world's top archers from South Korea in the semifinals before clinching the bronze medal.

The Indians scored 28 and 29 for a total of 57 in the first set of six arrows, 56 (29 and 27) in the second set and flagged a bit to get 53 (26 and 27) in the third and 54 in the fourth and last set (27 and 27). They shot a total of eight 10s and bulls eyes.

In chess, Indian women drubbed Mongolia to climb to the joint top position while their male counterparts slipped to the fourth spot with a shocking defeat at the hands of lower-rated Philippines after the fifth round.

In rugby, despite suffering heavy defeats in all three league matches, the Indian men's team qualified for the quarter finals as only nine teams are in the fray.

India, who were thrashed 43-5 by Korea in the opening pool B match yesterday, were today drubbed 61-0 by China and 42-12 by sub-continental rivals Sri Lanka to finish at the bottom of the group.

Yet, they qualified for the quarter finals and will play the winners of pool B at the University Town stadium on Tuesday.

The women performed no better, and were steamrolled by Japan 31-0 for their second straight preliminary league defeat after being thumped 50-0 by Kazakhstan.

Indian cyclists continued to cut a sorry figure at the Games with the duo of Sombir and Atul Yadav finishing 27th and 32nd respectively in the men's Individual Road Race on Monday.

In the 180km race, comprising nine laps of 20km each, Sombir clocked 4:15:15.42 and managed an average speed of 42.310. Atul was further down after clocking 4:15:59.39 at an average speed of 42.189.

India swamped Bangladesh 34-20 in their opening encounter as women's kabaddi made its Asian Games debut.

Indian women spikers suffered their third successive defeat in the Asian Games, going down 0-3 to Chinese Taipei in their last preliminary Group B match at the Guangwai Gymnasium.

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