Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some sports brought India unexpected glory in 2010

Ashish Kumar

New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) As India recorded its best haul at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games this year, sports like gymnastics, rowing, wushu and roller sports brought unexpected glory and medals to the country and show promise for the future.
Among those medals, one that stood out the most was Ashish Kumar's gymnastics silver and bronze in Delhi and bronze in Guangzhou.

Ashish won a silver in the men's vault and the bronze in the floor exercise, the country's first gymnastics medals since the sport was introduced in the Commonwealth Games 32 years ago.

And if this was not enough, the 19-year-old sensation from Allahabad opened India's gymnastics account in the Asian Games by winning a bronze in the men's floor event, 36 years after the sport was included in the Games.

Ashish, who was without a coach in Guangzhou as Russian coach Vladmir Chertkov, the man responsible for India's turnaround in the sport, flew back to Delhi on the eve of the opening ceremony, rates his Asiad medal higher than his Delhi effort.

'The field in China was as good as the Olympics. The Japanese, Chinese and Koreans are known to be world-class gymnasts. To win there was really satisfying,' Ashish told IANS.

Ashish is now aiming higher and eying a qualification at the 2012 London Olympics.

'The three medals in the last two months have given me the belief that I can perform at the highest level. A top three finish at the World Championships (in Japan) next year will give me the ticket to London. I am training hard for that,' he said.

Unlike Ashish's feat, India's first individual gold in men's rowing single sculls at the Asian Games was not a surprise. Bajrang Lal Thakar had won a silver in the last edition and was expected to improve on it this time. But the manner in which this subedar from the Rajputana Rifles overcame the hurdles while preparing for the event made the victory special.

In the run-up to the big event, Thakar and the other rowers trained in a filthy Hyderabad lake since there is not a single regatta course in the country. Then, the boats for the squad arrived in India when the team had landed in Guangzhou. Thus, Thakar and the team competed with their old boats.

All this notwithstanding, the stoic Thakar now eyes glory at the London Olympics.

'We trained in the polluted waters of the Hyderabad lake. We need better infrastructure and few artificial lakes to train,' Thakar pointed out.

'The last time I got silver, so this time my focus was to win the gold. As a soldier, I wanted my national anthem to be heard by everyone there,' said the proud subedar.

'The Olympics will be a lot tougher. I will have to improve on my timing. But I am definitely looking at a podium finish,' he added.

Besides Thakar's gold, India notched up three silvers and a bronze in the men's four, men's eight, men's lightweight and women's pair rowing events.

In wushu, a sport heard of only in the northeastern states, India picked up two medals, bettering the single medal won at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. Sandhyarani Devi bagged a silver in women's sanshou while Bimoljit Singh got a bronze in the men's event. The sport is more famously known as Chinese martial art.

Roller sports, introduced for the first time in the Asian Games, earned India two medals. The team was written off at the outset even by the sports ministry, which refused to lend financial support. The skaters bore the expenses to make the trip to China, only to return with a fitting reply.

India, courtesy Anup Kumar and Avani Panchal, won two bronze medals in free and pair skating. The roller sports federation now hopes the sport gets into the priority list.

In cue sports, a rich haul was expected from billiards and snooker but nobody, including Alok Kumar himself, thought about a bronze in 8-ball pool. Kumar, who has played billiards and snooker from the last 25 years, took to pool six months before the event to get the historic bronze. The veteran shocked former World Champion Efren Reyes enroute a maiden podium finish.

'I never thought I would go beyond second round. The win against Efren instilled a self-belief to go far in the tournament,' said Alok.

(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at

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