Indian athletes shone once again at the 18th Asian Games on Wednesday. Arpinder Singh and Swapna Barman bagged gold for India. Dutee Chand clinched her second silver in Jakarta. Veteran Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra bagged India’s first ever medal in mixed doubles table tennis. The Indian women’s hockey team made it to the Asiad finals in 20 years.
Arpinder Singh won India’s first medal in men’s triple jump since 1970. Singh landed the best jump in his third attempt – 16.77 meters – to take the lead over the other athletes. Though his personal best is far better – 17.17 meters – his jump was enough to finish in the first place. In the 2014 Incheon Games, the 25-year-old had finished fifth with a best jump of 16.41. After training in London, he hit bottom when he was asked to change his technique completely. The changes didn’t work and he couldn’t qualify for the Rio Games. From one unknown land to another, the Punjabi lad came to Kerala to train under athletics coach J Jayakumar in Trivandrum. He relearned his technique and jumped his personal best 17.19 in the inter-state athletics championships to qualify for the Asian Games.
Swapna Barman conquered the toughest event in the Asian Games – the heptathlon. The 21-year-old finished the seven-discipline event with 6026 points, her career-best performance. Fighting severe toothache for days, Swapna pushed herself to set new personal best records in three events – shot put, long jump and javelin throw. Swapna became the first Indian woman to win Asiad gold in Heptathlon.
Dutee Chand added another silver medal to her tally after her second finish in the women’s 200 meters. She clocked a time of 23.20 seconds to grab the silver medal. Just a few days ago, she won the silver in the 100 meters finals. Dutee is the second athlete to win Asiad silver in both the 100 m and 200 m after Indian legend P T Usha.
“God has given me a lot of trouble since 2014. I suffered a lot. Nobody could have suffered so much. But I came back to give two medals to India. It will be a big celebration back home,” Chand said referring to her court battle over her right to compete with hyperandrogenism. In 2014, she was dropped from the team because of high testosterone levels.
Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra lost their semi-final match of the mixed doubles 1 – 4 to the Chinese pair Yingsha Sun/Chuqin Wangin. The Indian pair went down fighting. 0 – 2 down, the pair came back to win the third set. But the Chinese pair proved to be the better side and advanced to the finals. In their defeat, they claimed India’s first Asiad medal in the event.
Indian women’s hockey team created history by defeating three-time champions China to reach the finals. In a low-scoring encounter, the Indian team got the better of the neighbor. With eight minutes on the clock, drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur scored off a penalty corner. In the preceding quarter, Kaur had missed all the three penalty corners. In the last quarter, India got three consecutive penalty corners. Kaur missed the first two again. Her flick off the third corner left the Chinese goalkeeper helpless and the ball hit the top of the Chinese goal. China pushed their offensive in search of a goal in the last minutes of the game, but India’s defence did not deter.
“The team surely did not play to its potential in the first half. They stepped up in the second half and I am really happy for these girls. I know how much work they put in to be here. They trained really hard for this event. Japan will be a tough challenge but the team is up for it,” said India coach Sjoerd Marijne after the game.
India will now play Japan in the finals who defeated five-time champions South Korea 2 – 0 in the other semi-final.
India’s medal tally – 11 gold, 20 silver and 23 bronze, total 54