Rowers shine on Day 6 at Asian Games

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan

Six more medals were added to India’s tally on the conclusion of Day 6 on Friday at Asian Games. Men’s tennis doubles pair Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan clinched gold in the finals. Men’s quadruple sculls team also won gold on the final day of rowing events. Dushyant won bronze in the men’s lightweight singles sculls while Rohit Kumar and Bhagwan Singh secured the same medal in lightweight doubles sculls. Prajneesh Gunneswaran also bagged bronze after his lost semi-finals clash in the single’s tennis event. Heena Sidhu also won a bronze in the 10-meter air pistol finals with a score of 219.3.

The rowing contingent produced their best international performance to secure three medals on the concluding day of rowing events in Palembang. The men’s quadruple team of Om Prakash, Sukhmeet Singh, Sawarn Singh and Dattu Bhokanal came in first in the finals finishing before host Indonesia and Thailand. This historic gold is the first time that India has come first in the sport in any international competition. Bhokanal, Sawarn, and Om Prakash had had no medal-winning performances in the singles and doubles events the day before. Within 24 hours, the four men turned the tables to finish as the number one in the finals.

Dushyant Chauhan, another army man clinched bronze in the lightweight individual skulls finals. He emulated his performance from the last edition in Incheon in 2014. Chauhan pushed himself so hard that he couldn’t even stand at the medal ceremony. He dashed through the last 500 m to complete the race, draining himself in the process. He threw up at the medal ceremony and was stretched to the medical centre.

He admitted the he “pushed as if it was the last race of my life. That was the only thing in the mind. Maybe I pushed a bit too hard but it was worth it. I had a bad cold and throat in the run-up to the event, that also affected me a lot during the race. I was gone”.

“I just had two breads and an apple. It was very hot also. That is why I was completely dehydrated,” in order to maintain weight (72 kg) before the race.

Another bronze-winning performance from the rowers Bhagwan Singh and Rohit Kumar added to the rowing contingent’s last day performance. Rohit and Bhagwan clocked 7:04.61 to come in third behind Japan and Korea.

Bopanna and Sharan defeated the Kazakhstan duo Aleksandr Bublik and Denis Yevseyev in the finals. They won the match in straight sets (6-3,6-4) in the 52 minutes encounter. This the pair’s first Asian Games medal. The win is Bopanna’s first at the Asian Games while Divij has won bronze along Yuki Bhambri at the Incheon edition in 2014.

“There’s no way to describe this feeling because there’s never been a gold before, neither of us have won it,” says Bopanna. “Winning the gold medal for the country, you don’t get to do that very often. Divij and I pushed each other hard to get this”, the number 1 seeds in the competition were quoted by the Indian Express after their win.

Prajneesh Gunneswaran had to settle for bronze in the single’s event after he lost to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 2-6,2-6 in the semi-finals. Prajneesh became the sixth Indian to win a single’s tennis medal at the regional showpiece event. “I am seriously pinching myself right now. It’s surreal, I am at a loss for words. I have had a wonderful year and this was the icing on the cake”, told the TOI.

Heena Sidhu fought back from elimination in the 10m air pistol finals to win her first individual and third straight medal at the Asian Games. In the qualification for the event, she was placed 17th at one point. In the finals also, she was in seventh place. But fought back to third place.

“I lost the final because of my group shifting. If you look at my start, the grouping was very tight, all the shots in that one cluster but they are all high. So I had to keep adjusting my gun and it took a lot of shots, that is where I lost. Even though I was shooting well, the group shifting cost me. This is something that can happen anytime, anywhere according to how you are gripping your pistol, the change in the lights or change in muscle tone, or the height of the target. It’s just happened to be my lucky + unlucky day,” said the former world number 1 after her win.

Sidhu is the second Indian woman to win a medal in this event at the Asian Games after Shweta Chaudhary who won bronze in 2014.

Other matches
Indian men’s hockey team continued their dominant performance by defeating Japan 8-0 in their Pool A encounter and inch towards a semi-final berth.

Dipa Karmakar, the poster girl of Indian Gymnastics exited the games with no medals. Men’s singles badminton players H S Prannoy and Srikanth Kidambi also had early exits at the Games on Friday along with doubles players Satwik Sairaj and Chirag Shetty.