Palembang: The Indian rowing contingent redeemed itself by winning three medals, including a historic gold in quadruple sculls, on the final day of the competition at the 18th Asian Games here.
In tennis, top seeds Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan notched up their maiden men’s doubles gold medal at the Asian Games, dominating the final clash with a thoroughly clinical performance here today.
Experienced Indian shooter Heena Sidhu settled for a bronze medal in a topsy-turvy women’s 10m air rifle final of the Asian Games here today.
The rowers had to overcome an unexpected and disastrous outing yesterday, when they were in contention for four medals, to ensure that India doesn’t return home empty-handed from the Jakabaring lake.
All Armymen, most of them from humble background, fought with the never-say-die spirit that soldiers are best known for. They pushed their boats as if there was no tomorrow.
“Yesterday we had a bad day but soldiers never give up. I told my teammates that we will go for gold and we will give it all. It was about karo ya maro (do or die). And we did it,” Sawarn Singh, senior most member of the gold-winning quadruple sculls team, said.
He not only pushed himself to the limit but his words of encouragement fired up his teammates, including Dattu Baban Bhokanal, who had given up midway into his single sculls race yesterday after starting as the favourite.
The other members of the triumphant team were Sukhmeet Singh, who like Sawarn is from Mansa district in Punab, and Om Prakash. Like Bhokanal, Sawarn and Prakash also suffered a heartbreak yesterday, missing out on the bronze in the men’s double sculls.
But all of them were able to turn it around in less than 24 hours. Dushyant Chauhan, bronze medallist in lightweight single sculls at Incheon, defended his third place in the event.
Courtesy Bhagwan Singh and Rohit Kumar, India won another bronze in men’s lightweight double sculls. Bhagwan is the son of a truck driver who had to quit journalism in the second year and join the Indian Army due to financial issues.
Dushyant, who is now an experienced rower, gave his all – quite literally. The energy sapping dash in the final 500 metres led to him being carried on a stretcher to the medical centre. He was so drained out that he could not stand properly during the medal ceremony.
Bopanna and Sharan defeated Aleksander Bublik and Denis Yevseyev of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-4 in 52 minutes. Less than 20 minutes into the match, the Indians were 4-1 ahead, breaking Bublik and Yevseyev at the very first opportunity they got.
In no time, the top seeds were serving for the set with a 5-3 lead and Bopanna’s booming serve wrapped it up in style for them.
The Kazakhs had their moments but were undone by erratic play — a brilliant cross-court backhand winner one moment and a powerless return buried in the nets the very next minute.
In contrast, Bopanna and Sharan’s easy camaraderie shone through in the match and they displayed near-perfect, on-court coordination.
Heena Sidhu shot a near-perfect 10.8 with just three shooters left in the field but a 9.6 in the next attempt dashed her hopes of a better finish at the Jakabaring Shooting Range.
Having made an incredible comeback after languishing at 13th and 17th places in the qualification stage, Heena did not look contented with the eventual third-place finish as she managed to reduce the gap to a mere 0.1 between her and the gold medal. Heena shot 219.3 in the final.
There was more disappointment in store for 16-year-old Manu Bhaker as the Commonwealth Games gold-medallist was eliminated at fifth place with a score of 176.2.