Ace discus thrower Vikas Gowda was the country’s top performer with a silver as India added four medals to maintain their 10th position in the overall standings on a controversy-marred day for the boxers at the 17th Asian Games here today.
After two productive days, it was a relatively quieter for the Indian contingent with Gowda providing the silver lining and the boxers enduring an agonising day in the ring, where bizarre judging cost them a couple of bouts.
Veteran L Sarita Devi (60kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg) had to settle for bronze medals after losing their semifinal bouts, while the duo of Varsha Gautam and Aishwarya Nedunchezhiyan provided an unexpected bronze medal in sailing.
But it was the boxing arena which hogged the limelight albeit for all the wrong reasons with two boxers — Sarita and L Devendro Singh (49kg) — getting eliminated in controversial fashion. While both appeared to have got the better of their South Korean opponents, the verdict of the judges against them prompting the Indian contingent to lodge a protest at least for Sarita. However, the appeal was rejected.
The Indian men’s hockey team also kept themselves on course for a coveted gold medal by advancing to the final with a hard-fought 1-0 win over South Korea. India were also assured of at least a silver in boxing with five-time world champion M C Mary Kom (51kg) making it to the final.
With the addition of four medals today, India maintained their 10th position on the table with a tally of 45 — six gold, eight silver and 31 bronze. China kept the top spot with a haul of 254 followed by hosts South Korea (162) and Japan (141).
Vikas was India’s star today and he hurled the disc to 62.58m to clinch the silver on an otherwise lacklustre day for the athletes.
There was some unexpected good news in sailing when Varsha Gautham and Aishwarya Nedunchezhiyan endured disqualification in one of the 12 races before claiming a bronze medal in the women’s two person dinghy Sailing event. Varsha as skipper and Aishwarya as crew finished with net 25 points.
In hockey, Akashdeep Singh scored a fabulous field goal to guide Indian men’s team into the finals after a gap of 12 years.
After squandering at least three gilt-edged chances to take the lead in the first two quarters, Akashdeep (44th minute) received a superb through ball inside the striking circle and without turning he flicked the ball through his legs in spectacular style into the goal past the South Korean custodian Myungho Lee just one minute before the end of the third 15-minute quarter.
However, there was heartbreak in boxing when Sarita had to settle for a bronze medal despite dominating her semifinal bout even as Mary Kom continued her winning run to enter the summit clash.
The other Indian woman boxer in fray, Pooja Rani (75kg), also had to settle for a bronze after losing a closely-contested semifinal bout to China’s Li Qian. But what triggered massive outrage was Sarita’s loss which left the Manipuri in tears. Up against home favourite Jina Park, Sarita, the Commonwealth Games silver-medallist, went down 0-3 despite clearly being the better boxer.
Sarita simply pummelled her rival with her flurry of quicksilver blows — at times raining four to her rival’s one. But shockingly, Park was not given a single standing count by the Algerian referee Hammadi Yakoub Kheira despite looking rocked back by Sarita’s blows to her chin. In the end, all three ringside judges ruled in favour of the Korean by identical 39-37 margins.
Prior to the action-charged and scandalous bout, India’s best medal hope and former five-time world champion M C Mary Kom scored a convincing 3-0 victory over her taller Vietnamese opponent Ler Thi Bang. Two of the ringside judges adjudged her the winner by giving her 40-36 score in the four rounds combined while the third put her 39-37 ahead on points.
She will now fight against Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan who earned a 3-0 verdict over N Myagmardulam of Mongolia in the other semifinal bout.
India endured more of bizarre judging in the men’s competition when Devendro lost his quarterfinal bout to home favourite Shin Jonghun despite out-punching him in all the three rounds.