Incheon: The Indian men's hockey team regained the gold medal after a gap of 16 years while the women's 4x400m relay team also picked up a yellow metal as India added four medals to jump to the ninth position in the overall standings in the 17th Asian Games here on Thursday.
The men's hockey players hogged the spotlight with the thrilling victory over arch-rivals Pakistan to ensure a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The women 4x400m relay team, comprising Priyanka Panwar, Tintu Luka, Mandeep Kaur and M R Poovamma, then added to the euphoria by clinching the gold medal with the Asian Games record timing. Boxers Satish Kumar (+91kg) and Vikas Krishnan (75kg) contributed to the medal collection as they settled for bronze medals on a relatively good day for the Indians.
With the addition of four medals, India, overnight at 11th position, jumped to the ninth spot with a total haul of 54 -- 9 gold, 9 silver and 36 bronze. Powerhouse China maintained their supremacy with a tally of 321 medals followed by South Korea (211) and Japan (184). India also kept themselves on course for the gold medals in men's and women's kabaddi after making it to the finals.
A spirited Indian team prevailed over arch-rivals and defending champions Pakistan 4-2 in a nerve-wracking shoot-out to end its 16-year gold medal draught. The last time India had won a gold medal in Asian Games was in Bangkok in 1998. It turned out to be a humdinger of a contest between the two sub-continental foes as both India and Pakistan refused to give an inch to each other in the entire 60 minutes of a keenly contested tussle.
It took a shoot-out to determine the winner as both the teams were locked 1-1 in the regulation time of the summit clash at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium. Pakistan started brightly and broke the deadlock as early as the third minute of the match through Muhammad Rizwan Sr before Kothajit Singh (27th) equalised for India in the second quarter. The two teams continued their battle after change of ends but failed to breach the rival citadels inspite of creating numerous scoring chances, forcing the match into the shoot-off.
In the one-on-one shoot-off situation, Akashdeep Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra and Dhramvir Singh scored for India, while Manpreet Singh turned out to be the fall guy. But all credit to Indian custodian and vice-captain P R Sreejesh, who produced breathtaking saves in the shoot-off to deny Pakistan's Abdul Haseem Khan and Muhammad Umar Butta. Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Rasool scored the goals for Pakistan.
In athletics, India continued their stranglehold in women's 4x400m relay event in the Asian Games as its quartet ran a brilliant race to win the gold for the fourth time on the trot in Games record time. The Indian quartet won an easy race in 3:28.68 to improve upon the earlier Games record of 3:29.02 which was also in the name of the gold-winning Indian team in 2010. This was the second gold for India from athletics after Seema Punia bagged the yellow metal in women's discus throw.
Japan won the silver in 3:30.80 while China bagged the bronze in 3:32.02. This was the fourth time India has bagged gold in women's 4x400m relay in Asian Games as the country has been winning the event since the 2002 Busan Games. India also collected two bronze from the boxing ring through Vikash Krishan and Satish Kumar as they lost their semi-final bouts against respective opponents.
Vikas, a gold medallist in the last edition in Guangzhou, lost against current World Champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan by split verdict of 2-1 in the middleweight (75 kg) category. Satish, on the other hand was no match for 6ft 9 inch Kazakh giant Ivan Dychko, who won with a clear 3-0 verdict in all the rounds. India's performance graph deteriorated from the last edition in Guangzhou, where they won nine medals including two gold medals, three silver and four bronze medals.
This time it was gold from the legendary MC Mary Kom and four bronze medals won by L Sarita Devi, Pooja Rani, Vikas and Satish. In a sport which India has dominated since its introduction in the Asian Games, India stayed on course for double gold in kabaddi as the sport's powerhouse stormed into the finals of both men and women's events respectively. Chasing an unprecedented eighth yellow metal in the mega-event, the Indian men defeated South Korea 36-25 in the semi-final to cruise into yet another final.
India had earlier beaten Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand to top Group A with an all-win record. Indian men have won the kabaddi gold in each edition since the sport was added in the 1990 Games.
The Indian women's kabaddi team recorded a comprehensive 41-28 victory over Thailand in the semifinals and stormed into the title clash with a lot of confidence while ensuring at least a silver medal. It turned out to be a mixed day for Indian volleyball teams as the men's team defeated Thailand 3-1 in the 5th-8th place classification match after the women suffered a 0-3 reverse to Hong Kong to finish 8th in the competition today.
In table tennis also, Indian players had a bad outing with the likes of Soumyajit Ghosh and Manika Batra bowing out of the Games after suffering defeats in the men and women's singles round of 16 matches, respectively. India's taekwondo players had another bad day in office as none among the men and women in fray could make it to the medal round. Saurav lost in the men's 63kg quarterfinal to Afghanistan's Abasi Ahmad Roman's 4-5. In the round of 16, Saurav had beaten Sujan Joshi 8-5 at Ganghwa Dolmens Gymnasium.