London: Saina Nehwal etched her name in India`s Olympic folklore by becoming the country`s maiden badminton medallist and the second Indian woman ever on the podium after China`s Xin Wang retired hurt from the bronze play-off at the London Games here Saturday.
However, the glamorous mixed doubles pair of Leander Paes and Sania Mirza went down in the quarter finals bringing to an end the nation`s unproductive tennis campaign, while in the discus throw, Krishna Poonia was outclassed and finished seventh.
But boxer L.Devendro Singh made it to the round of last eight while on the track Indian walker Irfan Kolothum Thodi put on an impressive performance to finish 10th in the men`s 20 km race walk with a national record.
Luck smiled on Saina who had lost the first game 18-21 and was trailing 0-1 in the second when the Chinese pulled out with a right knee injury, ensuring the third medal for India from the 2012 Games after a silver and bronze from shooters Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang respectively.
India had collected three medals (a gold and two bronze) also in the Beijing Games four years back.
Though fourth seed Saina took off well, the Chinese recuperated in no time to equalise at 5-all.
From there on it was a Wang-dominated game all the way and the Indian could not match her pace making many errors. Wang, a former World No.1, constantly caught Saina on the backfoot and the Hyderabadi, looking nervous, could neither pick her cross-court smashes nor her drops at the net.
However, Saina tried fighting back towards the end of the game after Wang reached game point (20-14). The Commonwealth Games gold medallist saved four game points to make it 18-20.
But a match point away, the Chinese made a heavy landing, while hitting a smash, and fell on the floor writhing in pain.
The referee called for medical time-out. The tournament doctor came in and tended to her knee. The World No.2 returned to the court with a heavily strapped right knee. Surprisingly, she immediately sealed the game smashing Saina`s serve.
But despite winning the first point in the second game, she again dropped on the court in pain.
Saina went to comfort Wang, who had no choice but to retire as she could not carry on.
The match was awarded to Saina, who hugged her opponent becoming India`s second woman to win an Olympic medal after weightlifter Karnam Malleswari at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
For Saina, it was a dream come true.
"I still can`t believe that I have won a medal. I never believed that India could win a medal in badminton because the competition is so tough. It is a dream come true for me," she told reporters at the Wembley Arena.
In the ring, Devendro became the second Indian boxer to enter the quarterfinals bringing some relief following last night`s heartbreak when Vikas Krishan had to bow out from the pre-quarters hours after the authorities upturned the result of the men`s 69 kg bout which featured the Indian against American Errol Spence.
Hours after Vikas was declared the winner of the bout 13-11, the competition jury ruled on an American protest Friday night that Vikas committed nine holding fouls in the third and last round alone and also that the Indian had intentionally spit out his mouth guard in the second round.
Devendro prevailed over Mongolian Serdamba Purevdorj 16-11 in a men`s pre-quarterfinal match of the 49-kg category at the ExCel Arena.
Beijing Games bronze medallist Vijender Singh has also booked his place in the last eight.
Meanwhile, Leander and Sania lost 5-7, 6-7 (7-5) to the top seeded Belarusian pair of Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi in a match that was played over two days due to bad light.
The Indians were trailing 5-7, 2-3 when bad light stopped play here Friday evening. But when play resumed Saturday, the Indians failed to make a comeback.
There was disappointment in track and field, where S.Sudha fell by the wayside with a 13th place finish in in heat 1 of the women`s 3,000-metre steeplechase. The Indian runner clocked 9:48.86.
At the Royal Artillery Barrack range, Indian female trap shooter Shagun Chowdhury looked lacklustre to take the 20th place in the qualification round and miss out on a final.
In rowing, the team of Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh got the 19th slot in the men`s lightweight double sculls by competing the race in seven minutes and 8.39 seconds at the Eton Dorney lake.
In the men`s 20 km walk, apart from armyman Thodi, two other Indian participants Gurmeet Singh and Baljinder Singh completed the gruelling distance in the 33rd and 43rd positions respectively.