Asian Games: Jitu, Shweta fire for India on first day of Games

Shooter Jitu Rai gave India its first gold medal at the 17th Asian Games shortly after compatriot Shweta Chaudhry opened the medal count with a bronze while the women's shuttlers and squash players assured the country of two more medals here Saturday.

Jitu Rai
Jitu Rai poses with his gold medal. Photo: AFP

Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa assured a medal in women's singles squash when they reached the quarters where they will face each other, with both semi-finalists guaranteed a medal.

Adding to the squash joy was Saurav Ghosal who beat Jordan's Alsaraj Ahmad Khaleel Ahmad 11-2, 11-4, 11-3 to enter the men's singles quarter-finals.

In badminton, the women's team entered the semis by beating Thailand 3-2 in the last eight clash to assure India of its first medal from the discipline since 1986 Seoul.

Saina Nehwal outlasted former World Champion Ratchanok Intanon 21-15, 17-21, 21-18 and P.V. Sindhu beat Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 21-13, 21-15 to make it 2-0 for India. However, P.C. Thulasi and the doubles pair of Pradnya Gadre-N. Siki Reddy lost their matches to level the contest at 2-all.

However, the scratch combination of Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa in the second doubles defeated Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Saralee Thoungthongkam 21-16, 21-17 in the all-important second doubles to propel India to the last four.

Earlier, the team had beaten Macau 3-0 in the Round of 16 clash. However, the men's team led by Parupalli Kashyap had to suffer a 0-3 loss to hosts South Korea to be knocked out from the men's team event.

As the competition unfolded, China got off to a flying start winning the first gold of the Games for the fourth time in succession. Of the 18 golds on offer, China and hosts South Korea took five each and Mongolia and Kazakhstan grabbed two each. Four other nations, including India and Japan, won one gold each.

India struck gold as Rai won the men's 50m pistol gold. Before he overcame a shaky start and moved to the top only in the second to last shot of the final, Shweta delivered a surprise bronze in women's 10m air pistol final where the more fancied Heena Sidhu, a one-time World No.1, and teenager Malaika Goel, who struck silver at Commonwealth Games, disappointed.

In the men's 50m pistol team finals, India ended fourth and were fifth in the women's 10m air pistol team finals.

Shweta, who was part of India's silver medal winning team in 2006 Doha took a bronze, as Heena and Malaika failed to make the finals. Shweta shot a total of 176.4 in the final to clinch the bronze while the silver went to South Korean Jung Jeehae (201.3) and China's Zhang Mengyuan (202.2) won the gold. Jung won the World Championships earlier this month in Grenada, Spain. She had a series of 97, 94, 97 and 95.

Heena and Malaika were 13th and 24th with 378 and 373 in qualifiers. The Indian trio of Shweta, Heena and Malaika finished fifth in the team event.

The stark difference in weightlifting standards at the Commonwealth Games where India picks medals with ease, and the Asian Games was once again laid bare. Nine of the 10 lifters at the Asian Games were in the successful team at Glasgow but here three of them in action were all way out of their depth.

In women's 48 kg, Mirabai Chanu and Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu, second and first in Glasgow, were ninth and 10th among 13 competitors. In men's 56 kg, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sukhen Dey totalled 23 kg less than the topper's lifts in Group B and overall he was never even close to top-6 let alone a medal. His lifts were 103 in snatch and 136 in clean and jerk.

India's judokas, Kalpana Devi Thoudam and Likmabam Sushila Devi lost in the repachage and went out of medal contention. Kalpana lost to Lenariya Mingazova of Kazakhstan in women's 52 kg bronze medal match while Shushila lost to China's Shugen Wu in women's 48 kg repachage final.

In men's volleyball preliminary matches, India beat Hong Kong 23-25, 25-18, 25-16, 25-21 in men's section while the women lost their preliminary match to South Korea 5-25, 12-25, 13-25.

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