The Indian men’s hockey team marched into the quarterfinals and archer Atanu Das stunned a two-time champion Korean on Day 6 of the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 on Thursday.
A big heartbreak was boxing legend MC Mary Kom’s pre-quarterfinal exit despite the London Olympic bronze-medallist winning two of the three rounds in her flyweight (51kg) bout against Colombia’s Ingrit Valencia. The 38-year-old mother-of-four, though, promised not to stop just yet, even though her Olympic journey was over.
Before India celebrated her grit, it woke up to fantastic news from the hockey stadium in the Japanese capital. The Manpreet Singh-led men’s team hammered defending champions Argentina 3-1 in their penultimate group match to storm into the quarterfinals. This was after badminton ace PV Sindhu set the tone for the day by advancing to the quarterfinals with a 21-15 21-13 win over Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt, topping her group in the process.
But the biggest triumph of the day was without doubt Atanu. Hardly anyone gave him a chance against two-time Olympic champion Oh Jin Hyek, but he knew what was needed to be done, displaying nerves of steel as his wife and fellow archer Deepika Kumari screamed her lungs out from the stands.
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Atanu is now in the pre-quarters, just like Deepika, who made it on Wednesday. Atanu, who had lost his place to rookie Pravin Jadhav in the fancied mixed team event after slipping to 35th place in the ranking round last week, edged out the Korean in a one-arrow shoot-off.
An individual Olympic champion from London 2012 and a team gold medallist in Tokyo, Oh started the shoot-off with a 9 but Das delivered a perfect 10, hitting the bull’s eye to seal the issue 6-5 (10-9). He had earlier seen off a tough challenge from Chinese Taipei’s Deng Yu-Cheng to win 6-4 after being locked 4-4.
In the boxing ring, India’s first super heavyweight (+91kg) to compete in the Olympics, Satish Kumar, eased into the quarterfinals of his debut Games, defeating Jamaica’s Ricardo Brown in his opening bout. In the battle of the debutants, the 32-year-old Satish prevailed 4-1, a comfortable win for him despite the split verdict. However, he did end up sustaining two cuts – one on his forehead and the other on his chin – during the bout and is due to take on reigning world champion Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan.
India started strongly in the golf competition as well with Anirban Lahiri, playing in his second Olympics, off to a solid start, carding a 4-under 67 in the first round to be placed tied 8th at the lightning storm-struck Kasumigaseki Country Club. The former Asian Tour No 1 had six birdies against two bogeys and shared the 8th spot with Paul Casey (Great Britain) Alex Noren (Sweden) and Sebastian Munoz (Mexico) at the end of the day.
The other Indian in fray, Udayan Mane, who made the field of 60 at a late stage, had a fine start at 2-under after eight holes. But he finished at 5-over 76 and was last on the leader-board.
There was some decent news from the shooting range, too, after the recent disappointments. Manu Bhaker and Rahi Sarnobat were placed 5th and 25th respectively in the women’s 25m pistol qualification (precision). In a field of 44 shooters, Bhaker scored 292 after 30 shots on target in the precision round while Sarnobat aggregated 287 in the qualifications at the Asaka Shooting Range.
The second stage of the qualification – the rapid round – will take place on Friday. The top-8 shooters in the qualification will enter the final.
Rowers Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh ended their campaign in 11th position in the men’s lightweight double sculls event, the best ever result for the country in the Olympics. The pair clocked 6:29.66 to finish fifth in the Final B, which was not a medal round, and end at 11th overall at the Sea Forest Waterway.
India’s swimming challenge also drew to a close with Sajan Prakash failing to make the semifinals of the 100m butterfly event. He finished second in his heat but that was not enough to advance as he attained that position in the second-slowest heat with a time of 53.45s. The cut was placed at 51.74s.
On Friday, the blue-riband athletics competition will take off in the Japanese capital and India’s slim medal hopes will be from the sprightly but under-prepared star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who is due to compete on August 4.
The 23-year-old Chopra, currently ranked fourth in the world, is the brightest prospect for an Olympic medal though he is short on preparations, having competed in only one top-class international event in the run-up to the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In all, 26 Indian athletes will be in fray with sprinter Dutee Chand also among the ones to watch out for.