Rio Olympics: Dipa Karmakar wins hearts, India still medal-less - NEWS SENTRY


Monday, 15 August 2016

Rio Olympics: Dipa Karmakar wins hearts, India still medal-less

A day that promised so much ended with emptiness. India's search for a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics continues following the defeat of the mixed doubles' tennis pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in the bronze medal play-off match, the men's hockey team's loss to Belgium in the quarter-finals and the surprise exit of Saina Nehwal on Sunday.

India can raise a toast, however, to 22-year-old gymnast Dipa Karmakar who finished fourth in the vault final with a score of 15.006 - well past her previous best - and missed a bronze medal by 0.150 points. Dipa was at second place after her second attempt at the Produnova but slipped to fourth after the final contestant, AmericanSimone Biles, put in an outstanding performance to win gold with a score of 15.966. To go where no Indian had gone before is a story in itself, and no one can begrudge Dipa her result.

There was good news to come out of the Riocentro, where Kidambi Srikanth beat Sweden's Henri Hurskainen 21-6, 21-18 in 34 minutes to enter the pre-quarters of the badminton men's singles event and PV Sindhu overcame Michelle Li of Canada 19-21, 21-15, 21-17 in a grueling 72-minute match to join her compatriot.

The overarching theme, though, was of disappointment. After a heart-breaking loss to the American pair of Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in the semi-finals, the best that Sania and Bopanna could have hoped for was bronze, but they were outclassed by the Czech Republic's Lucia Hradecka and Radek Stepanek 6-1 7-5 on Court 1 of the Olympic Tennis Centre.

The hockey team had done well to reach the country's first Olympic knockout match in 36 years, but after taking the lead in the 15th minute via an Akashdeep Singhdeflected goal off a rasping long push from VR Raghunath, it all unraveled fast in the second half. Scoring twice for Belgium was the swift and powerful Sebastien Docker, who slotted in a field goal in the 34th minute to make it 1-1 and then put his team ahead for good in the 45th minute. In the 50th minute, Tom Boon made it 3-1. Once again, a familiar trend of nerves overcoming possession and ball control was the underlying theme of India's defeat. To reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1980 is an achievement, despite the hurt that this loss brings.

The big upset of the day was world No 5 Saina losing to the 61st ranked Maria Ulitina of Ukraine 21-18, 21-19 at the Riocentro. Fifty-six places separated Saina and Ulitina, and this was a result that few could have seen coming, despite the fitness concerns over India's 2012 London Games bronze medalist.

It was evident that Saina had not come through her injury, as she struggled for movement against the swifter Ulitina. There were a couple of terrific smashes from Saina, but overall it appeared she was moving with difficulty, her right knee strapped. She led a few times during the second game, starting strongly to lead 6-1, but each advantage was pulled away by the Ukrainian, whose reach and forehands were extremely dominant; several smashes into the body left Saina scurrying to recover. There will be nobody more bitterly disappointed than Saina herself.

In other news, the last of the shooting events marked a medal-less Olympics for Indian shooting after medals at the last three Summer Games - silver to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in 2004, gold to Abhinav Bindra in 2008 and Vijay Kumar's silver and Gagan Narang's bronze in 2012.

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