Incheon: The national anthem was played twice during the day as the men’s hockey won the gold medal after 16 long years and the women’s 4x400m relay team emerged champions for the fourth consecutive time taking India back into top-10 at the ninth spot again in the 17th Asian Games here Thursday.
Besides the two gold medals, India also got three bronze medals in the day from boxers Satish Kumar, Vikas Krishan and shotputter Inderjit Singh and took the tally to 54 medals, including nine gold, nine silver and 36 bronze. China is the runaway leader with 321 medals followed by hosts South Korea (211) and Japan (184).
India are also eyeing two more gold medals from kabaddi as both the men and the women’s team will be facing Iran in Friday’s title clash.
In the much awaited hockey final, goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh was the show stopper making two brilliant saves in the shoot-outs to give India a 4-2 win via penalties against arch-rivals and defending champions Pakistan, that ended 16-year wait for the gold medal, at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium here Thursday. The win also thus gaining a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sreejesh blocked two Pakistan’s strike in the shoot-outs after the regulation play yielded 1-1 tie as two-time champions India won the gold after 16 years and also were rewarded with a berth for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With both teams looking at breaching each other’s defence early, it was Pakistan who were successful in the third minute of the game when they penetrated the Indian defence as Muhammad Rizwan Sr. scored for his team. While the Indians had the early set-back, it did not deter them to get into action and attack. The entire first quarter saw the Indians create many scoring opportunities but were unable to convert.
Akashdeep Singh took the first strike in the penalty Shoot-Out and netted the ball successfully, giving India the initial lead. Pakistan’s Abdul Khan looked confident but was unable to pass through Sreejesh, which got Pakistan on the back foot. Set-piece specialist Rupinderpal Singh scored effortlessly, giving India a 2-0 lead as Muhammad Waqas made it 1-2 for Pakistan.
Manpreet Singh failed to convert India’s third strike, giving a breather to Pakistan. But goalkeeper Sreejesh yet again stepped up to foil Muhammad Umar’s effort.
Defender Birendra Lakra scored the third goal to give India a formidable 3-1 advantage which was reduced to 2-3 when veteran Pakistan striker Shafqat Rasool converted his team’s fourth chances.
Indian mid-fielder Dharamvir Singh brilliantly scored the last strike to seal it for India with a 4-2 scoreline triggering wild celebrations in the stadium.
It was after 32 years that both India and Pakistan were facing off in the Asian Games final. The last time when the neighbours faced in the 1982 Asian Games final, India were humiliated 1-7 in Delhi. Pakistan are the most accomplished team in the Asian Games, having won eight gold medals since 1958.
Minutes after the hockey tirumph, the women’s 4x400m relay team comprising Priyanka Panwar, Tintu Luka, Mandeep Kaur and M. Poovamma completed the race in three minutes and 28.68 seconds to overhaul the record which was also set by India in the 2010 Guangzhou Games.
The Japanese team of Aoyama Seika, Matsumoto Nanako, Ichikawa Kana and Chiba Asami set a season’s best time of 3:30.8 to take home the silver while China’s Li Manyuan, Wang Huan, Chen Jingwen and Cheng Chong clinched the bronze in 3:32.02, also a season’s best time.
Mandeep is the only existing member of the team that won the gold four years ago along with Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose and Ashwini Akkunji. Mandeep, who ran the last leg in 2010, gave the baton to Poovamma for the last leg and the latter made a brilliant sprint to finish.
The bronze from the track and field contingent came from Inderjeet Singh in the men’s shot put final. Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Abdulmajeed Alhebshi won the gold with a best throw of 19.99 metres while Chinese Taipei’s Chang Ming Huang took the silver with 19.97 at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium. Inderjeet’s best attempt of 19.63m came on his fifth try out of six.
India’s campaign in Asian Games boxing also ended Thursday with Vikas Krishan and Satish Kumar settling for the bronze medals after losing their respective semi-final bouts to Kazakhstan pugilists at the Seonhak Gymnasium here.
In the men’s 75 kg category last-four match, Vikas went down to Zhanibek Alimkhanuly while Satish, plying his trade in the +91 kg, lost to Ivan Dychko.
With the duo’s medal, India, who won nine medals in the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, bagged five medals from the boxing ring this time around.
Among the women, M.C. Mary Kom won gold in the 48-51 kg category while L. Sarita Devi had to be content with a bronze following her controversial semi-final loss in the 57-60 kg competition. Pooja Rani also earned a bronze in the 75 kg category.