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Medal hopes look brighter in squash

Busan: India opened their medal account in the Asian Games with a gold-medal winning performance by Yasin Merchant and Rafath Habib in snooker doubles event on a satisfying third day which also saw the country brighten its medal prospects in rowing and squash.

Riding a stunning display of skill and concentration, the Indian pair carved out a 33-71 74-20 92-13 78-21 victory over Hong Kong’s Marco Ka Chun and Chi Wai in final.

Ace squash player Ritwik Bhattacharya looked in devastating form as he blanked out China’s Liu Qinan 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 to move into the quarter-finals. Vaidehi Reddy and Joshna Chinappa had already secured a quarter- final berth in the women’s section on Monday.

While most of the rowers put up an unimpressive performance at the Nakdong river rowing course, the men’s lightweight four oars without coxswain team of Mujeeb Rehman Kolakkodan, Ratheesh Kumar, Saji Thomas and Kasam Khan qualified to the final after finishing first in the repechage ‘A’.

However, the weightlifters continued to disappoint and T. Muthu finished a poor ninth in the men’s 56 kg category with a total lift of 237.5 kg. Ace lifters Kunjarani Devi and Sanamacha Chanu had also failed to make it to the medal podium Monday.

China’s Meijin Wu claimed the gold medal in the event with a total lift of 292.5 kg to establish a new Games record while the silver was taken by Taipei’s Shin Yuan Wang who lifted 282.5 kg. Taipei’s Chin Yi Yang was third with a lift of 275 kg. Muthu managed 107.5kg in snatch and 130 kg in the clean and jerk.

The Indians will start their campaign in as many six disciplines on Wednesday including tennis and shooting which are expected to fetch a few medals for the country.

In rowing, however, there have been mixed fortunes for India. In the women’s lightweight double sculls event, the Indian pair of Jincymol Verghese and Monalisa Mohanty finished fourth in the repechage ‘B’ round with a timing of 8:10.81 seconds and will now fight for a place for the seventh and 12th position.

India’s Gurpreet Kaur finished fifth clocking 8:40.18 in the women’s lightweight single sculls repechage ‘A’ and will have to fight for a position between seventh and 12th place. In the women’s single sculls event, Manjula Rai finished fifth with a timing of 8:33.80 in the repechage ‘A’.

India’s medal prospects in the squash event were brightened with Ritwik joining two of his compatriots in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Ritwik ensured India stayed in the competition in the men’s section as well. Saurav Ghosal remained the sole Indian in the four-member team to bow out of the competition but not before giving a fight to his fancied rival.

In the women’s section, both Chinappa and Reddy have fair chances of making it to the semi-finals. Reddy, as per the draw, will be pitted against Korea’s Kim Dong-woo in the quarter finals. If she clears the hurdle, she will meet the top seed in the semi-final.

Any of these three players making progress to the next grade means a medal for India.

Ritwik, who has been training under the watchful eyes of former world champion Neil Harvey in London for over 18 months now, was business like in his easy win over Qiwen, who has switched to squash after being a national-level badminton player. (PTI)

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