| FALL FROM GRACE: Anjali Bhagwat came nowhere near her Commonwealth Games deeds
Busan: Some things never change. India sport, for example.
A week has gone by at the 14th Asian Games and our returns have been as dismal as the weather in Busan on Sunday ó grey and overcast, damp and gloomy. We had participants in 16 disciplines in Week One and all they managed were a gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
First the positives. The moment of glory came at the Dong-Ju College Gymnasium where Yasin Merchant and Rafat Habib came up trumps in the snooker doubles event. They were a trifle lucky to avoid the Chinese, but still had a couple of close matches en route to the gold.
In the final against Hong Kongís Marco Ka Chun Fu and Chi Wai Au, Merchant and Habib showed great character after being whitewashed in the opening frame. Merchant, the senior partner, gave all the credit to his partner. ďRafat played out of his skin and made life simple for me after we lost the first frame,Ē said Merchant.
In the team events, the Indians ran into the Chinese and though Merchant got the better of the in-form 15-year-old sensation Jun Hui Ding, Pankaj Advani and Manan Chandra lost their matches.
There was no joy in the singles competitions of snooker, partie libre and pools with Merchant bowing to the Chinese No. 2 in the first round of snooker. With billiards getting underway Sunday and the likes of Geet Sethi and Alok Kumar making an appearance, the focus has again shifted to cue sport.
The shooters bagged a rich haul at the Commonwealth Games. Busan, of course, was expected to be immensely tougher than Manchester. Still, few thought that the tally of 12 gold medals would come down to silvers.
The menís trap team and the womenís 10m air rifle trio finished second in their respective events. Anjali Bhagwat, multiple gold-winner in Manchester, missed out on a bronze in 10m air rifle by 0.1 point. Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh Sandhu came fifth and sixth in the trap finals, finishing one and two points behind the Filippino bronze-medallist respectively.
Jaspal Rana and Abhinav Bindra were major let-downs. Bindra finished seventh out of eight finalists in 10m air rifle ó 6.5 points adrift of the champion. Jaspal Rana shot a 572 to be 21st in the 10m air pistol qualifiers. Samresh Jung did no better, ranking 19th.
The weightlifters, who also fetched India a bagful of golds at the Commonwealth, made no impact at the Asian level. Kunjurani Devi, at 34 the oldest entrant in the 48kg category, was placed a lowly seventh among 12, while S. Chanu was disqualified.
Pratima Kumari fared marginally better, coming fifth though she was 35 kgs off the gold-mark.
Rowing and equestrianism, two neglected disciplines, brought in a bronze each.
The revelation of the Games were the footballers. Treated like stepchildren by the IOA and the only team in Busan on the federationís expense, came within a whisker of a quarter-final appearance.
Spearheaded by the redoubtable Bhaichung Bhutia, India swept past Bangladesh and Turkmenistan with dazzling second-half performances to stake their claim from group C. A draw with powerful China would have certainly carried them forward as one of the two best second-placed teams, but a combination of ill luck and missed chances resulted in a 0-2 defeat.
Bhaichung netted braces in each of the two victories and could have produced an encore against China too. But it was not his evening at the Yangsan Public Stadium. India tallied six points, the same as three other runner-up teams. Their goal difference, though, was inferior to Bahrain, North Korea and Omanís.
The hockey team predictably qualified for the semi-finals but only as No. 2 behind South Korea from pool A. After an uncharacteristically slow start against Hong Kong, Dhanraj Pillay & Co. recovered to beat Japan convincingly. Needing a win against the hosts to avoid meeting Pakistan in the last four, the Indians had to be content with a 1-1 result.
The team events in tennis produced a big zero with the men losing to Uzbekistan and the women bowing to Chinese Taipei in the quarter finals.
Leander Paesí lack of singles matchplay was exposed by Dmitry Tomashevic. Rohan Bopanna, the new kid on the block, was superior and stronger to the ageing Oleg Ogorodov but just couldnít close out the match. Love two down, Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi didnít get a chance to clinch the tie for India.
Teenager Sania Mirza put up a brave fight against a more experienced and higher ranked Janet Lee before losing in three sets.
The second week should bring some good news from the Seumjeong tennis courts as Indains eye at least a couple of golds from menís and mixed doubles.
The kabaddi team is also in line for gold. Athletics gets off the blocks Monday and the prospects there look bright as well. So the next six days may well provide a big cheer to India sport.
GOLD: Snooker doubles (Yasin Merchant & Rafat Habib). SILVER: Shooting ó Menís trap team (Mansher Singh, Manavjit Singh Sandhu & Anwer Sultan); womenís 10m air rifle (Suma Shirur, Anjali Bhagwat & Deepali Deshpande). BRONZE: Rowing ó menís four oars without coxswain (Inder Pal Singh, Roshan Lal, Jenil Krishnan & P.T. Paulose). Equestrianism ó team event (Indrajit Lamba, Bhagirath Singh, Rajesh Pattu & Deep Ahlawat).