The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sunita test sours gala week
- Women athletes rule as India emerge with best haul since 1982

Busan: The Indians never had it so good. From a mere five medals in the first week, they turned the corner with 31 in the second. And then came the shocker. As the curtains came down on athletics Sunday noon came the news that Sunita Rani had tested positive for a banned substance.

In a moment of madness, the 1500m gold and 5000 bronze-medallist had disgraced a nation of one billion. The Doubting Thomases, who were looking at the Indian athletesí stupendous run with a frown, had been given enough ammunition to move around with an ĎI told you soí attitude.

The week began on an encouraging note when Shiv Kapur topped the individual golf standings with a skilful final round on a rainy day. The US-based 22-year-old management student did well to negotiate the slushy course and win three strokes clear of his Sri Lankan rival.

Then the athletes took over. Anju Bobby George leapt long enough to beat off her Japanese and Kazakh challengers. K.M. Beenamol and Bahadur Singh Sagoo gave us a double treat with golds in womenís 800 and menís shot put. It was even better on Day XII as India scooped three gold medals. Saraswati Saha made the most of Susanthika Jayasingheís absence in the 200 final while Neelam J. Singh clinched the womenís discus.

Sunita ran the race of her lifetime to erase the Games as well as her own national mark in the 1500m. Who had known then that the Punjab girl was under the influence of a banned substance!

The womenís 4x400 relay team of Soma Biswas, Beenamol, Jincy Philips and Manjeet Kaur recovered well to finish first. Beenamol thus emerged as Indiaís only multiple gold winner. She ended with two golds and a silver. Soma produced a brave performance in the final event of heptathlon (800m) and missed out on the gold by mere 12 points.

Of the seven golds India picked up in athletics, six were credited to women, Bahadur being the odd man out.

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi showed snatches of their old magic in claiming the doubles gold. Playing together after almost five months, the estranged partners survived a three-set semi-final against an unfancied Korean pair before dismissing Lee Hyung-taik and Chung Hee-seok in the deciding encounter. Bhupathi could have captured another gold if partner Manisha Malhotra had been less error-prone in the mixed doubles final.

Hockey produced the biggest heartbreak. After winning the war against Pakistan, India lost the battle to South Korea. That, too, because of a faulty tactic. Being over-cautious in the first session cost Dhanraj Pillay & Co. the gold. They did fight back to level scores from being 0-3 down, but it was too uphill a climb against a team which is a strong power in world hockey now.

The kabaddi gold was the most easily available one. But a rout of Pakistan in the decisive game made it a memorable occasion.

The shooters (read: Jaspal Rana) completed a miserable Games while billiards also threw up a couple of disappointments. Geet Sethi was expected to hit bullís eye in both singles and doubles. He managed a silver and a bronze. The boxers failed to go beyond Round II while Pullela Gopichand fell in two games to a local boy.

Thanks to the athletes, India logged 11 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals ó their best haul since the 1982 Delhi Games. Thanks to Sunita Rani, however, the euphoria has been overshadowed by gloom.


GOLD ó Athletics: Bahadur Singh Sagoo (menís shot put), Saraswati Saha (womenís 200), K.M. Beenamol (womenís 800), Sunita Rani (womenís 1500), Anju Bobby George (womenís long jump), Neelam Jaswant Singh (womenís discus), Beenamol-Jincy Philips-Manjeet Kaur-Soma Biswas (womenís 4x400 relay). Golf: Shiv Kapur. Kabaddi: Menís team. Tennis: Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi (menís doubles).

SILVER ó Athletics: K.M. Beenu (menís 800), Beenamol (womenís 400), Madhuri Saxena (womenís 800), Bobby Aloysius (womenís high jump), Soma Biswas (heptathlon), P. Ramachandran-Manoj Lal-Satbir Singh-Bhupendra Singh (menís 4x400 relay). Billiards: Geet Sethi-Alok Kumar (doubles). Hockey: Menís team. Sailing: Nitin Mongia (ok dinghy Open). Tennis: Bhupathi-Manisha Malhotra (mixed doubles).

BRONZE ó Athletics: Shakti Singh (menís shot put), Anil Kumar (menís discus), Sunita Rani (womenís 5000), J.J. Shobha (heptathlon). Billiards: Geet Sethi (singles). Sailing: Ashim Moga-Mahesh Ramachandran (enterprise open), Rajesh Chaudhary (laser radial open). Taekwondo: Surendra Bhandari (menís flyweight). Tennis: Vishal Uppal-Mustafa Ghouse (menís doubles), Paes-Sania Mirza (mixed doubles). Wrestling: Palwinder Singh Cheema (menís freestyle 120kg).

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