| Koneru Humpy after winning India’s first gold in Doha on Monday. (PTI)
Doha: For someone who had just won India’s first gold medal in the 15th Asian Games, the expression was baffling. As the 50-odd Indians present at the chess centre of the Khalifa Stadium stood up to cheer Koneru Humpy after she topped the rapid chess event on Tuesday evening, the Andhra girl looked hardly excited. She broke into a quiet smile, shook a few hands before going on to hug her mother.
On Sunday, Indian fans thronged the shooting range to cheer for Manavjit Singh. He flattered to deceive. On Monday morning, a few hundred metres away from the chess centre, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi disappointed despite being backed by a large contingent of supporters. When Humpy struck it rich, there were not many to cherish the golden moment.
Moments after she defeated Dana Aketayeva to seal the gold with eight points, Humpy said she was happy to win the Asian Games gold as it was for the country. “I was confident of winning this medal. In the morning, I knew about this as the match against the Indonesian girl was an easy one.”
Humpy’s only regret is that the gold has come in the absence of her father. “She mostly travels with her father,” said mother Latha, who looked more excited than the daughter. “This time, I decided to accompany her. It’s a great feeling to watch your child win the Asian Games gold medal.”
Her father had named her Hampi, derived from the word champion, and then changed the spelling to Humpy to make it look more Russian. The daughter has not disappointed. Among the prized scalps of Asia’s youngest International Women’s Master is the legendary Anatoly Karpov.
“Beating Karpov was a great feeling”, she said, sounding excited for the first time. “I never imagined I’d get the better of him.”
“That gave me the enthusiasm to go for the Asian Games gold. Since this is the first time chess has been introduced at the Games, I have trained very hard for this completely different type of format,” she said. “There was some tough competition, like the duel against Qatari world No. 1 from China , but I am happy I overcame all odds.”
Humpy is disappointed that chess does not get enough support back home. “I have the backing of the ONGC, but what about others' “The government of India pays for playing only three official tournaments in the whole year. How do you expect the players to raise money for the rest of the meets'”
Some food for thought that. Especially so as it comes from the latest gold-winner in a country of a billion.