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regular-article-logo Friday, 01 March 2024

Asian Games: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty make history, win first-ever gold for India in badminton

It is also India’s first medal in men’s doubles in 41 years since Leroy D’sa and Pradeep Gandhe win a bronze in 1982 edition

PTI Hangzhou Published 08.10.23, 09:44 AM
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and  Chirag Shetty.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. File picture

Star men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty earned India’s first-ever badminton gold medal at the Asian Games with a straight-game win over South Korea’s Choi Solgyu and Kim Wonho here on Sunday.

World No. 3 Satwik and Chirag, who had become the first Indians to win the Asian Championships in 58 years in March this year, extended their sensational run with a 21-18, 21-16 win over Choi and Kim, ranked 15th, to achieve their crowning glory.

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It was also India’s first medal in men’s doubles in 41 years since Leroy D’sa and Pradeep Gandhe won a bronze in the 1982 edition.

The medal ensured India’s best-ever performance at the continental showpiece as they ended with three medals — a men’s doubles gold, a men’s team silver and a men’s singles bronze.

Indian athletes touched the magical figure of 107 medals with a promise of a best-ever harvest at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

With India concluding its engagements at the continental showpiece on Saturday as no athlete from the country is in the fray in a couple of events scheduled on the final day of competition on Sunday, the tally of 107 will remain etched in the collective memory of the nation until the athletes decide to reset it in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan in 2026.

India’s final tally in Hangzhou stood at 28 gold, 38 silver and 41 bronze, a quantum leap from the 70 medals the contingent bagged at Jakarta in 2018.

The tally had touched the 95-medal mark on Friday with a few assured medals on Saturday.

But, surprisingly, the athletes bagged 12 medals on the last day of their campaign, clinching six gold, four silver and two bronze.

New world No. 1

Satwik and Chirag will become the world No. 1 team when the BWF releases the ranking chart on Tuesday.

The Indians came into the summit clash with a 2-0 head-to-head count against their opponents. It seemed like a tricky affair as Satwik and Chirag lagged in most part of the opening game, which saw both teams produce an immaculate display of attack.

However, the Indian duo kept snapping at the heels of the Koreans and pipped them after overturning a four-point deficit in the opening game in the final moments.

Thereafter, it was a commanding show as Satwik and Chirag slowed down the rallies and kept their nose ahead right from the start to come up trumps.

It was a slugfest from the beginning as the two pairs engaged in a battle of supremacy. The Koreans were up 6-3 with the Indians missing a few shots.

Chirag took some time to get his angles and attack working for him as they narrowed the lead to 7-9. A booming smash from Satwik and a lucky net cord helped the Indians further cut the deficit before Choi and Kim grabbed a narrow two-point advantage at the break.

A series of fast exchanges ensued after resumption with Satwik and Chirag clawing back at 13-13.

Kim looked in awesome form as he charged towards the net and also made a fine return serve to again establish a two-point lead.

At 17-18, the two pairs engaged in a long fast-paced rally with the Indians clawing back and then Chirag took them to 19-18 with another smash.

The Indian combination dished out two clever serves with Satwik sealing it with a winner in the end.

The duo soon broke into their trademark dance. Chirag even removed his shirt and did a small lap of honour in front of the gallery. Satwik was seen touching the feet of coach Pullela Gopichand. Both threw their respective racquets to the cheering crowd before rushing back to shake hands with their opponents.

With this title, the legend of Satwik and Chirag only grew as they now have an Asian Games gold to go with the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold, 2022 Thomas Cup title and the 2022 worlds bronze.

The duo also won the Asia Championships gold, Indonesia Super 1000, Korea Super 500 and Swiss Open Super 300 this year.

“It can’t get any bigger than this. Winning the gold medal after winning silver in the team event was very important for us,” Chirag said.

Satwik said they were under pressure early on but got back the confidence.

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