LONDON-After three unproductive days, luck smiled on India as army shooter Vijay Kumar scooped up a silver after his teammate Joydip Karmakar narrowly missed a medal at the London Olympics here Friday.
In badminton, women’s shuttler Saina Nehwal remained in contention for a bronze despite losing out to her top-rated Chinese rival Wang Yihan, while women’s discus thrower Krishna Poonia made it to the final as India had their brightest day at the Games and doubled its medals tally to two – one silver and one bronze – both coming from the ranges.
Late Thursday night, star boxer Vijender Singh played a brilliant tactical game to move into the 75 kg category quarter final – a victory away from repeating his medal performance of the Beijing Games.
Vijay Kumar, a junior commissioned officer (JCO), finished second in the men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol to give the country its second medal from the Games after marksman Gagan Narang opened India’s tally Monday by shooting a bronze in men’s 10 m air rifle competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks range.
He ensured a finish on the podium scoring 30 in the final after Cuba’s Leuris Pupo gave his country its first gold of the Olympics by carding 34.
The services shooter was fourth in the qualification, but seemed on target right from the outset in the final. He shot a perfect five in the first series to take joint lead and followed up with series of 4, 4, 3, 4, 4 and 4 and 2 to grab the silver.
His performance more than compensated for a poor show from Narang, who failed to make it to the final after taking the 18th slot in the qualifiers.
Kumar thus became the second Indian after double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to win an individual Olympic silver medal. Rathore achieved his feat in 2004 Athens Games.
“There was lot of pressure on me but I stuck to my plans and came out well. This medal means such a lot to me. It has been my dream to win an Olympic medal. This is the highest you can get,” said an elated Kumar.
Kumar’s success came after Karmakar finished tantalisingly close to a medal in the men’s 50 metres rifle prone. The 32-year-old Bengal shooter missed the bronze by 1.9 points to Slovenian Rajmond Debevec before settling for fourth place with an overall score of 699.1, including 595 in the qualification and 104.1 in the medal round.
Earlier in the day, Saina’s dream of an Olympic gold was shattered when she lost to a superior Wang in the women’s singles semifinals. The Indian will now play another Chinese, Wang Xin in the bronze play-off Saturday.
Saina, the first Indian shuttler to play in an Olympic semifinal, could not match the class of the reigning World Champion. The 13-21, 13-21 defeat was her sixth straight loss to Wang, who remains the only Chinese the Hyderabadi has never beaten.
Vijender pipped US rival Terrel Gausha 16-15 in a thrilling bout to enter the round of last eight at the Excel Arena.
He will now fight Uzbek Abbos Atoev for a place in the semifinal. Victory over Atoev will assure Vijender of a medal, as both losing semi-finalists are given bronze in the competition.
However, the Indians fared poorly in hockey and swimming and had a mixed luck in track and field.
India’s campaign in the showpiece track and field started on a wrong note with the country’s sole woman triple jumper Mayookha Johny crashing out with a 22nd place finish overall and 13th in group B. She had a best effort of 13.77 metres.
Male shot putter Om Prakash Singh also faltered in the qualification round finishing 10th in group B with a best of 19.86m.
However, Poonia brought the smile back in the Indian camp by reaching the final by hurling the disc to a distance of 63.54 metre.
On the hockey turf, a jittery India crashed to a 2-5 defeat against Germany for their third straight reverse in Group B of the Olympic men’s clash to bow out of medal contention.
The Germans, recording their third consecutive win, gave a fine exhibition of their efficiency based on strong basics. The Indians, once the monarch in the game, caved in under pressure after a good start.
Leading the German charge was 20-year old Florian Fuchs with three strikes (7th, 16th, 37th) and Oliver Korn (24th) and Christopher Wesley (33rd) chipped in with one apiece while India’s goals came from Ramachandra Raghunath, whose 14th minute drag-flick got deflected into the net, and Tushar Khandkar (62nd).
India’s lone swimmer at the Games Ullalmath Gagan caused no ripples in the pool as he fell by the wayside in the 1500-metre freestyle heat. He ended up seventh and last in Heat 1, clocking six minutes 31.14 seconds.