Jakarta: Amit Panghal displayed a soldier’s grit to stun the reigning Olympic champion for India’s only boxing gold and two 50-plus bridge players proved that age is just a number with their top finishes as the country achieved its best ever medal haul at the Asian Games here.
India equalled its best gold medal haul by touching 15, something that last happened back in 1951, and the overall tally surpassed the 65 in Guangzhou by three this time.
Apart from the 15 gold, India picked up 24 silver and 30 bronze medals for a brilliant show that helped them finish inside top-10 at eighth for the third consecutive time.
Starting the day at 13 gold, Army man Amit was up against quite a few odds as he took on reigning Olympic and Asian champion Hasanboy Dusmatov, the man he narrowly lost to in the world championships quarterfinal almost a year ago.
The day ended with the men’s hockey team redeeming itself to an extent by beating arch-rivals Pakistan 2-1 to walk away with a consolation bronze medal.
But the gutsy 22-year-old, the only Indian to make the boxing finals, prevailed 3-2 as India ended its boxing campaign at the Games with a gold and a bronze, which was won by Vikas Krishan in the middle-weight category.
Amit showed immense tactical brilliance, especially in defence to outmanoeuvred the Uzbek, who has an iconic status in international boxing.
“I had lost to him before, so I had to take revenge. Coach Santiago (Nieva) and other coaches had prepared me well. In the semifinal, I did not play the first round well, here I did not repeat that mistake,” Amit said after the bout.
Today’s win marks the highest point of Amit’s meteoric rise to the top, starting with an Asian Championships bronze last year.
Then came two men, who would be nearing retirement in any contemporary job, but made their Asian Games debut in a debut sport.
Two old friends — Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath Sarkar — quietly added a gold to India’s tally as the focus remained on traditional sports.
Bardhan, at the age of 60, became the oldest man in Indian contingent to win a medal at the Games as he and his 56-year old partner finished the men’s pair event with a score of 384.
They edged out China’s Lixin Yang and Gang Chen, who finished with 378 points after five rounds of the competition.
“I could not sleep last night and ate only fruit in breakfast. It’s tough, the blood circulation shoots up with tension, we beat China and Singapore, it’s great result for us,” said an elated Sarkar, who taught bridge to students at Jadavpur University, said.
Bardhan, who had a construction business, said, “Bridge is more challenging than chess. It’s the most competitive indoor game.”
India finished third overall with one gold and two bronze medals. India had won a bronze each in men’s team and the mixed team events.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper