Rio de Janeiro: Gymnast Dipa Karmakar lightened up another dismal day for India with a brave performance at the Rio Olympics even as the tennis duo of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost out on a medal while star shuttler Saina Nehwal, the men’s hockey team, athletes O.P. Jaisha and Kavita Raut along with shooters Gagan Narang and Chain Singh crashed out of contention.
Shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and P.V. Sindhu also provided some small consolation among the gloom, winning their group matches to enter the pre-quarterfinals of the men’s and women’s singles respectively on Sunday.
The Indian challenge in the boxing ring also suffered a setback as Manoj Kumar crashed out with a 0-3 loss to Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan in the men’s Light Welterweight (64kg) category.
The Indian fought bravely against one of the top title contenders in this edition of the Games, but ultimate fell to the impressive Uzbek with the judges awarding the three rounds 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 to Gaibnazarov.
But Dipa britened up the day for Indian fans with a spirited performance even though she missed out on a historic medal in the women’s vault competition by a whisker as she finished a creditable fourth in the final.
Dipa averaged 15.066 points to finish fourth at the Rio Olympic Arena.
Simone Biles of the US won the gold with an average of 15.966, while Maria Paseka (15.253) of Russia and Switzerland’s Giulia Steingrubber (15.216) took home the silver and bronze medals respectively.
Dipa scored a total of 14.8661 points with her first attempt which included 6.000 points for difficulty and 8.866 for execution.
The Tripura gymnast then attempted her renowned Produnova vault in her second attempt. Her run up and the spins in the air were perfect, but the landing saw her falter a bit which ultimately proved to be costly.
The judges awarded Dipa 7.000 points for difficulty and 8.266 for execution and the second attempt total of 15.266 saw her finish with an average of 15.066.
Dipa was at the second spot at that stage behind then leader Steingruber. But she was pushed to the third spot after Maria’s attempt which saw the Russian score 15.266 and 15.241 with her first and second attempts respectively.
The 23-year-old from Agartala soon drooped to the fourth position after Biles brilliant attempt and agonisingly missed out on a medal by 0.15 point margin.
Despite being disappointed at missing out on the medal, Dipa asserted that she is determined to train harder and do better at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I am happy to have come fourth. Next time when I come to Olympics, I will do better. Those who won in Vault ahead of me were better athletes,” she said.
“I was very happy with my performance but the medal slipped away at the last moment. Anyway, I hope my coming years would be very good. I will try that in the future our performance at the next Olympics would be good,” Dipa added.
Earlier, Indian hopes of a first podium finish at the Rio Olympics were dashed when Sania and Bopanna lost in straight sets to Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the play-off for the mixed doubles bronze medal.
The Indian pair went down 1-6, 5-7 in an hour and 11 minutes at the Olympic Tennis Centre’s Court 1.
The Indians were broken in their very first service game as the Czech pair utilised their first break point to take a 2-0 lead in the first set.
Lucie-Stepanek then consolidated their position, holding their serve, to improve to 3-0 in a hard-fought game.
The Indians were totally outplayed in the first set as they found it difficult to cope up with the Czech attack, getting broken twice to surrender it 1-6 in 27 minutes.
The start of their second set was hardly ideal, as they were broken for the third time in the match to trail 0-1.
But their response to the setback was promising, breaking back immediately to square it 1-1 and then went 3-1 ahead.
But they couldn’t sustain the advantage as Lucie-Stepanek fought back to 3-3. At 4-3, Sania-Bopanna had a chance to pull ahead but failed to utilise a break point as the deadlock stretched to 4-4.
Bopanna comfortably held his service game to keep pace at 5-5 as the set headed for a tight finish.
The Indians saved two break points but was ultimately broken to concede a 5-6 lead. Lucie saved for the match and claimed the contest in the first match point itself.
Sania broke down in front of the media after loss and raised doubts if she would be playing at the next Olympics in Tokyo.
“It’s really hard (the loss). I don’t know if I will be playing tennis in four years,” Sania said with tears in her eyes. A few minutes earlier, she wept copiously while being interviewed by a TV journalist.
Sania said it would take some time to get over this. “Unfortunately we were not able to produce our best today,” she said adding that as athletes “we have to get over losses and try to bounce back.”
At the badminton courts, Saina’s defeat was a huge upset against World No.61 Marija Ulitina of Ukraine in her second match of Group G as she was eliminated, losing 18-21, 19-21 at the Rio Centro.
Ulitina, 24, effected a shock win against the World No.5 and 2012 London Games bronze medallist Saina.
The 26-year-old Indian, a top medal contender, failed to find her rhythm and looked slow as she was not moving well within the court. Saina also conceded a lot of points on misjudgement and was not able to retrieve once the shuttle moved behind her.
Saina started the first game in a dominating way building a 7-1 lead but the 24-year-old Ukrainian soon pulled up her socks, levelling the game at 8-8.
Saina tried to fight back, but Ulitina sealed the game 21-18 in 19 minutes..
In the second game, the Indian star shuttler barely managed a slender one-point lead at the mid-game interval.
After the interval, things were equal at 15-15, 18-18 and 19-19 before the Ukrainian clinched two points and the match, ending the Indian’s hopes.
Srikanth’s performance was diametrically opposite to Saina’s.
He outplayed Henri Hurskainen of Sweden 21-6, 21-18 in his group H preliminaries encounter. The only Indian to qualify in the men’s singles event had previously beaten Lino Munoz of Mexico 2-0 in his campaign opener.
In a lop-sided first game, the Guntur-born player got off to a brilliant start as he raced away with a 11-2 lead with some solid net play and cross-court smashes before wrapping up the first game.
The second game was an example of Srikanth’s tenacity and patience. By virtue of his exceptional defensive skills, the Sweden player managed to stay in touch with the Indian.
There was stiff competition in the last few points, but Srikanth overpowered his opponent to clinch the issue comfortably.
Shooters Narang and Chain Singh meanwhile, failed to qualify for the final round of the men’s 50 metre Rifle event.
Chain Singh secured the 23rd position among 44 competitors, with a combined score of 1169 including 52 inner 10s at the Olympic Shooting Centre – 50 metre range.
Narang fared more poorly, managing only the 33rd spot, with an overall score of 1162, including 50 inner 10s.
Only the first eight shooters qualified for the final round.
Russian Sergey Kamenskiy set a new Olympic record to secure the top qualifying spot, with a score of 1184, including 67 inner 10s.
German Daniel Brodmeier was second with 1177, including 57 inner 10s, while Norway’s Ole Kristian Bryhn was third with a score of 1177 with 56 inner 10s.
The men’s hockey team also continued their trademark inconsistent display with a 1-3 loss to Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Striker Sebastian Dockeier struck twice for Belgium, putting paid to the Indians’ hopes of making it to the men’s hockey semi-finals at the Olympics after a long gap of 36 years.
India, who last won an Olympic medal — a gold — at the 1980 Moscow Games, faced an aggressive Belgium side that scored thrice after conceding a goal against the run of play in the 15th minute.
Akashdeep Singh deflected from a close angle but Belgium hit back as Dockier equalised in the 34th minute.
Dockier gave Belgium the lead in the 45th minute and Tom Boon scored a field goal in the 50th minute to make it 3-1 — the scoreline that remained till the end.
It was a game that saw Belgium pressed higher from the push-back, pappering Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, who even though delivered a stunning show but it was not enough.
Both the teams went after each other aggressively and Belgium’s quick and attacking play kept the Indians guarded.
However, the Belgian midfield, led by captain John-john Dohmen proved to be the difference and they kept marching ahead to the Indian circle.
Belgium will face either reigning world champions Australia or last edition’s runners-up the Netherlands in the semi-final.
In the other last eight match, Argentina saw off a stiff competition from Spain with a 2-1 victory.
In athletics, India had a disappointing day in the women’s marathon on Sunday as O.P. Jaisha finished in the 89th position, while her compatriot Kavita Raut finished 120th at the Olympic Games here.
Jaisha clocked a timing of 2:47:19 hours, while Kavita clocked 2:59:29.
The event was dominated by Jemima Jelagat Sumgong of Kenya who clocked 2:24:04 to win the gold medal, followed by Bahrain’s Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa who clocked 2:24:13 and clinched the silver medal.
Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba won the bronze medal clocking 2:24:30.
At the golf course, India’s S.S.P. Chawrasia endured a horrendous final round of seven-over 78 to drop 28 places to finish tied 50th, while compatriot Anirban Lahiri closed with a 72 to be 57th.
Chawrasia suffered two double bogeys (third and 13th) and four bogeys (seventh, 11th, 12th and 14th) against two birdies on the second and eighth to get a 78 that took his total to five-over 289 (71, 71, 69, 78).
Seven spots behind him was Lahiri, who produced his best round of the week as he got four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey for a 72.