Little-known Neha Thakur, a 17-year-old from the land-locked Madhya Pradesh, on Tuesday, claimed a silver medal and Armyman Eabad Ali picked up a bronze as the Indian sailors kept up the Indian medal hunt in the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Tuesday.
Neha, the daughter of a farmer from Amaltaj village in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, opened India's account in the sailing competitions of the 19th Asian Games with a silver medal in the Girls' Dinghy -- ILCA4 at the Ningbo Xiangshan Sailing Centre in Ningbo, around 155 km away from Hangzhou near here on Tuesday.
Eabad then made the day more memorable as he brought in the bronze medal in the Men's Windsurfer RS:X - RS event.
The two medals on Tuesday seem to have set the Yachting Association of India on course for a rich haul in the Hangzhou Asian Games as YAI is expecting at least three more medals on the final day of competitions on Wednesday.
That would improve India's performance in the 2018 edition of the games when it won a silver and two bronze medals.
Neha Thakur provided the perfect start to the Indian medal hunt as she came up with a fantastic sailing over the last three days to finish on a high note.
Neha, a 12th-pass student who started sailing at the National Sailing School Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh at a very early age, finished second behind Noppassorn Khunboonjan of Thailand after 11 races in this category.
At the end of the 10th race, Neha had a net score (penalty points) of 23 as compared to 14 by the Thai sailor. Jaekyoung Seol of the Republic of Korea had a net score of 27 and was in third place.
In the 11th race on Tuesday, Neha finished fourth and bagged 4 race points while the Thai managed to finish second behind Singapore's Keira Marie Carlyle. Korea's Seol came third in the 11th race but her gains were not enough to overtake Neha to the second position.
Neha, who was born at Amaltaj village in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh comes from a middle-class family. Her father Mukesh Kumar Thakur is a farmer while her mother Reena Thakur is a housewife.
Last year, Neha won a bronze medal at the Asian Sailing Championships in Abu Dhabi and qualified for the Asian Games.
Neha took to sailing at a very young age and was identified and groomed by the National Sailing School Bhopal.
"She sailed fantastically throughout and won her first medal for the country in the Asian Games," said Capt. Jitendra Dixit, secretary general, Yachting Federation of India.
He said Neha caught the attention of YAI a couple of years back when she did well in the national circuit. "We picked her up from there and provided her further training. She has been training in Europe and participating in sailing events abroad, but this is her first medal of this nature," he said.
Ebad Ali was under pressure on the final day of the competition as he had performed well in the 14th and final race to bag India's first medal in windsurfing.
He did just that by finishing second in the 14th race on Tuesday and claimed two points that helped him claim the bronze medal. he finished behind Wonwoo Cho of the Republic of Korea and Natthaphong Phonoppharat of Thailand, who retired from the 14th race but had done enough in the previous 13 that Eabad could not overtake him on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old Ebad bagged a bronze in the Asian Championships in Abu Dhabi in 2022, which got him a berth in the Asian Games. He had come determined to do well in Hangzhou but things had not gone well initially as he did not finish three races -- the DNF saddling him with 21 penalty points in all.
But Eabad Alsi persevered and kept at it, and eventually finished with 52 penalty points. Cho of Korea had just 13 while Phonoppharat from Thailand netted 31 points, getting him the silver medal.