Kashyap brings cheer on disappointing day

London: Shuttler Parupalli Kashyap was the sole saving grace on an otherwise dismal day for India on the first day of competitions at the London Olympic Games here today. Kashyap provided the bright spot for India with a comfortable straight-game first round victory in men`s singles to make up for the poor show of mixed doubles pair V Diju and Jwala Gutta who lost their opening group game.

Elsewhere too, the country faced setbacks with the men`s archery team getting eliminated at the pre-quarterfinal stage and woman paddler Ankita Das making her exit without making a ripple. Rower Swran Singh also came fourth in his heats in single sculls but has a second chance in the repechage.

There was controversy too with the Indian contingent expressing its outrage over the presence of an unauthorised mystery woman wearing a red shirt and blue trouser stealing the limelight alongside flag bearer Sushil Kumar at the march past during the glittering opening ceremony on Friday.

The day began on an uninspiring note when Diju and Jwala, a settled pair hunting for a medal, were beaten in straight games 16-21 12-21 by Indonesia`s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in under half an hour in their opening Group C match. The Indians are still in the hunt for a medal and will take on the Danish combination of Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl in their next match tomorrow.

The archery venue — the iconic Lord`s Cricket Ground — also failed to provide cheer for the second day running when the men`s team of Jayanta Talukdar, Rahul Banerjee and Tarundeep Rai were knocked out after losing to Japan in a tense pre-quarterfinal shoot-off. The Indian trio, who had qualified bottom of the heap at 12th in the rankings round on Friday, were tied with their Japanese rivals at 214 after the regulation four rounds.

But the threesome of Yu Ishizu, Hideki Kikuchi and Takaharu Furukawa edged past the Indians 29-27 in the shoot-off in which the archers shoot alternatively. The Indians were leading with the last set of three arrows left in the quiver before the Japanese equalised to force a tie-breaker. The trio will now be seen in action in the individual elimination rounds that will commence on Monday.

The archers expressed disappointment with Banerjee conceding that a few scores of eight let the team down while Talukdar blamed pressure and sickness that hit the camp in the run-up to the event as the major causes for the defeat. "I am really disappointed. We were leading by three points. We all shot well but some of our 8s put us down. The crowd was really good. It was the best field I have ever seen," said Banerjee.

"I feel it has happened because of the pressure. We tried to hit 10s but it was always 9s," Talukdar said. "All three of us were in bed for two or three days, so our bodies got weak. on Friday, during the ranking round, I could not shoot properly because of less body power," he added. Tarundeep, though expressing disappointment, saw the brighter side too over the game attracting a good many viewers here.

"I was disappointed. We lost the team round but the game is still on. We have to focus on the individuals. It`s very good to see that archery is getting more popular. We are performing in front of so many people here – we don`t have the same support in India," he said. Off the field, the presence of an unidentified lady beside flagbearer Sushil Kumar in the Indian contingent during yesterday`s opening ceremony prompted the country`s miffed officials to take up the issue with the Games organisers.

Acting chef de mission of the Indian contingent Brig P K Muralidharan Raja is understandably agitated that a person who was not part of the delegation was allowed to accompany the team and hog the limelight in the process. "She had no business to walk in with the Indian contingent and we are taking up the issue with the organisers. We don`t know who she is and why she was allowed to walk in. It is a shame that she was with the athletes in the march past", said Raja.

"We were initially told that she would accompany the contingent till the track but she went on to take the entire lap. There was another man also but he stayed back and did not enter the stadium," Raja added. "We have taken strong exception to this. The march past is for the athletes and officials attached to the contingent. We are totally taken by surprise how a person could just intrude into the track," he wondered.