Saina, Vijender Start Their Campaigns With a Bang
The sagging morale of Indian contingent at the London Games got a much-needed boost when key medal contenders Saina Nehwal and Vijender Singh began their respective campaigns with a bang.
Also among the winners on the second day of competitions was Vijender's teammate Jai Bhagwan, but there were disappointments in store on most other fronts.
Shuttler Saina, among the hot favourites for a podium finish, whipped unheralded Swiss rival Sabrina Jacquet, a quarter finalist at the last European championship through which she qualified here, 21-9 21-4 in just 22 minutes.
The 22-year-old Hyderabad stalwart and world No 5, who lost in the quarter finals at the Beijing Games four years ago, takes on Belgian rival Lianne Tan of Belgium in another group E match tomorrow at the Wembley arena.
Indian boxing's pin-up star Vijender also shot off the starting blocks in style when he easily outpointed Kazakhstan's Danabek Sukhanov 14-10 in a late night 75 kg first round bout yesterday.
"I am delighted to make it through to the next round, he was a tough opponent and now it's onto the next challenge," said the 26-year-old Haryana star.
"I want to go home with a different coloured medal this time," said Vijender, who had scripted history in Beijing by becoming the first medal winner in the ring.
Vijender will take on Terrell Gausha of USA in the pre-quarters on August 2.
His teammate Jai Bhagwan also produced a dominating performance to storm into the pre-quarterfinals of the lightweight (60kg) category to bring cheers to the boxing camp after the early exit of Shiva Thapa in the 56 kg class yesterday.
Participating in his maiden Olympics at the age of 26, Bhagwan was in complete control of the bout from the onset as he thrashed his opponent Andrique Allisop of Seychelles 18-8 in the opening round at the Excel arena.
Bhagwan will now face Gani Zhailauov of Kazakhstan in the pre-quarterfinals.
Single sculls rower Swarn Singh Virk and double sculls duo of Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh also stayed in the medal hunt, but paddler Soumyajit Ghosh, women shooters and the archers put up a flop show yet again.
Swarn Singh held off a late challenge from his South Korean rival Kim Dongyong to win the single sculls repechage round and book a berth in the last eight.
Swarn, who had to compete in the repechage round after finishing fourth in the heats yesterday, clocked 7:00.49 to complete the 2-km distance, winning the five-man race by more than a boat's length, at the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre.
Lightweight double sculls competitors Sandeep and Manjeet finished fourth in the heats and will compete in the repechage round on Tuesday.
But disappointments continued at the Lord's Cricket Ground, venue of archery competitions, where the women's team was off target in crunch situations as it lost to Denmark by a point in a see-saw pre-quarterfinal battle.
The trio of world number one Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro lost 210-211 to the Danish team, comprising Louise Laursen, Maja Jager and Carina Christiansen, and made their exit from the team event.
Even though the Indians hit more perfect 10s than their rivals, the Danish saved their best for key moments in which the Indians seemed to wilt under pressure.
The Danes hit the bull's eye thrice compared to just once by the Indians, who were hampered by Deepika's indifferent form.
Bombayla, however, seemed in good touch and kept the team in the hunt till the end, getting most of the 10s - including 3 in a row, but Swuro fired a poor 5 and then a 6 to let the team down.
The Indians managed to win the first and the last sets, but the Danes had the overall lead.
Earlier, the men's team had crashed out at the pre-quarterfinal stage yesterday after losing to Japan.
The archers now will have to look forward to the individual events, starting tomorrow.
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