London: Ace rifleman Gagan Narang made India proud by winning its first medal – a bronze – while champion shuttler Saina Nehwal and both the men’s tennis doubles combinations chalked out wins to move up the ladder at the London Olympics here Monday.
In contrast, boxer Sumit Sangwan seemed a victim of an unfair verdict – that television commentators called “daylight robbery”, and prompted India to lodge an official complaint with the competition organisers.
Returning to the Games hockey after a hiatus of eight years, erstwhile monarchs India fought valiantly with higher ranked Netherlands before going down 2-3 in a pool match, but men’s tennis player Vishnu Vardhan and woman archer Bombayla Devi crashed out in forgettable outings.
Narang, 29, participating in his third Games, aggregated 701.1 (598 qualifying, 103.1 final) to finish third in his pet 10 metre air rifle at the Royal Artillery Barracks range, triggering celebrations among the Indian diaspora here and the countrymen back home.
Narang’s exploits lifted the gloom that had set in after his illustrious compatriot and defending champion Abhinav Bindra – India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist – failed to make it to the final of the same event in the morning.
Narang, who missed the final round in Beijing Games on a countback, was in his elements. In the final round, he had a series of 10.7, 9.7, 10.6, 10.7, 10.4, 10.6, 9.9, 9.5, 10.3 and 10.7 to put the country into the medal bracket at the Games.
The gold went to Romanian Alin George Moldoveanu who totalled 702.1 (599 qualifying, 103.1 final) and Italian Niccolo Campriani bagged the silver with 701.5 (599 qualifying, 102.5 final).
It was the third time in row that Indian shooters had won medals at the Olympics. Double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the silver in 2004 and Bindra gave India a historic gold in Beijing.
Bindra, however, failed to qualify as he shot 594 to finish 16th out of 47 contestants and lost the chance to defend his title.
In the qualifying round, Narang shot perfect series of 100 in all the rounds except the third when he scored 98. He also shot 53 inner 10s.
Narang later, said he had achieved what he came for.
“Whatever I came here to do, I have achieved. I have had a great journey, I have had my share of ups and downs but it has been very exciting,” he told reporters here.
“It still doesn’t feel like I have won an Olympics medal. This medal has evaded me and I have finally got it.”
Bindra, on the other hand, said luck deserted him during the qualification round.
There was good news from the badminton court, as strong medal prospect and fourth seed Saina strolled into the pre-quarterfinals with an emphatic 21-4, 21-14 victory over unseeded Belgian Lianne Tan.
In tennis, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna started their Olympics campaign with a hard fought 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (4-7) and 8-6 win over Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus to move into the second round at the Wimbledon grass court.
The other doubles combination of Leander aes and Vishnu Vardhan also advanced after being stretched by Netherlands’ Jean-Julien Rojer and Robin Haase. The Indian pair won 7-6 (7-1), 4-6, 6-2 in an hour and 52 minutes.
Pugilist Sangwan, who fought with gusto and seemingly dominated Brazilian Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino in the round of 32 of 81kg category, found himself on the wrong side of a 14-15 points verdict.
India’s Sports Minister Ajay Maken later tweeted that an official protest has been lodged.
India’s pool B hockey match saw World No.3 Netherlands open up a 2-0 lead within the first half hour mark in a pool. But the eight time champions rallied back remarkably during a four-minute blitz after half time to draw parity at the riverbank arena.
However, the European powerhouse struck the winner from a penalty corner midway into the second session to log full points.
Robert van Der Horst, Robert van Der Horst, Roderick Weusthof and Mink van der Weerden were the scorers for the Dutch, while Dharamvir Singh and Shivendra Singh struck for India in the pulsating and fast game played before packed stands.
Indian Davis Cupper Vardhan’s dream outing in the Olympic men’s singles clash was short-lived as he went down in straight sets 3-6, 2-6 to Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic .
At the historic Lords, Bombayla paid the penalty for erratic shooting to lose her second eliminator against Mexico’s Aida Roman 2-6 and bowed out of the reckoning.
By Sarat C. Das