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Asian Games: On the lookout for another happy outing

other Updated: Sep 14, 2014 03:55 IST
Sumil Sudhakaran
Sumil Sudhakaran
Hindustan Times
Dipika Pallikal

The afterglow of gold could last long. Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa are certainly not complaining. A historic gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games has helped squash emerge from the shadow of its racquet brethren - tennis and badminton.

Now at Incheon, the pin-up girls of Indian squash, alongside Saurav Ghosal and Co, are aiming at a bigger prize. They are hoping to make squash what shooting and wrestling are for India - a happy hunting ground at quadrennial events.

Of course, they are certainly being helped in this department by the powers that be in the Squash Racket Federation of India. By some curious co-incidence - read as manipulation - Dipika and Joshna find themselves in the same quarter of the singles draw, ensuring at least one Indian reaches the semis, i.e., be assured of bronze.

Back at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Ritwik Bhattacharya and Saurav Ghosal mysteriously fell in the same half of the draw. Not surprisingly, India won bronze.

With Dipika and Joshna aiming to script history at Incheon, a different kind of history is being repeated here with the draw. After initially threatening a pullout, Dipika on Saturday confirmed her participation at the Games.

If the script doesn't fail spectacularly, one of them would be assured of bronze. In doubles, India have managed to avoid Malaysia in the earlier round. The officials have played their game well. Now it is up to the players to do their bit.

Taking inspiration

Rowing, barring the occasional focus given by quadrennial events like the Asian Games, often slips under the radar of the media. This is despite it being a truly beautiful sport that requires its practitioners to be supremely fit. Maybe, that is why the sport has a charm akin to underground music that instantly touches the heart.

As the Indian rowers get set to fly to Incheon, and then travel around 100km to the Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center in North Chungcheong province - the farthest venue from the centre of the action - it is just the music of hope and dreams that will be ringing in their ears.

Four years back at Guangzhou, the rowing contingent returned a profit of five medals, the icing on the cake being the single scull gold by Bajrang Lal Takhar - a historic first for India. However, coach, Ismail Baig, has no intention of singing a old tune, he is confident his lads will script a new one this time.

"I do not want to give out a number and say we will win so many medals, that would be disrespectful. But what I can say is we will definitely win at least as many medals as in 2010, if not more," Baig said over the phone from Hyderabad, where the rowers have been going through the drills at the Hussain Sagar Lake.

It is the men's team that is expected to do better at Incheon, with the attention once again on the single scull event. This time, the expectations are on Sawarn Singh to achieve what Bajrang did at Guangzhou.

"Everything is going according to plan. My timings have been improving over the last one year. At practice, I bettered the time I set at the Asian Championship. I am confident going into the Incheon Games," Sawarn, who won gold at the 2013 Asian Championships, said.

Besides the single scull events - light weight and open weight category - the Indian contingent is expecting a good show at men's eight, quad and also in women's quad.