India at 2018 Asian Games: Unheralded Manjit Singh’s Unexpected Gold Steals

As 28-year-old Manjit Singh ran his way to win the gold medal in men’s 800-m final
As 28-year-old Manjit Singh ran his way to win the gold medal in men’s 800-m final

As 28-year-old Manjit Singh ran his way to win the gold medal in men’s 800-m final, edging out compatriot Jonson Johnson, in Asian Games in Jakarta, Singh’s wife Kiran Devi was showing their five-month-old son Abhir the medal ceremony on television at their home at Narwana near Jind.

Singh, who became the third Indian athlete to win a gold medal in this year’s Asian Games after Tajinder Toor and Neeraj Chopra, has not yet met his son since he was born and Singh’s gold medal on Tuesday meant it would also be an end to the long wait for his family.

The 28-year-old Manjit, an unheralded runner from Haryana who doesn’t even have a national gold to his credit, chose the Asian Games to find the limelight.

In fact, he snatched it from the seasoned Jinson Johnson with a personal best of 1:46.15sec.

Johnson finished second for a silver, a rare 1-2 for India at the Games.

“I saw videos of my races at national and international events and analysed the mistakes. I was motivated to improve myself. I never thought of bettering the national mark. I just wanted to give my best. I don’t have a job but my coach is from Army,” said the athlete, who lives in Jind, Haryana, and comes from a family of farmers.

India then clinched a silver 4x400m mixed relay race, finishing behind Bahrain.

The quartet of Muhammed Anas, M R Poovamma, Hima Das and Arokia Rajiv clocked 3:15.71 seconds, while Bahrain ran away with the gold in 3:11.89.

In the morning competitions, compound archers picked up silver medals in both the men’s and women’s team events, going down to South Korea in both the finals.

It wasn’t a particularly disappointing or unexpected result but the fact that the men could not defend their gold from the 2014 edition would rankle.

Then came Sindhu and her final jinx, compounded by her inability to find an answer to world No.1 Tai Tzu-Ying’s deceptive game that has left most bamboozled.

For the sixth successive time, the Indian was no match for the Taipei player despite her claims of having a strategy in place for her.

“If I had played patiently and kept the shuttle in, it could have been different. It was not easy to take points from her because her defence was also good,” she said after collecting India’s first ever singles silver in the Asian Games competition.

The surprise package of the day title went to Kurash, a form of wrestling indigenous to central Asia in which the aim is to throw the rival off his/her feet by using a towel to hold them in place.

India collected medals through Pincky Balhara (silver) and Malaprabha Yallappa Jadhav (bronze) in the women’s 52kg category.

The two teenagers didn’t even have enough money to buy their kits and got them only after the intervention of the sports ministry.

“People in my village pooled in Rs 1.75 lakh to send me to training camp. They all have supported me a lot. I am forever indebted to them,” a teary-eyed Balhara told PTI.

In Table Tennis, India signed off with its maiden Games medal, losing in the semifinals to Korea to settle for a bronze.

India continued its march ahead with another fairly comfortable wins in the squash team event.

Barring Harinder Pal Sandhu, who lost to Al Tamimi Abdulla in the men’s tie against Qatar, no other Indian faced any problem as both the men and the women inched ahead in their pursuit to qualify from the group stage.

There was no stopping the hockey juggernaut with defending champion Indian men’s team making a mockery of Sri Lanka, pumping in 20 goals to remain unbeaten in the pool stages It has been a scintillating performance from the Indians in the pool stage as they have scored as many as 76 goals and conceded just three.

However, the boxers endured a windless day with both Pavitra (60kg) and Sonia Lather (57kg) losing in the quarterfinal stage to bow out of women’s competition.


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