Akhil stuns world champion, Lee-Hesh bids adieu to Olympics (India Lead)

August 16th, 2008 - 12:11 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Roger Federer
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 15 (IANS) Pugilist Akhil Kumar celebrated India’s Independence Day in style by laying low the reigning world champion after seasoned tennis campaigners Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi disappointed at the Olympic Games Friday. Akhil lifted the gloom in the Indian camp to storm into the last eight and was a bout away from the country’s first ever Olympics boxing medal with a points victory in the bantamweight (54 kg) bout over Russian Sergey Vodopyanov.

Down 2-6 with only six seconds to go in the second round, Akhil staged a brilliant rally to prevail over the Russian, who won the World Championships in Chicago last year when the Indian pugilist was still grappling with an injured wrist. Akhil will meet European Championship semi-finalist Gojan Veaceslav of Moldova and a win will assure him a medal.

Akhil’s win lifted the mood in the Indian camp which was pretty low down after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were blown off the court by Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.

In the morning, both Sanjeev Rajput and Gagan Narang finished 26th and 35th in the men’s 50m Rifle Prone shooting..

In track and field, the Indians had a forgettable outing, with Preeja Sreedharan finishing 25th in women’s 10,000 metres final with a timing of 32:34.64.

Late in the evening, the heptathletes J. J. Shobha, G.G.Pramila and Susmita Sinhga Roy were lying 29th, 32nd and 34th at the end of the first day’s competition. Shobha was 578 points behind the leader, Hyleas Fountain of United States, who had logged 4060 points on the first day.

Both the discus throwers, Krishna Poonia and Harwant Kaur, performed way below their best - and even the marks they achieved to make the Olympics - and finished way down in the final standings.

Akhil, who trailed 3-6 in the third round, rained blows on the world No.1 and showed great determination in getting back into the bout and held his nerve in the last round to tie on points.

After the fourth round, the boxers were locked 9-9, but the judges gave the bout to Akhil for landing more punches than the Russian. The decision reduced the reigning world champion to tears as Akhil did a celebratory jig in the ring at the Workers Gymnasium. The Indian is now just a bout away from an Olympic medal.

“He (Sergey) is a world champion. It was a tough fight, but I am here to win gold. No silver, no bronze, but only the gold. There is nothing like being No.1 and I want to be No. 1,” said Akhil, a 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

Paes and Bhupathi, in what may have been their last journey together, came a cropper against Swiss Roger Federer and Stanislas Warwinka going down 2-6, 4-6 in the men’s doubles quarter-final.

Paes and Bhupathi, winner of 82 doubles titles between them and partnering for a fourth successive Games, were swept aside by a pair, who play more of singles than doubles in just over 80 minutes.

Resuming their battle from 1-4, when rain halted play late Thursday night, Paes and Bhupathi began well, winning five points in a row as they held their serve to make it 2-4. But then Warwinka, whom the Indians were targeting, was also up to the task and held his own to make it 5-2 for the Swiss.

But Paes failed to hold his serve to concede the first set.

The match went with serve till 4-4 in the second set. But the Swiss pair was in complete control. Federer served out at love to make it 5-4 and Bhupathi then needed to hold his serve to extend the match.

Federer piled on the pressure and in no time, it was two match points for the Swiss pair. Paes saved the first with a smash, but off the next Bhupathi hit out and there ended the match.

In shooting, Narang could not score even one perfect round - a near-disaster at this level. He managed a total score of 589, with three rounds of 99 and two 98s and one 96 in the fourth series, ending 35th in a field of 56 and crashed out of the qualification.

Teammate Sanjeev Rajput was somewhat better with 591 in the 26th position. He shot 97, 100, 99, 98, 99 and 98.

In rowing, Bajrang Lal Takhar took the 21st slot in men’s single sculls.

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