Paes, Bhupathi raise hope after Rathore misfires (India, second Lead)

August 12th, 2008 - 11:02 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Abhinav Bindra
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 12 (IANS) India’s Old tennis warhorses Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi gave hope to their fans back home with an emphatic victory after the famed shooters caused wrenching heartbreaks at the Olympic Games here Tuesday. A day after shooter Abhinav Bindra gave the country a historic individual Olympic gold, the biggest setback came from the ranges, when Athens Olympics silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Commonwealth Games hero Samresh Jung shot erratically to bow out from the qualification stage itself.

It was a mixed day for India with the two boxers on show advancing without much hiccups, after the women archers ended their highly forgettable Games campaign with early exists from the individual contest on the fourth day of the competition.

The former world number one but now estranged pair of Paes and Bhupathi, who have come together again to shoulder the nation’s Olympic campaign, gave a clinical display to sniff out a feeble challenge from Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-3 onway to reaching the second round in men’s doubles.

Having won three Grand Slams together during a partnership that stretched over 13 years, the Indian duo never faced any breakpoint during the first round match that lasted under an hour at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre.

In boxing, Flyweight (51 kg) boxer Jitender Kumar and bantamweight (54 kg) Akhil Kumar kept the country’s flag flying high by storming into the pre-quarterfinals with emphatic victories over their opponents.

Jitender Kumar prevailed over Turkey’s Ulas Furkan Memis while Akhil shut out Frenchman Ali Halalb in opening round bouts at the Workers Gymnasium. Jitender was leading 12-3 when Memis retired in the third round. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist Akhil defeated Hallab 12-5 amidst huge support.

But it was a nightmarish morning for the Indian contingent, as double trap shooter Rathore failed to make it to the final, finishing 15th in the qualifiers with a disappointing score of 131 at the Beijing Shooting Range. The Armyman shot a poor series of 43, 45, 43 to finish way down at 15th in the 19-strong field.

Four years ago, Rathore had become the toast of the nation with a score of 135 in the qualifiers and then added a 44 in the final to fire India’s first ever individual Olympic silver.

An emotional Rathore said after the event: “Reading the targets was not the easiest thing. The results show as most of the top shooters did not post very high scores. I knew I could hold on to my score, but I could not because I could not read the targets very well.”

Samresh, nicknamed Goldfinger, fared worse as he managed only the 42nd slot with a score of 540 in the qualifiers of the men’s 50-metre pistol event.

Much was expected from Samresh, who had a rich haul of five yellow metals in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, but he failed to live up to expectations and shot poorly for a series of 88, 92, 91, 86, 90, 93 in the qualification round.

In archery, it was curtains for the Indian women archers, a misery that was compounded by the fact that two of them surrendered to lower-ranked opponents.

The promising Pranitha Vardhineni had some fleeting moments of joy, as she coasted to the pre-quarter finals, but the dreams faded away soon after as the archer failed to hold her nerve in the last 16 contest.

Pranitha, who had earlier beaten Jane Waller of Australia 106-100 in the first round, went down to Kwun Un Sil of North Korea 99-106 in the pre-quarterfinals.

The other two women archers Dola Banerjee and Laishram Bombayla Devi made first round exits.

Seasoned campaigner Dola, who finished 31st in the ranking round, lost in the single-arrow shoot-off with 34th placed Marie Pier Beaudet of Canada at the Olympic Green Archery Field. The Canadian picked up a ten pointer in the shoot-off, while Dola could manage only eight after the two were locked 109-109 following the regulation arrows.

The young Bombayla missed out on a pre-quarterfinal berth, losing 103-105 to Polish girl Iwona Marcinkiewicz.

In swimming, both the Indian participants Virdhawal Khade (100m freestyle) and Sandeep Sejwal (200m breaststroke) went out of the reckoning in the heats.

The 16 -year-old Khade topped his heat, improving upon his personal best timing, but in the end that was not enough for him to remain in fray.

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