Saina, Sridhar move up on a dismal day (India second lead)

August 10th, 2008 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 10 (IANS) Shuttlers provided the only silver lining on an otherwise gloomy day for India at the Beijing Olympic Games Sunday. The country’s teenage badminton sensation Saina Nehwal raised prospects of a good finish by breezing into the women’s pre-quarter final, before Anup Sridhar made it to the second round in the men’s event on day two of the competition.

But there was no further good news for the Indian camp throughout the day. Shooters extended their dismal show to the second day, women archers bade adieu from the team contest, and three water sports disciplines saw the country’s hopes drown without a ripple.

In the morning, eighteen-year-old Saina carved out an emphatic 21-18, 21-10 second round win over Ukraine’s Gryga Larysa under half an hour.

Playing Larysa for the first time, the 15th ranked Saina took her time to assess her opponent before shifting gears. The Ukrainian won her first two points at the start of the match, but Saina recovered soon and the score was neck and neck till 6-5 for the Indian. Saina then went on to build a 10-7 lead. Larysa made her first big move at that point with six straight points going up 13-10.

It was Saina’s turn thereafter as she raced with five in a row to regain the lead at 15-13 and maintained the tempo to wrap up the game in 17 minutes.

In the second game, Saina was never challenged. She led 5-0, 8-1, 10-3 and 12-5 and soon ended the match at 21-10. The Indian would now face reigning Asian Games champion and world no.six Wang Chen of Hong Kong. For a place in the last eight.

Sridhar put up an equally convincing performance, racing to a straight 21-16 21-14 victory over Marco Vasconcelos of Portugal in half an hour to set up a fight with Shoji Sato of Japan.

Marco led 6-3 in the initial stages of the first game, but the Indian bounced back with five consecutive points to forge ahead 8-6. There was no going back, and Sridhar finished off the game in 15 minutes.

Retaining the momentum, world number 29 Sridhar made the scoreline 6-1 in the second game, and then consolidated to a 13-4 lead to shut out his rival.

In the archery arena, the Indian women crashed out of the team event going down 206-2111 against third ranked China in the quarter final.

The Indian team - comprising World Cup champion Dola Banerjee, L. Bombayla Devi and Pranitha Vardhineni - were pushed on the backfoot after that crucial error in the second end that saw Pranitha manage only a five, considered almost an off-target attempt.

By the time the archers came down to the last set of targets, the Chinese were eight points ahead. Despite the Chinese managing only a 9-9-7 from their threesome, as compared to the Indians’ 10-9-9, the hosts were through to the semi-finals by a five-point margin.

There was more disappointment in store from the range, as world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu and veteran Mansher Singh bowed out in the qualifiers of the men’s trap shooting event.

Veteran Mansher, competing in his fourth Olympics, seemed on course to make the final after two excellent rounds on first day. But his third round of 20 out of 25 on Saturday proved to be his undoing.

On Sunday, he missed just one bird each in the last two rounds, but the damage had already been done as he was shut out of the final by two points. Mansher finished eighth among the 35 shooters with 117 from a maximum possible 125.

Manavjit Singh had recovered from his first two rounds of 23-23 with a 24 in the third round Saturday. But Sunday he caved under pressure with a 22 in the fourth, which effectively ended his chances. He finished 12th with 116.

In the swimming pool, the promising Virdhawal Khade crashed out from the men’s 200m freestyle, taking the seventh spot in his heat clocking 1:51.86 seconds.

It was also curtains for the Indian rowing duo of Devender Kumar Khandwal and Manjeet Singh in the medal contest, as they could manage only the fifth slot in the second heat of the men’s lightweight double sculls.

In sailing, India’s sole competitor Nachhatar Singh Johal continued to languish close to the bottom as he collected 23 and 24 points in the third and fourth races of the Finn Class to be placed 22nd overall.

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