INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – India’s campaign at the Asian Games resembled a Bollywood potboiler with plenty of emotion, drama, suspense and heartbreak, a few stirring feats, but fell short of being a box-office hit.
India’s 516 competitors left Incheon with 11 gold medals, down from 14 in Guangzhou four years ago, and finished two spots lower than the sixth place it gained in the medals tally last time.
But the 57 medals won at these Games – compared to 65 in 2010 – were creditable considering the chaotic build-up.
Squad members were cleared for participation just 10 days before the Games started, leaving the athletes in prolonged suspense.
The momentum gained after hosting the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 was lost when the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was suspended by the world body in 2011 for 14 months.
The IOA messed up the Games accreditation of its athletes, forcing the country’s only individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, a national icon, to make a detour to New Delhi from the world shooting meet in Spain to secure a Korean visa.
Bindra’s 10m air rifle bronze in his last appearance as a full-time shooter after compatriot Jitu Rai had won the 50m pistol title, appeared to lift the mood of the contingent.
Five-time former world women’s boxing champion Mary Kom, a 31-year-old mother of three, showed she still packed a mean punch by winning the 48-51kg category title.
However, Kom’s gold was overshadowed by drama around disgruntled fellow boxer Sarita Devi’s refusal to accept a bronze following her shock semi-final defeat to South Korea’s Park Ji-Na in the 57-60kg category.
Devi, who put the medal around the Korean’s neck, apologised after the world body opened a disciplinary case against her.
Kom, asked by Indian reporters if she was lucky to escape the alleged bias, said: “I am Mary Kom, a five-time world champion. They will not dare to manipulate my bout.”
The men’s hockey team clinched an emotional gold after 12 years, beating arch-rivals and defending champions Pakistan in a penalty shootout to earn a direct entry to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Goalkeeper Parattu Sreejesh, who saved two penalty attempts, said it was the start of a “new era” for the former masters of the game.
“People like to remember good things and good memories,” he said. “I am sure they will forget past defeats.”
India won its first wrestling gold in 28 years when London Olympic bronze-medallist Yogeshwar Dutt picked up the men’s 65kg freestyle title.
The squash men bagged the team event, but Saurav Ghosal endured heartbreak in the singles final when he lost to Abdullah Almezayen of Kuwait despite leading by two games and up a match-point in the third.