Warrior Princess: Mirabai lifts weight of a nation, puts India on medal table in Day 1 super show

Indian Men’s Hockey Team players celebrating after beating New Zealand by 3-2 at Tokyo-2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday.
Indian Men’s Hockey Team players celebrating after beating New Zealand by 3-2 at Tokyo-2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday.

Tokyo, July 24:
Pint-sized weightlifter Mirabai Chanu lifted the spirits of an entire nation with an incredibly composed silver-winning show as India found itself on the Olympics medals table on the very first day of competitions, a feat so remarkable that it more than made up for some disappointments.
Competing in her second Olympics, Chanu claimed the silver medal in the 49kg category with a total of 202kg (87kg+115kg) as the country of over a billion but painfully short of consistent Olympic success erupted in joy.
Used to medal-less opening days, Chanu’s silver placed India 12th on the tally, a feat achieved for the first time ever.
The 4’11” Chanu, whose smile was visible even behind the mask, made sure that the horror outing at the Rio Games was now a thing firmly of the past and would only be recalled to showcase her growth as an athlete of world-class stature.
“I will now go home and eat food made by my mother,” said the diminutive Manipuri with sparkle in her eyes.
There could have been more but shooters couldn’t live up to the hype with Saurabh Chaudhary’s top finish in the 10m air pistol qualification being the only high point of the day for the contingent.
The 19-year-old Chaudhary faltered in the finals of his debut Olympics but can be proud of the overall effort.
On the hockey field, there were mixed emotions with the men’s team putting it past a lower-ranked New Zealand 3-2 but women enduring a 1-5 hammering at the hands of world no.1 the Netherlands.
The archers caused an upset by beating Chinese Taipei but were found wanting against Korea in the quarterfinal, losing the match as was expected in the mixed team event.
At the tennis courts, away from the spotlight, Sumit Nagal became only the third Indian to win a men’s singles match at the Games when he edged past Denis Istomin in a three-setter.
Nagal got the better of Istomin 6-4 6-7(6) 6-4 in two hours and 34 minutes on court 10 at the Ariake Tennis Centre to set up a second-round clash with world number two Daniil Medvedev.
Zeeshan Ali was the first Indian to win a singles match at the 1988 Seoul Games when he beat Victo Caballero from Paraguay.
It was a bitter-sweet day for the shuttlers though.
The men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty shocked the world no. 3 pair of Yang Lee and Chi-Lin Wang of Chinese Taipei but in men’s singles, 13th seed B Sai Praneeth didn’t know what hit him as he went down to Israel’s world number 47 Misha Zilberman in a 41-minute clash.
Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee made promising starts in their table tennis women’s singles campaign.
While Manika defeated Tin-Tin Ho of Britain 4-0 in her singles opener, 98th-ranked Sutirtha made a strong impression on her Olympics debut with a come-from-behind 4-3 win against 78th-ranked Linda Bergstrom of Sweden.
However, the hopes of a mixed doubles medal in the Games went up in smoke quite quickly when Manika and A Sharath Kamal lost 0-4 to third seeds Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei.
The lone boxer in fray was Vikas Krishan (69kg) and it was a case of shattered dreams for him. Entering the ring with an injured shoulder, Vikas could hardly put up a fight against local favourite Sewonrets Quincy Mensah Okazawa and was outpunched 0-5.
To add to it, he also ended up sustaining a cut under his left eye, leaving thoroughly bruised and battered from his third Olympics, which, in all probability, was his last.
There were no big surprises when judoka Sushila Devi lost her first round bout and the men’s lightweight double sculls rowers Arvind Singh and Arjun Lal Jat finished fifth in the heats. The rower duo will compete in the repechage round on Sunday while Sushila will take an early flight home.
The major disappointment was the shooting performance.
In the women’s 10m air rifle event, neither Elavenil Valarivan nor Apurvi Chandela could make the finals.
And later, Chaudhary buckled under the pressure that Olympics is known for in the finals after a qualification round that was nothing short of sensational.
The in-form Deepika Kumari and Pravin Jadhav paired up in archery’s mixed doubles event but were no match for the Koreans, who won despite not being at their best.
On Sunday, the country’s medal hopes in shooting will rest on another teenager’s shoulders.
The prodigal Manu Bhaker, 18, will be in action in the women’s 10m air pistol field and would be expected to replicate the splendid form that she has shown through the Olympic build-up.
Also in action would be the ‘Super Moms’ of the Indian contingent.
Six-time world champion M C Mary Kom (51kg) will fight her opening bout against Miguelina Hernandez Garcia of the Dominican Republic, while veteran tennis star Sania Mirza will team up with Ankita Raina in the women’s doubles opening round. (PTI)