They seemed courage and tenacity personified as India’s women hockey players stunned three-time champions Australia to enter their maiden Olympic semifinals, while debutant discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur held her own against a world-class field to give the country a lot to be proud of on day 10 of the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. Rani Rampal and her resolute team brought their ‘A’ game and lots of determination to the field and the Australians did not know what to do. It was a case of real imitating the reel as blockbuster ‘Chak de India’, which told the tale of an underdog Indian women’s hockey team guided by a discredited coach winning the World Cup, trended all across.
The pinnacle is still some distance away for the real bunch but it has already surpassed all expectations and redeemed itself for the 12th place finish back in the 2016 Rio Games.
This was a day after the Indian men’s team entered the Olympic semifinals following a four-decade gap, a phenomenally gritty run for both the teams.
Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion when it mattered and converted India’s lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Australians on the day, who cried in disbelief even as the Indians shed tears of joy and let out ear-splitting screams to celebrate.
“I don’t know what to say because emotions are too high at the moment, and we all are very happy because it was not an easy game to win from Australia,” an elated skipper Rani Rampal said after the upset win.
India will play Argentina in the semifinal on Wednesday. “I think that belief like we can work really hard throughout the game… And this is only 60 minutes, just focus on the 60 minutes.
“Don’t think further what will happen, just focus on 60 minutes, and give everything that you have got. And I think everyone did that, so yeah, I am super proud,” Rani said, a reminder of the “70 minute speech” that had galvanised the reel team in Chak de India’.
India’s undeniable woman power in sports also came to the fore in athletics where discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur finished a creditable sixth in her first Olympics in a rain-interrupted final.
The 25-year-old Kaur, who qualified for the final as second best on Saturday, was never in the running for a medal in the eight rounds of competition which was interrupted by rain for more than an hour.
Her best throw of 63.70m in the third round saw her finish sixth and equal 2010 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Krishna Poonia’s performance in the 2012 London Olympics.
The youngster, who was without her personal coach, looked nervous and short of confidence, perhaps due to lack of international exposure but she did hold her own in a field where the gold-medallist Valarie Allman produced a 68.98m throw.
Sprinter Dutee Chand, however, ended her campaign on a disappointing note by failing to qualify for the 200m semifinals.
Equestrian Fouaad Mirza, meanwhile, finished a creditable 23rd in eventing after he became the first Indian to reach the final of the event. Mirza and his equine Seigneur Medicott sneaked into the top-25 in the morning to make the jumping finals.
In the final, Mirza incurred 12.40 penalty points for an overall 59.60 that included the points from the three rounds of qualifying events — dressage, cross country and jumping. It was a creditable performance for the 29-year-old Bengaluru rider, who was the first equestrian to qualify for the Olympics since Imtiaz Anees in Sydney 2000.
It was finally an end to their misery as Indian shooters ended their campaign at the Games. Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar and Sanjeev Rajput failed to qualify for the finals of the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions event , finishing 21st and 32nd respectively at the Asaka Shooting Range.
The Indian shooting team will be returning without a medal for the second straight time at the Olympics.
On Tuesday, the men’s hockey team will compete in its semifinal against world champion Belgium, aiming to book its first Olympic medal in over 40 years.
Also, the wrestling contingent will begin its campaign with medals expected from the likes of Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat.
Apart from Bajrang (65kg) and Vinesh (53kg), Ravi Dahiya (57kg) is expected to deliver at the biggest stage in the next few days.
The 19-year-old Sonam Malik will be first to take mat in the 62kg category, pitted against Mongolia’s Asian Championship silver medallist Bolortuya Khurelkhuu.
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