GUANGZHOU: Pumped-up Chinese superstar Lin Dan outplayed world No.1 Lee Chong Wei to win the Asian Games badminton title Sunday as India dominated the track with two gold medals.
The popular Lin, who had won world and Olympic titles but never an Asian Games crown, was in top form in front of a vociferous home crowd to beat his Malaysian archrival 21-13, 15-21, 21-10.
His reaction on winning, ripping off his shirt and repeatedly punching the air shouting ‘yes, yes’, told the story of how much it meant to a man seen by many as the best shuttler ever.
“This Asian Games could be my last so I’m very happy that at last I realized my dream and the expectations of my fans,” said Lin.
It was also a night to remember for Indian athletes who won gold in the women’s 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase.
Preeja Sreedharan led an Indian 1-2 in the 10,000m, clinching the title with a stunning burst of pace into the home straight ahead of teammate Kavita Raut with Bahrain’s Ethiopian-born Shitaya Habtegebrel third.
The day began for India with Ronjan Sodhi, a double world record holder, ending India’s gold medal drought in shooting by winning the double trap event and also helped the team bag the bronze. Sodhi shot 47 in the final for a total of 186. Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum of UAE won the silver with a total of 182 points (138+44) and the bronze went to Hamad Ali Al Marri (136+45) of Qatar in a shoot-off after three shooters were tied for a third place.
The Indian trio of Sodhi (139), junior World Champion Asher Noria (134) and Vikran Bhatnagar (130) shot a total of 403 to win the team bronze.
On a night of upsets, Sudha Singh then held off a desperate late lunge by China’s Jin Yuan to win the steeplechase by a head with Japan’s Minori Hayakari taking bronze.
“I’m very excited because in the Commonwealth Games I came fifth and my burning desire was to improve my time and do better,” said Singh.
Sreedharan, who won in 31min 50.28sec, said she stuck to her race plan, which ultimately paid dividends.
“My coach said if I ran my own pace I would definitely get gold. I ran my own style and my own pace and I won. I didn’t think about the other competitors,” she said.
At a packed Aota Main Stadium, Bahrain’s Kenyan-born Ali Hasan Mahboob, previously known as Silas Kirui, claimed the men’s 5,000m title in a slow 13min 47.84sec.
Two other Kenyan-born athletes completed the podium: Qatar’s defending champion James Kwalia with silver and teammate Felix Kibore with bronze.
Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov took the men’s hammer while China’s Li Long was the women’s shot put champion.
After losing her singles match, Sania kept herself in contention for a gold in the mixed doubles event when she and Vishnu Vardhan cruised into the final, overcoming stiff resistance from Thailand’s top seeded pair of Tamarine Tanasugarn and Sanchai Ratiwatana for a 6-3, 6-7(3), 1-0 upset.
Somdev Devvarman also remained on course for a gold with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over China’s Ze Zhang in the quarterfinal. The win has assured the Indian, of at least a bronze. Somdev, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, next plays Japan’s Tatsuma Ito.
Somdev, later partnering Sanam Singh, entered the men’ doubles final defeating South Korea’s Jae Cho-Soong and Hyun Joon Kim 6-3, 7-5. The sixth-seeded Indians next play second-seeded Chinese Maoxin Gong and Zhe Li for the gold. However, it was end of road for seventh-seeded Karan Rastogi who lost 2-6, 6-4, 5-7 to top seed Dennis Istomin of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinal.
Day 9 of the biggest multi-sports event after the Olympics also saw women’s rugby and boxing take place for the first time.
Indian boxers continued to impress as Vikas Krishan and Manpreet Singh moved into the semifinals of the 60 kg and 91 kg categories. They join Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh (75 kg), Dinesh Kumar (81 kg), Suranjoy Singh (52 kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91 kg), who have already made it to the semifinals slated for Wednesday.
Vikas defeated Chol Song Kim of North Korea 4-2 while Manpreet outclassed Zaifula Maimaiti of China 6-4. Meanwhile, all the leading sprinters comfortably cruised into the men’s 100m semifinals, including defending champion Yahya Habeeb of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Asian record holder Samuel Francis.
Rugby also got underway with China making a confident start by thrashing South Korea 51-0 in the first women’s match ever to feature at an Asian Games.
Women’s boxing was also held for the first time as the sport attempts to snare a wider audience, with fighters from China, North Korea, and Philippines all getting wins.
Elsewhere, dominant five-time World Open champion Nicol David clinched a third Asian Games squash title with compatriot Mohammad Azlan Iskander completing a Malaysian double with the men’s gold.
“This gold medal means a lot to me,” said David. “I am fighting for my country and I have the whole of Malaysia’s support.”