Devi bags silver on a bleak day for India

Devi bags silver on a bleak day for India

Manipuri beats Irans Azadpour in 60 kg event

 India’s Wangkhem Sandhyarani Devi shows off her wushu silver (60 kg) on Wednesday. AFP

A day back, that would have been the reaction of a majority of Indian sports fans on hearing the name of this Chinese martial art. On Wednesday though, wushu was the sport saving India from an absolute washout in terms of medals.

Wangkhem Sandhyarani Devi was the lady of the day for the country as she clinched the silver in the Sanshou 60kg category, India’s only medal of the day at the 16th Asian Games on Wednesday, in front of a big crowd at the Nansha Gymnasium.

That the crowd included a big contingent of Indian mediamen highlighted the poor run the country has been having at these Games, with just one gold in their kitty so far.
Fancied athletes have taken a backseat while little known faces have come to the fore here, including Bimoljit Singh, who won a bronze in wushu on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Sandhyarani became part of that group even though she stumbled in the final against Khadijeh Azadpour of Iran, the world champion in the 65kg category.

Wushu involves competitions in different styles, with Sanshou (sparring) and Taolu (exhibition of different patterns and routines) being the common ones. Sanshou, in which Sandhyarani won the bronze, is a combination of kick-boxing and judo. Contests are best of three rounds, with each round lasting three minutes.

Sandhyarani had entered the final beating Manalu Nmoria of Indoneisa and Paloy Barckkham of Laos in the earlier rounds. But in the final, she met a supremely confident and tough opponent in Azadpour, who reduced her weight to compete here as the 65kg class wasn’t included in the programme.

The Indian had hurt her left foot in the quarterfinal against Manalu and her attacking options were limited on the day. Still, she managed to hold on but it was clear that Azadpour was the stronger of the two, as she won the first two rounds to notch up a 2-0 verdict.

“I was looking to go for the gold today. Silver is good but I am a little disappointed that I could not win the gold,” said Sandhyarani. “My left foot was hurting and I couldn’t really go all out in the attack,” added the 27-year-old from Manipur.

Hampered by that injury, Sandhyarani was forced into adopting defensive ways as Azadpour came charging in the first round. She did not try even a single kick and was busy parrying the Iranian’s aggressive approach. It wasn’t a surprise then to see the round go Azadpour’s way. The second round followed a similar pattern as Azadpour maintained her dominance to come through victorious.

A silver medallist in the Asian Martial Arts Championships last year and champion at the SAF Games, Sandhyarani said she took up the event as it involved a combination of different routines. “Lot of thinking is involved in this sport. You should know when to kick and when to punch; that is why I took up wushu,” said the CRPF employee.

“It isn’t a popular sport in India, but with better facilities and exposure, we certainly can do well in this sport,” said the Manipuri, whose sister is also into wushu.

On Tuesday, Bimoljit had won the bronze in Sanshou 60kg category, defending the bronze he won in Doha four years back. With Sandhyarani winning India’s second medal from the sport here, wushu is certain to storm the Indian consciousness now.

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