World number one flyweight boxer Amit Panghal and star shutter PV Sindhu were the big names to experience defeats even though the latter is still in the hunt for a medal when she competes in the bronze playoff on Sunday.
Success stories of the day were undoubtedly the women’s hockey team and Kamalpreet.
Outplayed in their first three games, Rani Rampal’s team hung in there by beating South Africa 4-3 in their final group engagement and their prayers for a favourable result in the other group match were answered when defending champions Great Britain defeated Ireland 2-0.
That result left India fourth in the group, and set them up for a clash against Australia on Monday. The Indian women last made the quarters of an Olympics in 1980 Moscow edition, where it finished fourth. In the 2016 Rio edition, the team finished 12th.
Earlier, Virender Sehwag fan Kamalpreet, who wants to play cricket someday, produced one of the best performances by an Indian track and field athlete in the Olympics.
The 25-year-old, competing in qualification B, sent the discus to a distance of 64m in her third and final attempt to be one of the only two automatic qualifiers for the final round, the other being American Valarie Allman (66.42m).
The final will be held on August 2.
The Indian finished ahead of defending gold-medallist Sandra Perkovic (63.75m) of Croatia and reigning world champion Yaime Perez (63.18) of Cuba. Perkovic qualified at third and Perez at seventh.
But barring this, it was a largely disappointing day with Panghal’s pre-quarterfinal exit being the biggest low point.
Panghal was handed a stunning 1-4 loss by Rio Games silver-medallist Yuberjen Martinez. He was beaten by the Colombian’s relentless attacks and pace in a draining pre-quarterfinal bout during which he looked exhausted after the opening round itself.
In fact, it was a thoroughly disappointing day for Indian boxing as Pooja Rani (75kg) joined Panghal (52kg) in exiting the Games after an underwhelming performance, going down 0-5 in her quarterfinal bout against China’s Li Qian.
Qian, who is a former world champion and a Rio Olympics bronze-medallist, thoroughly outpunched Rani in the quarterfinals, quite literally taking away her belief with a clinical performance.
No less a heartbreak was Sindhu’s loss.
Her hopes of securing India’s first ever Olympic gold in badminton came crashing down as she slumped to a straight-game defeat against world no.1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in the women’s singles semifinals.
The 26-year-old silver-medallist from the Rio Games, will now compete against China’s He Bing Jiao in the third place play-off at Musashino Forest Plaza on Sunday.
One of the most consistent players, who has claimed medals in all big-ticket events in the last five years, Sindhu couldn’t counter Tai Tzu’s deception with her aggressive game and lost 18-21 12-21 in a 40-minute clash.
“I’m a bit sad because it’s the semifinals, but I tried my best, it’s just not my day. I fought until the end,” she said after the match.
Things continued to go from bad to worse at the shooting range as Anjum Moudgil and Tejaswini Sawant failed to make the finals of the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions event, settling for the 15th and 33rd position respectively.
World Championship silver-medallist Moudgil finished with 1167 and 54 inner 10s, while the veteran Sawant scored 1154 over the three series of standing kneeling and prone at the Asaka Shooting Range.
At the golf course, Anirban Lahiri salvaged his third round with a late birdie and an eagle to card a three-under 68 but it is unlikely to be enough for a podium finish going into the final round on Sunday.
Lahiri, who returned early this morning to complete his second round, had a bogey in one of the two remaining holes for a round of 1-over 72, which placed him T-24th at that stage. He ended Tied-28th after the third round with a total of 6-under 207.
Udayan Mane carded a 70 for a share of 55th place on 2-over 215 as the third round.
On Sunday, the men’s hockey team will take on Great Britain in the quarterfinals, hoping to make the semifinals and a step closer to a medal, which would be its first in over four decades.
In boxing, India’s first super heavyweight (+91kg) boxer at the Games, Satish Kumar will compete in the quarterfinals against reigning world champion Bakhodir Jalolov.