Sindhu assures second medal for India as Narsingh’s Olympic dream ends

Rio de Janeiro: Star shuttler P.V. Sindhu entered the women’s singles final to assure India of a second medal at the Rio Olympics while the Indian contingent suffered a blow with wrestler Narsingh Yadav being banned for four years over a doping offence.

Sindhu assured the country of at least a silver medal after thrashing Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in straight games in the women’s singles badminton semi-final at the Rio Olympics here on Thursday.

World No. 10 Sindhu continued with her giant-killing spree as she made light work of the Japanese to register a 21-19, 21-10 triumph in the semi-finals and become the first Indian shuttler to enter the final of the Olympics.

However, the euphoria in the Indian camp turned into dismay later in the day when Narsingh’s dream of competing at the Rio Olympics came to an end with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upholding the World Anti Doping Agency’s (WADA) appeal against the clean chit given to him by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) in a doping violation case.

The ad hoc division of the CAS, which met here on Thursday to hear the WADA’s appeal against the clearance to Narsingh by the NADA, also slapped a four-year ban on the Mumbai wrestler.

“WADA filed an urgent application before the CAS ad hoc division to challenge the decision of NADA India to exonerate Narsingh Yadav following two positive anti-doping tests with methandienone on June 25 and July 5. The athlete asserted that he was the victim of sabotage (food/drink tampering) by another person. WADA requested that a four-year period of ineligibility be imposed on the athlete,” the CAS said in a statement.

“The CAS panel did not accept the argument of the athlete that he was the victim of sabotage and noted that there was no evidence that he bore no fault, nor that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional. Therefore the standard four-year period of ineligibility was imposed by the panel,” the statement added.

With the CAS announcing its verdict, Narsingh’s campaign at the ongoing Rio Olympics has ended before it could start.

According to the official website of the Rio Games, the Mumbai grappler was scheduled to start his Olympic campaign against Zelimkhan Khadjiev of France in the qualification round of the men’s 74 kilogram Freestyle category on Friday.

The 26-year-old grappler also underwent his weigh-in on Thursday.

“It is very sad and unfortunate. We were hopeful until the last proceeding of the CAS that he will get through which unfortunately did not happen,” Indian Chef de Mission Rakesh Gupta told IANS after the hearing.

“It is really very sad because he had a real potential to clinch a medal.”

Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh called for a probe by the Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI) into the whole affair.

“This should not happen to any sportsperson in the future. I demand a CBI probe into the entire issue so that this episode is not repeated in the future,” Brijbhushan told a television news channel.

“We feel sorry for Narsingh, this should not hapen to any athlete.”

But in the sports arena, India’s fortunes took a sudden turn for the better as Sindhu defeated World No.2 Wang Yihan on Wednesday, set up her semi-final clash with world No.6 Okuhara.

World No.10 Sindhu made light work of the Japanese to become the first Indian shuttler to enter the final of the Olympics.

With this win, the double World Championship bronze medallist improved her head-to-head record against reigning All England Open champion Okuhara to 2-3.

In the final, she will face two-time reigning world champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who beat defending champion Li Xuerui of China 21-14, 21-16 in the other semi-final.

Irrespective of the colour of the medal in the final on Friday, it will be India’s second medal in the Rio Games after wrestler Sakshi bagged a bronze medal in the women’s 58kg category.

Sindhu’s height and long reach gave her a lot of advantage against the pint-sized Okuhara, who also had her right thigh strapped.

Especially, Sindhu’s sharp cross-court game and half smash helped her get off to a fine start as she took the first game 21-19.

In the second game, Sindhu turned more aggressive and played a fearless game to stun the Japanese who looked short of ideas.

The 21-year-old Hyderabadi kept earning points, hitting one smash after another to enjoy a comfortable ride. As many as 10 points on the trot catapulted her to the final with a 21-10 win in the second game.

Afterwards, what followed was a screaming celebration from Sindhu and her camp.

“It’s historic day. I feel so proud. It’s a show of women power. Sindhu, Sakshi and even Saina all have shown great women power. I am keeping my fingers crossed for gold tomorrow,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) committee member Nita Ambani said.

“I am very happy and as Indians we are all feeling proud, especially Indian girls. I think, for us it’s a big, big occasion to celebrate the power of our young Indian girls.

“We need to make India a multisport nation. All children should play all games and experience them. We have to, specially encourage Indian girls to play more and different games in India,” she added.

“I am humbled and privileged to be working in the International Olympic Committee.”

The only disappointment of the day was wrestler Babita Kumari losing 1-5 to Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki in the women’s Freestyle 53 kg 1/8 Final.

Babita struggled to find her feet in the first period after being pushed out of the safety zone and then the Greek wrestler took another two points to extend the lead further to 3-0.

The 26-year-old Indian managed to bag a point in the second period as Maria failed to make the most of the 30-second advantage.

Babita once again went for aggressive play but Maria turned it around to add two more to her score. From then on, things started slipping from the Indian’s hands as Maria displayed great defensive skills to hold on and beat the Indian.

Meanwhile, at the golf course, India’s Aditi Ashok continued to impress as she carded a second straight three-under 68 to be tied eighth after the second round of the women’s golf event.

The 18-year-old got off to a flying start on Thursday after getting a birdie on the par-five first hole before getting two more birdies on the par-three fourth and par-four ninth holes till the halfway mark.

In the back nine, she bogeyed the par-five 10th hole before picking her again with consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th hole.

However, a bogey on the par-five 18th hole again gave her a 68 that took her total to six-under 136. She shared the eighth position with four other golfers.

The Bengaluru golfer was four strokes behind leader South Korean Inbee Park, who carded a second straight 66 to sit at the top.

Lewis Stacy of the US carded a stunning eight-under 63 to be one stroke behind Inbee.