Incheon: The medal count wentdown but Indian sports still had lots to celebrate with the men's hockey team coming good after a long time to strikegold even as the legend of M C Mary Kom got bigger in a mixed Asian Games campaign for the country's athletes here.
Pistol shooter Jitu Rai andfreestyle grappler Yogeshwar Dutt were among the other heroes of the Games,where the Indian contingent entered with the aim to better or equal the recordmedal haul of 65 fetched in 2010.
The huge Indian contingent fellshort of the target and emerged with a diminished tally to its credit in thisgrowing South Korean business hub. India secured 11 gold medals, threefewer than what they collected in China four years ago, 10 silver (includingthe upgraded one of Manju Bala in women's hammer) and 36 bronze for a totalhaul of 57.
Four of those gold medals came inathletics (two) and kabaddi (two) while archery, boxing, hockey, shooting,squash, tennis and wrestling accounted for the rest.
The gold medal haul also placed India in the eighth position on the medalstable, two rungs below where they had finished in China.
In 2010, where the country'sAsian Games preparations had started earnestly with the immediately precedingCommonwealth Games hosted in New Delhi, the break-up of 65 medals won was 14gold, 17 silver and 34 bronze earning India the sixth spot on the medalsrostrum.
In 2010, a total number of 609competitors piloted the country to a two-and-a-half-decade-high spot out of 45countries and regions.
At the end of it all competitionshere, the 541-strong Indian sporting contingent has once again secured the top10 place out of the same number of nations and regions.
Here, the first golden touch toIndia's campaign, which stuttered early on before picking up some pace, camefrom talented army shooter Jitu Rai who handled the pressure well to nail themen's 50m pistol crown on the very first day.
The yellow metal tally gotrounded off by the double team gold won in kabaddi on Friday.
However, to put the whole picturein the right perspective it should be noted that some of the gold medals camein non-Olympic sports, including the team double in kabaddi, which is hardlyknown even within most parts of Asia.
Indian chef de mission AdilleSumariwalla summed up the Indian overall show, saying the final medal haul wason expected lines.
"We had predicted 50-55medals and have secured 57. We lost the plot after 2010, otherwise could haveperformed better," he felt.
This time too, India had comehere after performing well in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but the vastchasm between the CWG and the Asian Games level in most events, where worldsports superpower China sets the benchmark, was palpable.
As the country's campaign wastapering off, India's men's hockey squad led by Sardar Singh broughtimmeasurable joy by reclaiming the gold via the penalty shoot-out in anail-biting and action packed final against arch-foes Pakistan.
India won the shoot-out 4-2 afterthe South Asian rivals were level 1-1 at the end of the four quarters, a newconcept introduced in world hockey here.
This was a huge moment for thestruggling game in India, the triumphant team and its support staff led byTerry Walsh, as well as for the innumerable and disheartened supporters of hockeywho wanted nothing less than the gold last won in 1998 at Bangkok.
The well-coveted triumph alsopiloted India directly into the Rio Olympic Games competition without thetrouble of going through the slippery qualifiers. It was also for thefirst time since 1966 that India emerged winner in the high-pressure Gamesfinal against Pakistan. Their previous encounter at this stage in the 1982Delhi Games had gone comprehensively in Pakistan's favour.
In between these cherishedsuccesses came memorable gold medals in other disciplines -- fetched bycompound men's team archers, 'Magnificent Mary Kom' (the first-ever in women'scompetition and the only one from the ring), Yogeshwar Dutt, men's squash teamspearheaded by Saurav Ghosal, tennis mixed doubles pair of Sania Mirza andSaket Myneni, woman discus thrower Seema Punia and the 4x400m relay team.
Yogeshwar came with a mission towin a gold and accomplished it in style by ending India's 28-year-old goldmedal draught in the ancient sport. The London Olympic Gamesbronze-medallist fought with verve and determination to win the men's freestyle65kg gold and was the saving grace on the mat.
Ghosal narrowly missed claimingthe individual gold too after squandering a commanding 2-0 lead andmatch-points in the third game of the men's final.
In shooting Rai, the world no. 5,showed tremendous grit and concentration to beat back the challenge from strongcontenders like Wang Zhiwei of China and South Korean two-time Olympic championand reigning world champion Jongoh to win the gold in a tense final in whichthe last set of shots decided the gold in the Indian Commonwealth Games goldwinner's favour.
He thus became only the secondIndian pistol shooter to clinch an Asian Games title after Jaspal Rana and thefourth shooter overall after shot gun experts Randhir Singh in 1978 and RonjanSodhi in 2010.
For a few days Rai remained theonly gold medal winner from shooting, putting in shade two better known rifleshooters -- 2008 Beijing Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, who picked up abronze as his first and only individual medal from these Games and thenannounced he is a hobby shooter from now on and the misfiring Gagan Narang whodid not have a medal to his name.
In fact, the shooters, wholargely blamed their travel schedule from the preceding World Championships inSpain to here via India as the main reason for their poor display, generallydisappointed as most medals were won in team competitions.
Two other major let-downs werestar shuttlers Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu who helped the country win thewomen's team bronze before producing a flop show in individual events thatfollowed.
Tennis, in which medal chancestook a big hit even before the Games began with the unavailability SomdevDevvarman and the top men's doubles pair of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna,came up with a good show. Spearheaded by top woman star Sania Mirza, to pick upone gold, a silver and three bronze medals.
Sania helped the team win thegold and bronze in mixed doubles and women's doubles respectively. The silverwas won in men's doubles by Myneni, Sania's mixed doubles partner, and SanamSingh. The other two bronze were won by Yuki Bhambri (men's singles) andBhambri-Sharan Divij (men's doubles).
The much-touted recurve men andwomen archers were way off the mark and did not grab a single medalovershadowed by their poorer cousins from compound.
The compound archers who shottheir way to a historic first-ever gold by clinching the men's team title atthe expense of hosts South Korea, plus one silver and two bronze medals in thenon-Olympic weapon.
Star woman boxer Mary Kom shoneas a beacon light inside the ring to win her maiden title in the women'sflyweight class.
However, the controversysurrounding her teammate L Sarita Devi, who was robbed of a certain place inthe women's lightweight final by poor ringside judging and then refused toaccept the bronze medal at the ceremony, took away a lot of attention that theManipuri deserved.
The protest lodged by chief coachG S Sandhu after Sarita's controversial exit was thrown out and her decisionnot to accept her medal landed her in trouble with the Olympic Council of Asia.
Her medal was restored afterSumariwalla attended a hearing of OCA and she has since then apologised to theworld boxing body AIBA fearing suspension.
In total contrast to the women,who bagged one gold medal and two bronze, the male boxers put up a dismal showby adding just two bronze to the tally that stood finally at one gold medal andfour bronze, a far cry from their 2-4 heist in 2010.
Prior to the Sarita incidentthere was a controversial ruling in the women's 3000m steeplechase with thejury overturning the judges' decision to disqualify Bahrain's race winner RuthJebet following an infringement she had committed.
This prevented Lalita Babar frombeing elevated to silver from bronze and defending champion Sudha Singh frombeing promoted to the third position.
"We were robbed of one medalthrough a dangerous and unprecedented move in athletics ? of jury overrulingthe judges. This is a serious issue in athletics," said Sumariwalla.
Four years ago in Guangzhou, India bagged 12 medals from athletics -- 5 gold, 2silver and 5 bronze -- while here the return is 13 -- comprising 2 gold 4silver and 7 bronze medals.
Seema Punia, left out of the lasttwo Games for different reasons, proved a point here by clinching the goldmedal in the women's discus throw.
The only other gold medal inathletics, which has been hijacked by runners born in Africa but based in WestAsian nations like Bahrain, was captured by the 4x400m relay squad which alsobettered the previous mark set by its predecessors in Guangzhou and kept thetitle in India's hands.
The silver count increased by twoafter Manju Bala's women's hammer throw bronze got upgraded to silver after apositive dope test of a higher-placed Chinese.
The bronze count rose by two, butoverall the performance was slightly below par, though such a scenario was notentirely unexpected.
There were athletes like halfmiler Tintu Luka, silver medallist in women's 800m, and woman bronze medalwinning javelin thrower Annu Rani who set up new personal marks or came closeto their personal bests while climbing the medal rostrum.
Discus thrower and major medalhope Vikas Gowda failed to live up to his top billing and finished with thesilver while triple jumpers Arpinder Singh and Ranjit Maheshwary drew a blank.
The country's campaign ended on ahigh with the men and women's kabaddi teams retaining the gold after wagingtough battles against Iran in both finals.
India's campaign in most otherdisciplines was hardly worth mentioning though there were two bronze medalscoming in wushu, a rare men's swimming bronze (Sandeep Sejwal in 50mbreaststroke) and a first-ever medal (bronze) in women's sailing (29er class).