New shooting sensation Jitu Rai stole the limelight by provided the first gold medal, while Shweta Chaudhry claimed a bronze as India launched their campaign in the 17th Asian Games on a rousing note with two medals on the opening day of competitions here Saturday.
AS IT HAPPENED FULL COVERAGE
While Jitu struck gold in the 50m pistol event, Shweta's bronze came in the 10m air pistol competition at the Ongnyeon Shooting Range here but medal aspirants Heena Sidhu and Malaika Goel turned out to be disappointments as they failed to even reach the finals.
India also assured themselves of a bronze medal in badminton and squash events on what turned out to be a reasonably good opening show with a gold medal coming on the very first day.
In badminton, India today ended a 28-year-old medal drought in Asian Games after the women's shuttlers, led by Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu, edged out Thailand 3-2 to reach the semifinals of the team event.
After Saina and Sindhu registered hard-fought victories in the first two singles, scratch combination of Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa finally assured India the bronze medal after they clinched the final women's doubles match.
India also assured their first ever women's singles medal after top players Dipika Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa won their respective openers and set up an exciting contest in the quarterfinals.
World No.21 Chinappa blanked 183rd ranked South Korea Song Sunmi 11-9 11-7 11-7 at the Yeorumul Squash Courts.
Soon after, World No.12 Pallikal stepped on the court against 150th ranked Jinyue Gu of China. The highest-ranked Indian slipped a bit before prevailing 11-6 10-12 11-6 11-4.
The Indian women's tennis team was also off to a winning start as it blanked Oman 3-0 in the first round here.
Prarthana Gulabrao Thombare and Ankita Raina notched up contrasting singles victories before the pairing of Natasha Marie Anne Palha and Rishika Sunkara was handed a walkover in the doubles match.
But the star of the early proceedings was undoubtedly
Armyman Jitu. The 27-year-old showed steely grit to get the better of a strong field, which included two-time Olympic champion Jin Jongoh of South Korea, to snatch the gold off the final shot in a straight duel with Vietnamese rival Nguyen Hoang Phuong.
The Vietnamese, in fact, was leading the Indian ace, who had recently won the gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a silver at the Granada World Championships going into this competition. But the Indian clinched the issue on the last shot.
This was Jitu's sixth medal on the trot in international competitions this year.
The bronze was clinched by China's Wang Zhiwei (165.6). Jitu thus became only the second Indian pistol shooter to clinch an Asian Games title after Jaspal Rana and the fourth shooter overall after shotgun experts Randhir Singh in 1978 and Ronjan Sodhi in 2010.
However, the Indian men's team finished fourth with his teammates Om Prakash (555) and Onkar Singh (551) ending up 10th and 16th respectively.
Earlier, Shweta, competing with a gun she was not used to as her own gun had been held back by the Korean Customs, secured the bronze medal in the 10m range in air pistol with a total tally of 176.4 behind champion Zhang Mengyuan of China (202.2) and runner-up Jung Jeehae of South Korea (201.3).
Shweta's teammates Heena Sidhu (378) and Malaika Goel (373) ended up 13th and 24th respectively while the trio as a team got the fifth spot from among 14 teams.
Shweta defied odds, a travel-weary schedule and absence of her regular weapon to provide India with their first medal.
The 28-year-old had to eliminate a rival through a shoot-off to ensure the bronze in the women's 10M air pistol event.
Having qualified for the eight-strong final list with a total score of 383 even as her more fancied teammate Heena Sidhu got eliminated, Shweta showed exemplary poise to fight her way back.
It was a disappointing start for India in weightlifting as all three lifters finished in the bottom half of the table in their respective weight categories in both men's and women's divisions.
In Women's 48kg category, Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu -- the gold and silver medallist of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games -- came a cropper by finishing tenth and ninth respectively in a field of 13 weightlifters.
Another Commonwealth gold medallist Sukhen Dey, meanwhile, finished a lowly 12th in men's 56kg category out of 14 lifters.
Indian male cagers started their campaign on a resounding note, thrashing a lowly Palestine 89-49 in their opening Group B encounter at the Hwaseong Sports Complex Gymnasium.
The team dominated Palestine in all the four quarters with Amjyot Singh turning out to be the highest scorer for the formers with 25 points.
India had mixed results from the volleyball courts as the men's team were given a tough time by an unfancied Hong Kong while the women's team were soundly thrashed by hosts South Korea in the opening group league matches.
In a men's group C encounter, India won by 23-25 25-18 25-16 25-21 against a spirited Hong Kong side which is atleast 90 places below them.
The Indian girls were no match for their South Korean counterparts as the home team recorded a crushing 25-5 25-12 25-13 win in just 56 minutes.
Judoka Thoudam Kalpana Devi missed out on a bronze after losing her repechage bout against Kazakhstan's Lenariya Mingazova in the 52 kg category as it was a disappointing day for the Indian team on the mat.
After a high at the Commonwealth Games, the Indian judokas were brought back to earth by some of the much superior Asian opponents.
Save Kalpana, who reached the bronze medal (repechage) bout, the two other Indians Navdeep Chana (men's 60 kg) and Likmabam Sushila Devi (women's 48 kg) were eliminated in the earlier rounds.
Indian rower Dushiant Dushyant finished second in the Lightweight Men's Single Sculls heats. He completed the 2000m distance in 7:23.94 behind Hakbeom Lee of South Korea (7:19.45) in heat number two.
Indian men's and women's track cyclists finished a disappointing seventh in their respective team sprint events.
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