Hockey heartbreak as men’s team loses to Malaysia in semi-finals.

India surpass previous Asian Games overall medal tally of 57, to 59.

India’s gold haul from track-and-field continued at the Asian Games on Thursday, culminating in its best showing at the continental showpiece in close to seven decades.

However, there was heartbreak in the hockey arena as its men’s team was beaten by Malaysia in the semi-finals.

The seasoned Jinson Johnson and the women’s 4×400 metres relay team emerged the stars on the final day of track-and-field competition as India signed off in the discipline with seven gold, 10 silver and two bronze medals, the country’s best haul since 1951.

India surpassed its previous edition’s overall tally of 57 by swelling it to 59 with two more days of competition left.

The country also took its gold tally to 13, two more than 2014.

Johnson, who surprisingly lost the gold to compatriot Manjit Singh in the 800 metres, more than made up for that blip with a brilliant showing in the 1500 metres on Thursday.

He clocked 3:44.72 seconds to claim top honours, ahead of Iran’s Amir Moradi, who clocked 3:45.62s, his season’s best effort. Bahrain’s Mohammed Tiouali (3:45.88s) took bronze.

Then the women’s 4×400 metres relay team notched a fifth successive gold to continue their remarkable dominance in the event. The quartet of Hima Das, M R Poovamma, Saritaben Gayakwad and Vismaya Velluva Koroth clocked 3:28.72s to win gold.

The men’s team could not finish on top though, but came up with a creditable silver, the quartet of Kunhu Muhammed, Dharunn Ayyasamy, Muhammed Anas and Arokia Rajiv timing 3:01.85s to finish behind Qatar, which won gold in an Asian record of 3:00.56s.

Adding a bronze to the haul was veteran discus thrower Seema Punia. The 35-year-old cleared a six-year-best of 62.26 metres for a third-place finish. She won gold in the 2014 edition.

Asian champion P U Chitra also won a bronze, in the women’s 1500 metres.

Chitra entered the race as Asian leader this season but had to settle for a bronze with a timing of 4:12.56s.

But losing the men’s hockey semi-final to Malaysia came as massive blow for the country, which was not just aiming for gold but also direct Olympic qualification through a top finish at the Games.

The Malaysians handed India a heartbreaking 6-7 loss in sudden-death after an exhausting shoot-off.

India will play eight-time champions Pakistan in the bronze medal play-off. Pakistan lost 0-1 to Japan in the other semi-final.

Malaysia, who had beaten India in the last-four stage eight years ago at Guangzhou, made their wasteful opponents pay for their mistakes, both in regulation time and shoot-off. Both teams were tied at 2-2 after 60 minutes.

In the shoot-off, it was anyone’s game and Malaysia handled the nerves better to make their second Asiad final.

“Malaysia are the deserving winners. We committed too many unforced errors and paid the price. We did not keep things simple. We tried to show our Indian skills and by doing that we lost the momentum. It is a big setback for Indian hockey. The road to Olympics is a lot bumpier now. We missed the easiest chance to qualify,” conceded Indian coach Harendra Singh.

There was no end to disappointment in sports like volleyball, sepaktakraw where Indians continued to falter and failed to find any wins.

In squash, the Indian women’s team lost the all-important match against Hong Kong 1-2 to finish second in Group B, resulting in a tougher semi-final opponent in defending champions Malaysia.

Senior players Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa lost their matches against Joey Chan and Annie Au, 1-3 and 0-3, respectively.

Sunayna Kuruvilla, who is Pallikal’s cousin, kept India in the hunt with a fighting win over Tze Lok Ho in the second singles.

Kuruvilla, making her Games debut, was trailing 0-2 in the match and 7-10 in the fifth and deciding game but she never gave up despite some debatable calls by the referee. She fought till the last point for the biggest win of her career, prevailing 5-11, 13-15, 11-6, 11-9, 14-12.

In table tennis, Commonwealth Games gold medal winning paddlers A Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra advanced to the pre-quarterfinals of the singles events. The two had cinched a historic mixed doubles bronze on Wednesday.

  • Coverage: Asian Games 2018

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