Rio de Janeiro, Aug 13 (IANS) Long distance runner Lalita Babar kept India’s hopes alive on Saturday by qualifying for the women’s 3,000 metre Steeplechase finals while rower Dattu Bhokanal topped the Final C to finish 13th overall in another dismal day which saw the women’s hockey team’s quarter-final dreams dashed by Argentina.
Two more Indian runners — Sudha Singh and Nirmala Sheoran — alongwith the women’s badminton doubles duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa and shooters Gurpreet Singh and Mairaj Ahmad Khan also flunked to add to India’s misery at the 31st Olympic Games.
Disappointed Indian fans can however, take solace from Lalita’s performance, who shattered the national record in the women’s 3,000 metre Steeplechase to qualify for the final round.
She finished fourth fastest, clocking 9 minutes 19.76 seconds in the Round 1 Heat 2 at the Olympic Stadium to end overall seventh among the 15 qualifiers.
She qualified as a lucky loser, managing to squeeze in among the next top eight fastest outside the top two of each heat who qualified directly.
Lalita also became the first Indian woman to qualify for an individual Olympic track event final since P.T. Usha did so in 400m hurdles in the 1984 Games. She had finished fourth in the final.
The performance by the 2015 Asian Championship gold medallist was all the more praiseworthy as she had suffered a fall early in the race before putting in a stupendous effort to position herself in the leading group and even wresting the lead at one stage.
But Sudha failed to qualify for the final round after finishing a distant 30th in the overall rankings. She clocked 9 minutes 43.29 seconds in Round 1 Heat 3.
In women’s 400 metre, Nirmala Sheoran finished overall 44th among 57 athletes to crash out.
The Haryana athlete clocked 53.03 seconds in the Round 1 Heat 1 event at the Olympic Stadium, to be placed sixth among seven athletes in her heat.
Rower Dattu also impressed one and all by finishing on top of Final C in men’s single sculls. He finished 13th overall.
Already out of medal contention, Dattu topped the final ranking race in 6:54.96 minutes, which was best timing among the four races he participated in the Games.
But it was the performance of the women’s hockey team, which conceded five goals in a single quarter to further douse the spirits.
A higher-ranked Argentina thrashed the Indians 5-0 as Sushila Chanu’s side suffered its fourth consecutive loss in Pool B to end their chances of a quarter-final berth.
In the must-win game for both the teams, Argentina sealed the match in the second quarter which yielded them five goals in a mesmerising display of attacking hockey.
Martina Cavallero (16th and 29th minutes), Maria Granatto (23rd), Carla Rebecchi (26th) and Agustina Albertarrio (27th) scored for the world No.2 side.
With this loss, India remained in the sixth spot, while the United States, Britain, Australia and Argentina made it to the quarters.
Shooters continued their dismal show in Rio, as Gurpreet failed to qualify for the finals of men’s 25 metre Rapid Fire Pistol qualifying event while Mairaj crashed out of men’s Skeet qualification round after a shoot-off for the final two spots.
Gurpreet finished seventh, just outside the six qualifying spots, with a cumulative 581 points with 24 inner 10s at the Olympic Shooting Centre.
Gurpreet, who was ranked 10th, scored 289 points with 10 inner 10s after the first qualifying stage. He scored 292 points in the second stage.
In Skeet, Mairaj shot a total of 121 along with four other shooters, requiring a shoot-off for the final two spots to reach the semi-finals at the Olympic Shooting Centre.
The 40-year-old found himself out of the race after managing to shoot a +3 to drop to the ninth place.
Shuttlers Jwala and Ashwini added insult to injury after losing their inconsequential Group A match against Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand to bow out of the Olympic Games.
Already out of the quarterfinal race, Jwala and Ashwini lost 17-21, 15-21 against Puttita and Sapsiree.
With this loss, the Indian pair ended the Group A campaign with three consecutive losses. The Thai pair managed a win but it was not enough to take them through.