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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Indian Women Clinch Historic Gold In Badminton Asia Team Championships

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Shah Alam (Malaysia), Feb 18 (PTI) Anmol Kharb yet again performed when it mattered, winning the decisive fifth rubber to lead the Indian women to a historic Badminton Asia Team Championships title with a tight 3-2 victory over a depleted Thailand, here Sunday.

The young sprightly group of Indian women’s team, led by seasoned PV Sindhu, defied all expectations to come up trumps against two-time bronze medallists Thailand.

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“I’m very happy that we bagged the gold medal because this is the first time India are winning the gold at the Badminton Asia Team Championships,” Anmol said after the match.

“It is a big thing because history has been scripted here. Yesterday (after the semifinal win) it went crazy in India because beating powerhouses like Japan and China was such a big thing. Today, it will be full-on celebration in India and in the team as well.

“I wanted to play my 100 per cent but there was no pressure on me at all. We were confident of winning the fifth match.”

It is the first-ever major title for Indian women in team championships and provides a big boost to the side ahead of the Uber Cup, which is set to be held in Chengdu, China from April 28 to May 5.

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India had won two medals in the past with the men’s team claiming bronze medals in the 2016 and 2020 editions.

Though like most of the teams in the competition, Thailand were not at full strength, they still had higher-ranked players in their side.

Thailand were without their top two singles players — world No. 13 Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chochuwong, who is ranked 16th in the world.

Two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu provided India a confident start, riding on her power and placement to outclass world number 17 Supanida Katethong 21-12, 21-12 in the first singles and hand India a 1-0 lead.

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World No. 23 Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand then dished out another gritty performance to shock the world number 10 pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Pra Jongjai 21-16, 18-21, 21-16 to put India in the driver’s seat.

Playing the second singles against world ranked 18 Busanan Ongbamrungphan, expectations were high from Ashmita Chaliha after her stunning win against former world champion Nozomi Okuhara on Saturday.

The Indian, who had defeated Busanan during the Singapore Open in 2022, stayed in the match till 14-14 in the second game but a string of unforced errors thereafter cost Ashmita dearly as she went down 11-21, 14-21 against her experienced rival.

Young Shruti Mishra and Priya Konjengbam, the senior national champions, then lost 11-21, 9-21 to the world number 13 combination of Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard to leave the tie evenly poised at 2-2.

Anmol then shouldered the responsibility of taking India through once again, producing a dominating 21-14, 21-9 victory over world number 45 Pornpicha Choeikeewong in the deciding third singles.

“It’s a big achievement at 17 years old. Now I have to train harder to beat tougher opponents,” she said.

Soon after the win, the entire squad got into a huddle to lift Anmol, celebrating the magnificent win at the Setia City Convention Centre.

“It is a great moment for Indian badminton. I give a lot of credit to these youngsters. They displayed great spirit, they were supporting each other and the atmosphere was just like it was when India won the Thomas Cup. So this is a special moment for India,” former India coach Vimal Kumar told PTI.

Sindhu opened a 5-1 lead after Supanida struggled with her control in drifty conditions, committing too many unforced errors.

A powerful smash on Supanida’s forehand gave Sindhu an 8-2 lead as she kept dictating the terms, moving to a massive 11-4 advantage at the break.

Sindhu played at a good pace and was also far more polished at the net. Soon she was 18-9 up with another lethal jump smash and pocketed the game after her opponent sprayed into the net a couple of times.

After the change of sides, Sindhu kept hitting the returns at deep corners, making her opponent move back and forth. Supanida continued to make errors as the Indian jumped from 2-2 to 9-2 before entering the break at 11-5.

Sindhu kept the pressure on Supanida, producing some beautiful cross-court smashes and was soon up 18-6.

Two diagonal returns gave Sindhu nine match points and she converted on the second chance.

Playing the decider for the third time in the competition, Anmol recovered from a 3-6 deficit to grab a slender 11-10 advantage at the break.

Anmol’s ability to patiently construct the rallies and produce winners helped her as she led 17-13 at one stage.

The Indian made her opponent twist and turn with her angled returns to gain six game points and sealed it comfortably when Pornpicha sprayed into the net.

Anmol continued in the same vein in the second game, moving from 6-5 to 11-5 in a jiffy.

A series of down-the-line smashes took Anmol one point away from win. She grabbed 12 match points with another precise return, which touched the net tape and then the Thai went long again as it was all over.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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