Women archers were on target in the individual events, while Manoj Kumar scripted a triumph of the underdog in the boxing ring as India bounced back from the disappointment of star shooter Jitu Rai’s barren Olympic campaign on the fifth day of the Rio Games here.
In a campaign which is yet to fetch a medal for the country, Jitu’s ouster from his pet event of 50m air pistol at the qualifying stage itself came as a massive disappointment.
The women’s hockey team was another major disappointment with a 1-6 loss to Australia.
However, the spirits were lifted when the archer duo of Laishram Bombayla Devi and Deepika Kumari advanced to the prequarters of women’s individual recurve event.
Adding to the joy was Manoj’s stunning 2-1 win over London Olympics’ lightweight bronze-medallist Evaldas Petrauskas in the opening round of the light welterweight (64kg) category.
Competing in her third Olympics, the 31-year-old Bombayla, who finished 24th in the ranking round, dished out a dominating show to get the better of Chinese Taipei’s Lin Shih-Chia 6-2 in the 1/16 elimination after beating Austria’s Laurence Baldauff in 1/32 elimination round.
Deepika also put up an excellent show as she comprehensively defeated Italy’s Sartori Guendalina 6-2 in the 1/16 elimination after prevailing over her opponent from Georgia, Kristine Esebua, 6-4 in the 1/32 elimination round.
The 22-year-old from Jharkhand, who had lost in the first round in London Games four years ago, came back strongly from a set down to register a dominating 24-27, 29-26, 28-26, 28-27 victory in the end.
Manoj prevailed 2-1 in the hard-fought battle in which he had to hold his ground against the intense aggression displayed by Lithuanian Petrauskas in all three rounds.
A former Asian bronze-medallist, Manoj will next be up against fifth seed Uzbek Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in the pre-quarters scheduled on Sunday.
In other events, judoka Avtar Singh failed to progress after losing to Refugee Olympic Team’s Misenga Popole in the second round of the men’s 90 kg and weightlifter Satish Sivalingam finished 11th in the men’s 77kg Group B (lower) category.
National record holder Sivalingam lifted 148kg in snatch and 181kg in clean and jerk for a total of 329kg. Sivalingam, who had a won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, holds the national record of 336kg (149+187) in men’s 77kg.
The country’s earnest wait for their first medal here continued on day 5 following the exit of Jitu, winner of the gold medal in the same 50m pistol event in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games two years ago.
Jitu started the qualification by scoring 91 and then 95 which were followed by scores of 90, 94 and 95, including four 10s in the fifth series, that propelled him to the fourth position at the completion of the series.
The Army man botched things up completely in the final series that included two eights, which left him way behind in the pecking order.
Not his usual self, a final effort of 10 was not enough for him to avoid elimination in his maiden Olympics. He ended up overall 12th with a total of 554 out of 600. He had finished eighth in the 10m Air Pistol event earlier.
Fellow pistol shooter Prakash Nanjappa performed even more dismally to finish 25th out of 41 shooters with 547 in the 50m qualification.
On the hockey field, the Indians, who were playing in the Olympics after a gap of 36 years, were simply outplayed by the higher-ranked Australians who exposed the defensive frailties of their opponents.
Jodie Kenny struck twice (43rd and 46th minute) while Kathryn Slattery (5th), Georgina Morgan (9th), Jane Claxton (35th), Georgina Parker (36th) scored once each to rout the Indians. For India, Thokchom Anuradha scored the lone goal with just 8.3 seconds left on the clock.