For almost a quarter of an hour after his match, Saurav Ghosal sat motionless, face buried in his hands. In a brightly lit room, Ghosal seemed to be trying to make sense of one of the ‘gloomiest days’ of his career so far.
A dope control officer demanded his urine sample. But Ghosal couldn’t care less. And even the usually uncompromising watchdogs relented. They gave Ghosal a few extra minutes to compose himself. Anyone who’d seen him then would empathise with him.
The dope test could wait, but the medal ceremony wouldn’t. Ghosal reluctantly made his way back to court. But he is stopped at the entrance. The ceremonies co-ordinator instructed him to wear his tracksuit and jacket. “Is it really necessary,” a despondent Ghosal asked. The official just stared back and nodded. No sympathies here.
Ghosal resurfaced a minute later, but then, there was a slight delay in the medal ceremony. He sat leaning against a wall in the narrow corridor that leads up to the court. He heard the loud cheering and clapping from the adjoining room. The Olympic Council of Asia’s (OCA) Kuwaiti president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, along with his entourage, was celebrating Abdullah Almezayen’s remarkable win over Ghosal, which earned the Gulf nation its first gold of the Games.
It was like rubbing salt into Ghosal’s wounds. Dipika Pallikal tried to console him. Even the Malaysian champ and women’s gold medallist Nicol David tried to cheer him up. Silver medal isn’t bad, they tried telling him. But there was more than an even chance of a deaf man responding to them than Ghosal.
No Indian had won a men’s individual medal at the Asian Games before. In that sense, Ghosal’s silver medal was of considerable significance. But try telling that to him. Barely an hour ago, the country’s top-ranked squash player was just a point away from a historic gold. The Indian was all over his opponent, hardly allowing the Kuwaiti any space. But with the scoreline in the third game reading 12-11, Ghosal choked when it mattered the most.
Abdullah took advantage of Ghosal’s failure to seize the opportunity and fought back bravely. It wasn’t necessarily pretty from Abdulla but it was effective. His physical and aggressive style rattled Ghosal, who could not psychologically recover after failing to convert the match point. Ghosal eventually lost 12-10, 11-2, 12-14, 8-11, 9-11 and had to settle for a silver.
A silver medal, though, can be a tricky medal. While it is an assurance of being the second-best in the continent, it is also a constant reminder of what could have been. And Ghosal would realise that. After much delay, he stepped on to the podium, albeit reluctantly. Al Sabah put the silver medal around his neck. Ghosal didn’t even look at it. “It’s a massive heartbreak. I can’t express what’s going on inside my mind,” he said moments later.
Pallikal, with her own bronze medal draped around her neck, along with Joshna Chinappa and Harinder Pal Sandhu again tried to pacify him. Again, it didn’t work. “This medal will be a constant reminder of my failure,” he said.
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