Anmol Kharb leads Indian women’s team to first-ever gold medal

The Indian women’s badminton team created history by clinching their first-ever Badminton Asia Team Championships crown with a 3-2 victory over Thailand in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Sunday.

The Indian team, who began their campaign with an upset win over China and then accounted for top seeds Japan in the semi-final, showed that they were the superior outfit in the final with convincing wins by former world champion PV Sindhu, women’s doubles pair of Treesa Jolly- Gayatri Gopichand and national champion Anmol Kharab.

It was vintage Sindhu against Supanida Katethong in the opening women’s singles tie. She adopted an aggressive approach against the Thai player, who has troubled her in the past and the game plan paid dividends.

The double Olympic medallist rarely looked under any pressure throughout the 39-minute encounter, winning 21-12, 21-12 to give India the lead.

The combination of Treesa and Gayatri then doubled the lead for India, winning a nerve-wracking doubles match against the world No 10 pairing of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai 21-16, 18-21, 21-16.

The Indians began with a clear strategy of pinning their opponents to the back court and attacking at every opportunity they got to clinch the opening game.

But it was the superior defence of the Thai pairing that helped them claw their way back in the match by forcing the Indians to make some uncharacteristic errors.

To their credit, Gayatri and Treesa hung in when things weren’t really going their way and managed to turn around a 6-10 deficit in the decider to draw level at 14-14.

They then won five straight points from 15-15 to earn five match points. They converted the second one finish with unbeten in the competition.

Ashmita Chaliha then could not find the same rhythm that saw her defeat former world champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan on Saturday as she went down 11-21, 14-21 to Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the second women’s singles tie.

The national women’s doubles national champions Priya Konjengbam and Shruti Mishra too lost out against Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard 11-21, 9-21 as Thailand forced a decider.

It again came down to Kharb to win the deciding point for the team and the 17-year-old once again delivered in style.

She took time to get used to Pornpicha Choeikeewong’s power game and trailed 4-6 after the early exchanges in the opening game, but once she started controlling the rallies there was no stopping her.

She ultimately wrapped up the match 21-14, 21-9 to guide India to a first-ever gold medal at the Badminton Asia Team Championships.

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