London: Indian boxer M.C. Mary Kom, a five-time World Champion, put up a fine performance on Sunday to keep India's hopes of clinching another medal alive while the men's hockey team's dismal show at London Olympics continued as they slumped to their fourth consecutive loss. They lost 1-4 to South Korea in their penultimate group B match at the Riverbank Arena.
At the Royal Artillery Barracks, where India two medals have come, trap shooter Manavjit Sandhu finished an unflattering 25th among 34 competitors on the first day of men's qualification and his chances of qualifying for the final round look bleak.
In boxing, Mary Kom exhibited creditable pluck as she knocked down a bigger Polish opponent Karolina Michalczuk to cruise to the quarterfinals of the 51 kg category. She has moved very close to bag a historic Olympic medal.
The boxer, fondly called as Magnificent Mary, had to fight hard to advance to the next stage, winning 19-14 at the ExCel Arena. The Indian will face Maroua Rahali of Tunisia in a last eight bout on Monday.
The first round was a close shave as both the boxers came out all guns blazing. There was nothing to nothing to choose between the two as the round ended 3-3.
In the second round, the Indian boxer fought with renewed vigour and attacted her Polish counterpart ruthlessly. The Polish boxer also displayed tremendous courage as she matched Mary Kom's punches with some of her own. Mary Kom emerged victorious in the second round by 5-4.
Mary Kom showed her class in the third. She attacked with a flurry of combinations which had the Pole ducking and evading. Both of them traded punches for a while but it was clear that the diminutive Indian was well ahead. With quick feet and quick hands, Mary Kom surged ahead into the lead, taking the round 7-3.
With both boxers tiring in the fourth round, the Indian tried to stay away from the reach of her opponent, who had to reduce a five-point deficit.
Karolina fought hard for a comeback but the Indian was too good for her. Time running-out, the Pole caught Mary Kom a couple of times but could only draw the final round 4-4.
At the Riverbank Arena, the eight-time Olympic champions, who returned to the Games after missing out on Beijing in 2008, were outpaced by the South Koreans.
The South Koreans, who had suffered a 1-2 loss to lowly-ranked Belgium in their last match, played with vengeance. They were impeccable from their penalty corners, converting three of the five chances that came their way. Hyun Woo Nam (60th, 70th) struck twice while Jong Hyun Jang (6th) and Lee Seung (68th) got goals apiece.
India were pathetic with their penalty corner conversions, misfiring all the four chances they got. Gurwinder Singh Chandi (10th) scored the only goal for India.
It was an utter dismal performance by Indian on an occasion when they had only pride to play for.
The Indian defence again caved in under relentless attack by the South Korean, who took an early lead in the sixth minute after Jang converted the penalty corner for his 103rd international goal.
Stung by an early goal, the Indians stepped up the accelerator and found the equaliser four minutes later after an unmarked Chandi slotted in a precise pass from Dharamvir Singh.
Barring the only goal, the Indians were uninspring as the forwards failed to connect with the centre-half. Dharamvir had his shot saved by the South Korean goalkeeper in the 14th minute while on another occasion forward Shivendra Singh failed to connect a great pass from S.V.Sunil when he had just the goalkeeper to beat.
The midfielders created many chances from the counter-attacks but the forwards were never in sync with them.
South Korea struck thrice in the last 10th minute to pile the misery on the Indians, who paid the price of missed chances.
Indians are still languishing at the bottom of the group with no points from four matches. The South Koreans are third behind the Netherlands and Germany, who are on course to the semi-finals. India in their last group encounter face Belgium here Tuesday.
In shooting, Sandhu, a former World Champion, shot a total of 70 (24, 24, 22) out of 75 in the first three rounds on the first day of the qualification.
The last two rounds, of 50 shots, are scheduled for Monday. Even if the 35-year-old manages a perfect two round of 25 he is unlikely to finish among the top-six who would make it to the medal round.
Australia's Michael Diamond, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, leads the field with a perfect 75.
Five shooters are tied for the second place with a score of 74 and seven shooters share the third spot with a total of 73 each.
With inputs from IANS