On a thrilling final day of squash at the 19th Asian Games, Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam and Eain Yow Ng captured the two singles golds, while Indian duo Dipika Pallikal Karthik and Harinder Sandhu won gold in the first ever Asian Games mixed doubles event.
In a tense and emotionally charged women’s final, Malaysia’s Subramaniam edged out Hong Kong, China’s Sin Yuk Chan in a five-game thriller that either player could have won.
The pair met earlier this year in the final of the Asian Championship, with Chan getting the better of Subramaniam in five games.
Today, though, it was revenge for the Malaysian, whose victory at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre underlines her return to form after recovering from a serious traffic accident last year.
3/4 seed Chan spoke before the match about how her best shot at the title was with her attacking weaponry and she more than lived up to her word, frequently disrupting the Malaysian with fantastic work at the front of the court.
After Chan took the first game 11-8, Subramaniam dragged herself level with a 15-13 game two win.
The third game went to a tie-break, too, as Chan regained her lead with a 12-10 victory only for Subramaniam to level again with an 11-9 win in game four to force a fifth game.
In an epic final encounter, it was Chan who made the first move towards the title, with the 21-year-old moving into an 8-5 lead.
Subramaniam, however, dug in incredibly in a frenetic conclusion, reeling in Chan’s lead to earn championship ball at 10-9.
Chan recovered from the onslaught well and saved championship ball to force yet another tie-break, but could not capitalise as Subramaniam clinched Malaysia’s fifth consecutive Asian Games women’s singles title with a 12-10 victory.
“I was flag bearer and now, to win two gold medals, it seems like a movie to me,” Subramaniam – who was also part of the Malaysian women’s team that won gold earlier in the competition – said afterwards.
“I don’t think anyone would have expected me to win two gold medals after the last year-and-a-half. I started playing well only in maybe April or May but before that, I was really struggling. I had a lot of challenges to go through and I cannot believe this at the moment.”
Following Subramaniam’s victory, Malaysian Men’s No.1 Eain Yow Ng then secured Malaysia’s third squash gold of the Games as he came from behind to beat India’s Saurav Ghosal.
Ghosal, who beat Ng in the team event at this year’s Games, made the stronger start as he recovered from going 1-6 down to winning game one 11-9 in what looked to be an ominous sign for the Malaysian.
Despite the seemingly demoralising turn of momentum against him, Ng’s head did not drop and he levelled with an 11-9 win of his own before pulling ahead with a comfortable 11-5 win in game three.
Towards the end of game three, there seemed to be an air of inevitability about the conclusion, with Ng finding it increasingly comfortable to hold off a tiring Ghosal’s attacks.
Sure enough, this pattern continued in the fourth game, and the 25-year-old was able to bring the contest to a close and earn the gold with an 11-7 win.
Afterwards, Ng said: “It’s huge!
“What a way to do it. I’m just soaking it in at the moment… at times, it just felt like there was no way we could win a point. Everyone was just picking everything up.
“All credit to Saurav. What a legend. If you watch him over the last two weeks he has played unbelievably.”
Despite that defeat for Ghosal, his second in the individuals final following a 2014 loss to Kuwait’s Abdullah Almezayen, the 37-year-old will take consolation from his team gold medal earned earlier this week and by the gold medal won by his compatriots Pallikal Karthik and Sandhu.
That win for the Indian pairing, which came against Aifa Azman and Mohd Syafiq Kamal to prevent a Malaysian clean sweep on the day, will go down in squash history with mixed doubles squash making its Asian Games debut this year.
Top seeds Pallikal Karthik and Kamal were tested severely by the No.2 seeds in a thrilling contest, which was played at a hectic and crowd-pleasing pace.
The Indian pairing – as they did in their quarter-final and semi-final – made a slow start to the final, with Azman’s attacking instincts and Kamal’s coverage combining well as the Malaysians earned three game balls at 10-8.
Pallikal Karthik and Sandhu, however, clung on brilliantly to save the first two to level and then converted the sudden death game ball at 10-10 to take a vital 1-0 lead.
In a see-saw second game, the Indian pair were once again pushed to the brink by the Malaysians.
The contest looked effectively over when Pallikal Karthik and Sandhu went 6-1 up, only for a tremendous rearguard action by Azman and Kamal to earn the No.2 seeds game balls at 10-9.
Yet again, however, the Indian pair held firm, drawing level before Sandhu fired the ball into the corridor of uncertainty in the middle of the court, which both Azman and Kamal left, to the roars of the Indian bench.
“My mum was crying, my husband, my sister and my best friend – they were all watching together. I think the whole family was… I’m just happy to be going back with a gold,” Pallikal Karthik said afterwards.
Sandhu added: “I was playing for [Pallikal Karthik], nothing for me. I just wanted to make sure I do as much as I can for her on court.
“She just kept backing me. I was like a kid in school when you’re not doing well and the teacher is constantly behind you. I played like that on court!”
Result: 19th Asian Games Women’s Individual Championship, Final
[3/4] Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) bt [3/4] Sin Yuk Chan (HKG) 3-2: 8-11, 15-13, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10 (64m)
Result: 19th Asian Games Men’s Individual Championship, Final
 Eain Yow Ng (MAS) bt  Saurav Ghosal (IND) 9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7 (72m)
Result: 19th Asian Games Mixed Doubles Championship, Final
 Dipika Pallikal Karthik & Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND) bt  Aifa Azman & Mohd Syafiq Kamal (MAS) 2-0: 11-10, 11-10 (34m)
Medal Winners: 19th Asian Games
Women’s Team Championship
Silver: Hong Kong, China
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Bronze: India & Republic of Korea
Men’s Team Championship
Bronze: Hong Kong, China & Malaysia
Women’s Individual Championship
Gold: Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)
Silver: Sin Yuk Chan (HKG)
Bronze: Satomi Watanabe (JPN) & Tomato Ho (HKG)
Men’s Individual Championship
Gold: Eain Yow Ng (MAS)
Silver: Saurav Ghosal (IND)
Bronze: Abdulla Al Tamimi (QAT) & Henry Leung (HKG)
Mixed Doubles Championship
Gold: Dipika Pallikal Karthik & Harinder Sandhu (IND)
Silver: Aifa Azman & Mohd Syafiq Kamal (MAS)
Bronze: Anahat Singh & Abhay Singh (IND) & Ka Yi Lee & Chi Him Wong (HKG)