The search for heroes is indeed a fascinating quest, more so in the world of Indian sport. There are times when familiar names warm the cockles of the fans hearts. There are times when the unknown spring out of the box, spot an opportunity and make their presence felt, infusing greater belief and inspiring more compatriots to use sport at the catapult to launch themselves as heroes.
Manjit Singh, 800m runner from Jind, and two 19-year-old Kurash practitioners, Pincky Balhara from Delhi and Malaprabha Jadhav, expressed themselves endearingly at the Asian Games on Tuesday, a day on which the renowned badminton star PV Sindhu had little chance of converting silver medal to gold and the men and women's compound archery teams missed gilt-edged chances.
Manjit Singh, Pincky Balhara and Malaprabha Jadhav are among those who spotted opportunities and made the most of them, the first-named on track where he won gold from a more fancied line-up, and the two girls in moving from Judo to Kurash to be able to gain silver and bronze medals respectively in the 52kg class.
The 29-year-old Manjit Singh's burst on the home stretch saw him come up with a personal best time of 1:46.15 to edge out team-mate Jinson Johnson to the silver medal position. He played the waiting game, not trying too hard to break free of the box he found himself in for much of the second lap. The Indian pair left Qatar's front-running Abdalla Abubaker to take bronze.
Jinson Johnson, who did not hold himself back from thanking Manjit Singh when the Haryana athlete helped him break Sriram Singh's National record earlier this year, was perhaps surprised a bit that while he was powering his way past Abdalla Abubaker and Bahrain's Abraham Rotich, Manjit sneaked past him on the outside to claim the surprise gold.
On a dramatic night, India's protest after its 4x400m mixed relay team (Muhammed Anas Yahiya, MR Poovamma, Hima Das and Arokia Rajiv) finished second to Bahrain delayed the teams' departure from the stadium. The Indians contended that as she was setting off as the third runner, Hima Das was obstructed by Oluwakemi Adekoya who was sprawling on the track after the baton exchange.
In keeping with the international bid to find gender balance, the Asian Games included mixed relays for the first time in the schedule in Jakarta. With Hima Das losing tempo " and perhaps concentration as she ran in an outer lane for long " Bahrain opened up a winning lead and came home in 3:11.49 while India were second in 3:15.71.
The focus on such performances should not take away the attention from the fact that javelin thrower Annu Rani punched turf at 53.93m and finished sixth among 10 throwers. She had been dropped after she was unable to convince selectors at the confirmatory trials that she deserved a trip. She was reinstated after she threw more than 58m in the Inter-Railway Championship.
The show-jumping team that was reinstated by the Indian Olympic Association after it had originally decided not to clear, also did not deliver results that would justify IOA allowing itself to be the convinced. It is not the riders' fault that the confusion within the Equestrian Federation of India finally led them to be here, after having spent a great deal of time away from their horses.
Varsha Gautham who had approached the Delhi High Court for a place in the Indian team, and her crew Sweta Shervegal, have lined themselves up for a silver medal after 11 of the 15 races in the 49er FX Women's regatta at the Indonesia National Sailing Centre. The 49er men's team of Varun Thakkar and crew KC Ganapathy is in bronze medal position with four races to be sailed.
Two sailors from the Madhya Pradesh Sailing Academy, Govind Bairagi and Harshita Tomar are third and fourth in the 12-race Open Laser competition after nine races. A medal would give the state government-run academy a shot in the arm and encourage other states to follow suit and create healthy competition in the country.
It was a pity that Sindhu, the two compound archery teams and the men's table tennis side were not able to swing fortunes their way. Sindhu was outplayed by Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying in straight games while the compound archery teams finished second best to their Korean counterparts.
The men's archery team, led by Abhishek Verma, tied the final with the Koreans 229-229 and lost the shoot off despite being level pegged at 29 each only on the basis of an inner 10 that Koreans managed to get. The women, with Vennam Jyoti Surekha in top form and nailing 10s at will, ran Korea close but lost on the final two arrows.
At the archery field, Madhumita Kumari (21) and Muskan Kirar (18) showed that they could support the more experienced Jyoti Surekha (22) while Aman Saini (21) and Rajat Chauhan (23) lent Abhishek Verma (27) the confidence that compound archery has a secure future in India, the two silver medals coming as some evidence of that.
Yet, while the promise is there, on Tuesday, the unlikely stars emerged on the athletics track and on the Kurash mat.