JAKARTA: Seven track and field athletes, two shooters and wrestlers each and boxer Amit Panghal punched well above their waist to script India’s best-ever medal haul at the 18th Asian Games blowing the bugle for 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualification process.
Asian Games certainly have a different perspective than the Olympics given that some quirky sports being competed as medal events, the medals won in the Olympic disciplines does give some positives for India to look up to the future.
Much water will flow till the Tokyo Olympic Games comes along, the medals won in Jakarta does give a fair idea as to where sports administrators must focus on if the success at the highest level is to be achieved.
The Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games offered direct qualification spots for Tokyo Olympics in only two sports—hockey and tennis—but a complacent and overconfident India messed up picking those.
The two spots in hockey lost could prove disastrous in the long run as the host nation of 2020 Olympics, ended up winning gold medals in both men and women competitions. This means the Asian quota gets added on to the qualification events rather than going to the Asian Games runner-up teams.
In tennis, it was sheer arrogance of pro-Tour players that cost India the direct qualification spot as top Indian Yuki Bhambri opted to play at the ongoing US Open than focus on earning an Olympic spot.
LEARNING FROM GAMES
Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and seven-time men’s Kabaddi champions were the biggest losers, who will need to go back to the drawing board. Ageing wrestler Sushil Kumar in fact needs to find his footing in this ever-changing field where past medals hardly count and also Sakshi Malik, who seem to be too happy with endorsements coming in after her Olympic bronze medal and marriage thereafter.
In shooting Manu Bhaker returned without a medal, but she would do well by going easy instead of becoming a burnout case as it happens with many athletes who achieve over the top glory at a very young age.
Athletics was a positive show with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and quarter-miler Hima Das emerging as India’s best hopes for coming years on the international stage in track and field events.
The two will be on test from now on, as 2019 will host the World Athletics Championshiop in Doha.
India’s 69-medal haul at the 2018 Asian Games included 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze medals that surpassed the medal count from 2010 Guangzhou Games and matched the medal tally from the inaugural 1951 New Delhi Games, was a mixed bag of performance.
Besides creating new national records and registering some firsts—pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat and wrestler Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman athlete to win gold medal in their respective sports—Indian performance in Jakarta Palembang augurs for a better future for Olympic sports.
Here is a rundown on India’s performance in key sports disciplines:
The major chunk of medals came from the track and field athletes, which bettered the Incheon collection. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s national record throw that fetched him gold here promises more glories in months to come. Six-toed Swapna Barman’s heptathlon title and women’s team gold in 4x400 relay was fifth in a row for Indian women since 2002 Busan. Then Jinson Johnson won 1500m gold, a first in 20 years and Manjit Singh’s 800m gold came after 32 years and Arpinder Singh’s triple jump gold was first for India in 48 years. Hima Das turned out to be the most-medalled Indian athlete with 1 gold and 2 silver medals.
Medals: 17 (7g-10s-2b)
Making its multi-sport debut, the card game won three medals including a gold. The most popular card game in the world saw India winning medals in Men’s Pair (gold), men’s team and mixed team. Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar took India’s gold medal count to 15.
Medals: 3 (1g-0s-2b)
Even to reach a medal round for table tennis players was an achievement. Following a successful stint in Commonwealth Games, the squad comprising Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan and Manika Batra did well without doubt. India secured two medals in Table Tennis Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan along with Manav Vikash, Anthony Arputharaj and Harmeet Desai winning the bronze in Men’s Team event and Sharath combining with Manika to win the bronze in mixed doubles for the biggest highlight for Indian table tennis.
Medals: 2 (0g-0s-2b)
A rustic sport that India helped introduce in the Asian Games finally brought them back on earth. India Men’s team, who defeated Iran 44-26 to win the Kabaddi Masters not long ago, suffered a humiliating 27-17 against same opponents in the semi-final and had to settle for the bronze medal. Then the women’s team also failed to grab the gold, losing against Iran 27-24.
Medals: 2 (0g-1s-1b)
Without doubt it was yet another strong performance from India with youngsters too taking charge in winning medals. There were a number of big surprises with teenagers Saurabh Chaudhary and Shardul Vihan making big strides. While the 16-year-old Saurabh won the gold medal in 10m Air Pistol, the 15-year-old Vihan struck a silver medal in Men’s Double Trap. Rahi Sarnobat secured the second gold medal for India in Women 25m pistol event. Then Sanjeev Rajput managed to win a silver in 50m Rifle 3 Positions Men and Heena Sidhu secured 10m Air Pistol bronze. The team of Ravi Kumar and Apurvi Chandela won the bronze in 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team event, and the youngster Abhishek Verma won the bronze in 10m Air Pistol men. Lakshay brought a surprising silver for India in Men Trap while Deepak Kumar added a silver in 10m Air Rifle even as the 16-year-old Manu Bhaker, suffered a lean patch failing to win a single medal.
Medals: 10 (2g-4s-3b)
Expectations were big, but Sushil’s first round loss on the first day spoiled the opening, but Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat won gold medals to redeem pride for wrestlers. Bajrang won in 65 kg Freestyle wrestling and Vinesh bamboozled through in women’s Freestyle 50kg. Apart from the two, Divya Kakran also won the bronze medal in Freestyle 68 kg wrestling for India. If Sushil was a disappointment in men’s, Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik also failed to grab a medal
Medals: 3 (2g-0s-1b)
Olympian Dattu Bhokanal pulled his oars despite running fever after he lost in the single sculls and came out next day to win quadruple sculls gold medal to make a mixed bag for Indian rowing. While Dushyant won the Bronze in Men’s Lightweight Single Sculls, Rohit Kumar and Bhagwan Singh won the same prize in Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls. The team of Sawarn Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh secured the Gold.
Medals: 3 (1g-0s-2b)
Once a medal earning sport, weightlifters were a big disappointment. After bagging a total of 9 medals at the Commonwealth Games, which included 5 Gold medals, much was expected from the weightlifting contingent. But things did not go as per planned. Sathish Kumar Sivalingam, who was one of the gold winners in CWG, finished 10th; Ajay Singh finished in the 5th; Vikas Thakur finished 8th.
MARTIAL ARTS (Kurash, Wushu)
In mixed martial arts events of Kurash and Wushu, India picked up six medals with one silver and bronze coming in Kurash while four bronze medals came in Wushu. Pincky Balhadra and Malaprabha Jadhav won silver and bronze in Kurash, while in Wushu Naorem Devi, Santosh Kumar, Surya Bhanu Partap Singh and Narender Grewal won bronze.
Medals: 6 (0g-1s-5b)
From 9 medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April this year, India’s tally at the Asian Games was reduced to just 2. Saving grace was Amit Panghal, who knocked out the reigning Olympic Champion in the light-flyweight category with a split 3-2 win over Hasanboy Dusmatov. Vikas Krishan settled for the bronze medal in middleweight class and became the only boxer in the history to win back-to-back medals at three Asian Games.
Medals: 2 (1g-0s-1b)
Both men’s and women’s hockey teams need to go back to the drawing board after their below-par performance after having started blazingly against unheralded teams. Women’s team was patchy in the gold medal match but can take heart from the progress made despite the coaches swap made at their expense. The women’s team reached their first final in 20 years even as other Asian teams are on the rise. The men’s team, and their bronze medal finish, can only be termed as a disaster.
Medals: 2 (0g-1s-1b)
Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan won men’s doubles gold medal, but the Indians failed to win what really was valuable. In singles, Prajnesh Gunneswaran won bronze medal, while Ramkumar Ramanathan faltered early when all were expecting him to reign in Jakarta.
Medals: 3 (1g-0s-2b)
Gold medal would have been an icing on the cake but winning medal in badminton itself was historic. PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal won silver and bronze medals respectively in the individual event for the first time in Asian Games. The last time any shuttler won a singles medal at Asiad for India was Syed Modi, who won the bronze in 1982 in Men’s Singles. No doubt there were misses also. Men players Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy totally disappointed so did the women’s doubles team of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponappa.
Medals: 2 (0g-1s-1b)
So near and yet so far was the case with squash team. Mostly the players were on their own following infighting within the team. Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal Karthik and Joshna Chinappa won singles bronze medals and then men’s team too won bronze but the women’s team also comprising Tanvi Khann and Sunayna Kuruvilla besides Dipika and Joshna had to settle for silver as yellow metal remained a distant dream.
Medals: 5 (0g-1s-4b)
A clear mixed-bag after recurve archers completely fizzled out and compound teams came up with the two silver medals. Even though Indian compound men’s team comprising Rajat Chauhan, Aman Saini and Abhishek Verma lost to the powerhouse Korea in the final. In a dramatic finale, it appeared for a moment that India had the gold in hand when the final scoreline read 229-227 in favour of India. But the mandatory manual scoring brought the game tied at 229-229. In the ensuing shoot-off the two countries were locked at 29-29 before a bulls eye in Korean target took away the medal.
Medals: 2 (0g-2s-0b)
Fouaad Mirza ended India’s 36 years of wait to win an individual medal in the equestrian event since 1982. He won the silver medal in individual jumping with a score of 26.40, just four seconds behind Japan’s Oiwa Yoshiaki. The Indian team comprising of Rakesh Kumar, Ashish Malik, and Jitender Singh, apart from Mirza, also claimed the Silver in the team event.
Medals: 2 (0g-2s-0b)