India A+ at Asian Games 2018

India return from Indonesia with a tally of 69 medals, their best-ever at Asian Games whereas the number of gold medals are best since the first Asiad in 1951.

Written by Mihir Vasavda , Shahid Judge | Published: September 2, 2018 12:35:54 am

asian games relay india The women’s 4x400m relay team — comprising of Sarita Gayakwad, Hima Das, Vismaya and Poovamma Raju — ensured India’s dominance in the event, by winning fifth consecutive gold medal. (PTI Photo)

India return from Indonesia with a tally of 69 medals (G: 15, S: 24, B: 30), its best-ever at the Asian Games whereas the number of gold medals are best since the first Asiad in 1951. There were surprise winners in a few disciplines while in some, the athletes ended decades-long drought. It could’ve been better had the country continued its dominance in a few sports, but that’s just being greedy…

Athletics: faster, higher
In 2018 — Gold: 7; Silver: 10; Bronze: 2
In 2014 — Gold: 2; Silver: 4; Bronze: 7
Best-ever (1951) — Gold: 10; Silver: 12; Bronze: 12

It might not be the best-ever in terms of the number of medals won, but the achievement can be ranked higher than the 1951 Games, when India won 34 medals including 10 gold and 1982 Games when they managed 21 medals with four gold.

For one, those two performances came at home Games where India had fielded a larger contingent. And secondly, this was at a time when the West Asian nations hadn’t yet started to import African athletes and China was in early stages of its athletics development. The brighest point was India continued its dominance in events it has traditionally done well in and added won medals in variety of events, some which have a huge global appeal. Gold medals in javelin throw and heptathlon were a first. In some other sports, the success came after decades – 1500m was first time in 20 years, 800m gold was after 32 years and triple jump after 48 years.

Another pleasing factor was the number of national records and personal bests that were set. Indian track and field athletes have often been guilty of under-performing at major events. This time, however, four athletes – Dharun Ayyasamy, Hima Das, Tejinder Singh Toor and Neeraj Chopra – set national records while several others achieved their personal best marks.

Archery: Perennial chokers
In 2018 — Gold 0; Silver: 2; Bronze 0
In 2014* — Gold 1; Silver 1; Bronze 2

It remains one of the most under-achieving sports. Deepika Kumari, the poster girl of Indian archery, continues to flop at major events, a habit she has picked up since the London Olympics. That the recurve archers once again have returned empty handed should be of big concern. The consolation is the two silver medals in compound archery. But this is a non-Olympic category, which reduces its relevance significantly.

Badminton: Women lead the way
In 2018* — 0 gold 1 silver, 1 bronze
In 2014 — 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze

India won five medals in 1982 — but all of them were bronze. PV Sindhu’s silver makes this the best show in terms of the colour of medals won, if not the quantity. Saina Nehwal and Sindhu also became the first women’s singles players to earn a medal at the Asian Games. This was also their second overall Asiad medal, as both won bronze at the team event at Incheon 2014.

Boxing: Amit, the face-saver
In 2018 — Gold 1; Silver 0; Bronze 1
In 2014 — Gold 1; Silver 0; Bronze 4
Best-ever performance (2010) — Gold 2; Silver 3; Bronze 4

Amit Panghal’s gold medal is a face-saver of sorts for a team that continues to disappoint at the continental level. In him, India boxing may have found a new face, one with a genuine chance of winning an Olympic/Worlds medal.

Other than him, there’s little to cheer. India return with bucket-loads of medals from CWG because of inferior competition in light and middleweights compared to Asiad. Against the formidable Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Mongols and Chinese, India have struggled.

Hockey: Gold lost, silver won
In 2018 — Gold 0; Silver 1; Bronze 1
In 2014 — Gold 1; Silver 0; Bronze 1
Best-ever performance (1982, 1998) — Gold 1; Silver 1; Bronze 0

While men’s failure to defend the gold can be termed as a collosal failure, the women can at least take pride in their silver, for it is a signal of their continuing progress.

As opposed to men’s hockey, women’s game is still competitive with Japan, China and South Korea all doing decently. In that sense, for the women to reach the final after 20 years is commendable, although not winning gold would hurt.

Kabaddi: The mighty fall
In 2018 — Gold 0; Silver 1; Bronze 1
In 2014 — Gold 2; Silver 0; Bronze 0
Best-ever performance (2010, 2014) — Gold 2; Silver 0; Bronze 0

The men’s team failed to win gold for the first time since the event was introduced in 1990. Also, the first time they failed to reach the final. They had won seven consecutive gold medals before this tournament.

The men’s team lost an Asian Games match for the first time in 28 years when they lost to South Korea. They lost the semi-final to Iran, whom they had beaten in the 2010 and 2014 final. The women’s team failed to win a hat-trick of gold medals by losing in the final to Iran.

Rowing: Topsy-turvy fortunes
In 2018 — Gold 1; Silver 0; Bronze 2
In 2014 — Gold 0; Silver 0; Bronze 3
Best-ever performance (2010) — Gold 1; Silver 3; Bronze 1

A schizophrenic performance by the rowers, who sank one day only to rise the following morning. Whether it was indiscipline, as a coach put it, or illness, as the rowers claimed, that lost India four medals in events they generally win something is not clearly known yet. But they made up for it the next day with some heroic displays.

The ‘sacking’ of India’s Romanian coach Nicolae Gioga moments after winning the gold soured the ocassion slightly. What transpires over the next few weeks, as they will re-assemble to prepare for the Olympics, remains to be seen. India have a respectiable tally but it could’ve been much better.

Squash: Internal troubles
In 2018 — Gold 0; Silver 1; Bronze 4
In 2014* — Gold 1; Silver 2; Bronze 1

This was a team with a lot of potential but internal problems seems to have cost them a gold. The players were unhappy with coach Cyrus Poncha. They relied on each other for coaching advice and did not wait for the tournament to end to demand his replacement.

It could be argued that this was one of the reasons they couldn’t defend their gold – won in men’s team event – from last time, and got a silver less.

Shooting: finding bullseye
In 2018 — 2 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze
In 2014 — 1 gold, 1 silver, 7 bronze
Best ever (2006) — 3 gold, 5 silver, 6 bronze

Athletics might have contributed the most number of medals but on the basis of the standard of competition, medals in shooting should rank higher. Although they won one medal less than 2014, the weightage of medals won this time will be more.

Four years ago, five out of the nine medals came in team events, which were scrapped this time. Also, the number of gold and silver medals were more, apart from the fact that half of them made it to the finals (12 out of 19 men, 7 of 17 women). The conversion from finalists to medalists was also relatively higher.

One of the biggest takeaways was the performance of the teenaged shooters. Three of India’s nine medals were won by teenagers – Saurabh Chaudhary (gold, men’s 10m air pistol), Lakshay Sheoran (silver, men’s trap) and Shardul Vihan (silver, men’s double trap). Rahi Sarnobat (women’s 25m pistol) became the first Indian woman to win gold at the Asian Games. Heena Sidhu (women’s 10m air pistol) too won her first individual Asiad medal.

Tennis: Traditions continue
In 2018 — Gold 1; Silver 0; Bronze 2
In 2014 — Gold 1; Silver 1; Bronze 3
Best-ever performance (2010) — Gold 2; Silver 1; Bronze 2

Leander Paes ensured the tradition of pre-Games controversies continued. On court, Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan ensured the tradition of winning doubles medals carried on. They beat a Kazakh pair to win India’s fifth Asian Games doubles gold in last seven editions. In women’s singles, Ankita Raina enhanced her reputation with a bronze. She is the first Indian to win women’s singles medal since Sania Mirza, who too won a bronze in 2010.

TT: Find of the Games
In 2018* — Gold 0; Silver 0; Bronze 2
In 2014 — Gold 0; Silver 0; Bronze 0

The overwhelming success of Manika Batra & Co. at the CWG was met with a lot of scepticism. But medals at the Asian Games, which is as tough as the world championships and Olympics, should silence them.

Japan and China did not send their A teams, who were dispatched to Czech Republic and Bulgaria where ranking points were at stake (Olympic quotas will depend on world rankings). Their second string is still considered to be much better than India’s, so nothing can take the sheen of the paddlers’ performances.

Wrestling: out of their depth
In 2018 — Gold 2; Silver 0; Bronze 1
In 2014 — Gold 1; Silver 1; Bronze 3
Best-ever performance (1962) — Gold 3; Silver 6; Bronze 3

It’s not a coincidence that the two gold medalists trained under a foreign coach, in a foreign land. Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat’s dominance can be attributed to the techniques learnt under able coaches abroad.

The shoddy display of the rest will be a matter of concern, especially since none of them even looked like challenging for a medal. After a false sense of achievement at CWG, the Asiad will be a harsh reality check for them.

* depicts best ever performance

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