The cricket-crazy country of India has been improving in Olympic sports due to more exposure in international competition. Though it still has only one individual Olympic gold medal winner – shooter Abhinav Bindra – India can boast several leading contenders when it comes to the Asian Games.
Here are things to know about India’s squad at Incheon:
The India contingent contains a five-time world champion who is the subject of a feature film. The movie on 31-year-old M.C. Mary Kom, who won a boxing bronze medal at the London Olympics, was released earlier this month with Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra in the leading role.
Mary Kom is a widely-known figure back home and was one of the brand ambassadors for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India despite women’s boxing not being part of the program there.
She was described by world boxing body AIBA as “Magnificent Mary” after her fourth successive title in 2008, and the name has stuck.
GOING FOR HOCKEY GOLD
India has an excellent pedigree in field hockey at the Olympics, but has rarely been able to replicate that success in the Asian Games arena.
India, which won the last of its eight Olympics field hockey gold medals at Moscow in 1980, has won the Asian Games gold only twice – in 1966 and 1998 – both times in Bangkok.
Three of those gold medals in the Olympics, though, had come before the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan. Pakistan has dominated India at the Asian Games with eight gold medals, the high point being a 7-1 drubbing at New Delhi in the 1982 final.
India’s youngest representative at the Asian Games will be 12-year-old Chitresh Tatha, who will compete in sailing.
Tatha, who has entered in a dinghy category, has participated in several competitions across the world. Tatha was selected after an outstanding performance during the selection trials when he won eight of 15 races and finished among the top five in the remaining races.
The optimist class is a small, single-handed dinghy that is among the most popular in the world.
NEW DELHI’S LOSS, INCHEON’S GAIN
India had bid for the 2014 Asian Games and was hoping to use the infrastructure built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. But the bid was won by Incheon in April 2007, denying India a chance to host the Asian Games for a third time.
India held the inaugural games in 1951 and also the ninth edition in 1982, both times in New Delhi. India also had plans to bid for the 2019 Games after the withdrawal of Hanoi by the Vietnamese government, but sports administrators got cold feet.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games were mired in controversies.
TOP ATHLETES MISSING
Several top Indian athletes are missing the Incheon Games, including wrestler Sushil Kumar, the country’s only repeat individual medalist at the Olympics.
Sania Mirza, who recently won the mixed doubles title at the U.S. Open, initially withdrew but had a change of heart and will now be competing in Incheon.