The Commonwealth Games often gives the impression of a false dawn in Indian sport. But even before the dust settles on the all-conquering performances of India’s athletes, the Asian Games have played its part in bringing them back to earth with harsh reality checks. While Indian athletes manage to hold fort in quite a few events at the CWG, at the Asiad, their challenge is dwarfed in the presence of China, Japan and South Korea. Chinmay Brahme takes a closer look at how the two multi-discipline extravaganzas, held within a month of each other, shape India’s Olympic ambitions…
Vikas Gowda (Discus Throw)
Bronze at 2010 Guangzhou Asiad; gold at 2014 Glasgow CWG
While expectations from the ‘Gentle Giant’ are soaring, it will take something out of the ordinary for Gowda to repeat his gold-medal winning performance at Glasgow five weeks back. The field at Incheon will have discus throwers from Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among others. Iranian throwers seem to pose the biggest threat to Gowda’s chances. Gowda, the 2010 Guangzhou bronze medallist, currently leads the Asian charts with his effort of 65.62m. However, he will face tough competition from Iranians Mohammad Samimi (65.46m) and Ehsan Hadadi (65.23m), who are not too far behind.
Tintu Luka (800m)
Bronze at Guangzhou Asiad; did not qualify for finals in Glasgow
Though she is trained by the former queen of Asian athletics PT Usha, Tintu Luka has not really managed to set the track ablaze. She won the bronze in the 800 metres at Guangzhou with a time of 2.01.36 seconds, but finished a disappointing seventh in the 800 metres semi-final in Glasgow. Sprinters from China and Japan have traditionally dominated the sprint events at the Asiad and Tintu’s rather disappointing form of late does not seem too encouraging.
Bronze at Guangzhou Asiad; silver at Glasgow CWG
The last time India won a gold medal at the Asiad, a few of Terry Walsh’s preferred personnel hadn’t even picked up hockey sticks. Sixteen years after that gold at the 1998 Bangkok Games, the Indian men’s hockey team travels to Incheon fresh from their silver medal finish in Glasgow. This competition has no Australia but familiar foe Pakistan await. India finished with a bronze medal in Guangzhou, but with a well-drilled and much more cohesive outfit under Walsh in Incheon, the long wait might just end.
Quarterfinal at Guangzhou Asiad; gold at 2010 Delhi CWG
With no Chinese, Japanese and South Korean shuttlers competing at the Commonwealth Games, Saina Nehwal had a relatively smooth ride to the gold medal at the Delhi edition. However, Nehwal only managed one victory in Guangzhou before falling to Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin, the eventual bronze medallist, in the quarterfinal. India’s World Championship bronze medallist PV Sindhu will make her maiden Asian Games appearance. Her penchant for downing higher ranked players, with a particular fondness for the Chinese, might serve the Indian team well.
Exited in the round of 32 in Guangzhou; gold in Glasgow
Kashyap had a good time in Glasgow, dismantling opponents from England, Malaysia and Singapore with relative ease. But in Incheon, he will be required to pit his wits against badminton titans like Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei. Kashyap exited the 2010 Asiad in the first round itself, and though he will be high on confidence after the Glasgow gold, it will take a Herculean effort to earn a podium finish in Incheon.
Tenth at Guangzhou Asiad; gold at Glasgow CWG
India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist has won almost everything, barring an individual medal at the Asiad. He finished a disappointing 10th in Guangzhou, exiting in a tense shoot-off. However, fresh from his gold medal win at his last Commonwealth Games appearance in Glasgow a couple of months back, Bindra will be fancying his chances to add that elusive piece of metal to his already overflowing trophy cabinet.
Gold medallist at CWG 2014, Silver medallist at World Championship 2014
Looks like Rai takes home a medal in every competition that he enters. The diminutive Nepal-born Indian Army soldier has raked in two World Cup medals, a Commonwealth Games gold medal and a World Championship medal already this year.
Making his debut at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, another medal settling around Rai’s neck is a very strong possibility.
3 bronze at Guangzhou Asiad; 13 medals, including 5 golds, at Glasgow CWG
Wrestling is among the sports with the weakest competition at the Commonwealth Games. While India won most wrestling medals at Delhi CWG and was second only to Canada in Glasgow, the Asian Games presents a different picture. With traditional powerhouses like Japan, Iran and Kazakhstan, among others, challenging them, Indian wrestlers have struggled to create a similar impact in Asia. And the story is unlikely to change this time as well.
No medals at Guangzhou Asiad; 14 at Glasgow CWG
With most of the world-record holding lifters coming from Asia, the difficulty level at the Asian Games weightlifting is significantly higher than the CWG, which reflects in India’s performance. While India is one of the most successful countries in CWG weightlifting, the country’s lifters have failed to match the high standards set by their counterparts from China, Kazakhstan and the two Koreas when it comes to Asia.