As curtains come down on the 18th Asian Games at Jakarta in Indonesia, India can look back at the games with a lot of satisfaction. This was the best ever performance at the Asian Games for the Indian contingent as they ended up with their highest ever tally of 69 medals, 15 of them Gold.
Apart from the number of medals, the heartening thing was the new grounds that were broken during these games by the Indian athletes.
First ever Gold in women’s wrestling was won by Vinesh Phogat, another champion from the famous Phogat family. Rahi Sarnobat won the first ever Gold in women’s shooting for India. Saina Nehwal won the first ever medal for India in women’s badminton, quickly followed by the first ever Silver in the event by PV Sindhu.
Manika Batra became the first ever female Table Tennis player to get a medal for India as she won the Bronze in Mixed event with Sharath Kamal. Swapna Barman delivered the performance of the games by becoming the first Indian heptathlete to win a Gold while fighting severe pain in her jaw.
Neeraj Chopra got India its first ever Gold in Javelin Throw, an event where the top 4 throws were by the Indian star. Triple jumper Arpinder Singh got India Gold in Triple Jump with a jump of 16.77 Metres.
There were more firsts in Sepak Takraw and Men’s Table Tennis where India won its first ever medals. Bridge, included for the first time at the Asian Games, was also a happy hunting ground for India with 1 Gold and 1 Bronze medal.
Among these highs, there were quite a few disappointments as well though. Veteran wrestler Sushil Kumar, a huge favourite, bowed out in the first round itself. Indian Kabaddi teams missed the Gold medals for the first time since the event has been included in the Asian Games with Iran beating both men’s and women’s teams in semifinal and final respectively.
Hockey teams, after dominating the group stages, stumbled at the crucial moments to end up with Bronze in men’s event and silver in women’s event. Boxing, an event that got India 9 medals in 2010 and 5 medals in 2014, got only 2 medals this time with Amit Panghal winning Gold and Vikas Krishan having to settle for Bronze after an eye injury cut short his games.
However, there is plenty to be optimistic about as we move forward. A number of Indian youngsters made their mark at these games with Saurabh Chaudhary, Shardul Vihan, Hima Das, Pincky Balhara, Muskan Kirar all in their teens right now, and can only get better with experience.
Then there is 20 years old Neeraj Chopra who has captured the imagination of the Indians and has already become our biggest hope for that elusive Athletics medal at the Olympics, something we haven’t won as an independent nation.
There is also 16 years old Manu Bhaker, who couldn’t win a medal this time but the CWG Gold Medalist did break Games record during the qualifying round and she will be back at the next games, hopefully to win the Gold.
One can just hope that the momentum will continue and we will surge higher in the medals table as well during the next Asian Games at Hangzhou, China in 2022.