India's performance in certain events in the Asian Games proves that the country has enough talent to rise to the occasion.
In the end the frown on many an Indian face turned into happiness. Not surprising after the initial phase of no-show in the competition gave way to some sterling displays of grit and gumption. The rewards too come commensurately. What is more, India (14 gold, 17 silver, 33 bronze) finished with its best-ever performance in an Asiad with 64 medals overall, falling just one short of the 15 Gold medal tally in the inaugural Games in 1951 in New Delhi.
Overall it was a performance that promises a brighter future. Last time when China hosted the Games in Beijing in 1990, India had just one gold medal to show (Kabaddi). To that extent this was a significant jump. Coming as it did after the satisfactory returns in the Commonwealth Games; the athletes have to some extent answered the critics. What was noteworthy though this time was the unexpected medal-wins from disciplines as varied as rowing, roller skating, gymnastics, archery and wushu when the expected success in shooting, one discipline that had fetched the bulk of medals in the CWG, failed to materialise.
Face of agony
None mirrored the agony of the shooters more than Gagan Narang, the four-gold medal winner of CWG. At least he could still garner two silvers but the shock was Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra who failed to make even make a podium finish. Equally poor was the display of world champion (50 m rifle prone) Tejaswini Sawant. It was a different matter that Ronjan Sodhi brought the only gold in shooting late in the competition with his effort in the double-trap event, but overall where CWG had seen the sparkle of the shooters (14 gold, 11 silver, 5 bronze) at Guangzhou the efforts dwindled to one gold, three silver and four bronze medals. Even as the shooters struggled in demanding settings, Pankaj Advani, ever the committed player that he is, came to terms with his form at the billiards table to scoop up the country's first gold medal and in a way set the path for further satisfying moments. A silver thereafter in snooker (team event) added to the success story.
Success on pool
But the first surprise for India came in swimming when young Virdhawal Khade won a bronze in the 50 m butterfly, the country's first medal from the pool in 24 years, Khazan Singh being the last at the 1986 Seoul Games. After Sandhyarani Devi and Bimoljit Singh had surprised the nation with a silver and bronze respectively in Wushu, a Chinese martial art, came the big moment for Bajrang Lal Takkar when he won the first ever gold medal in rowing (single sculls) for India in the Asiad. A silver at the last Games in Doha made this 29-year- old Army man from the Rajputana Rifles determined to do one better and achieved his goal with a start to finish win.
Rowing brought a few more medals of lesser hue but significant is the contribution of these lesser recognised sports to the overall medals' success. Mention has to be made here of Tarundeep Rai for earning the country's first individual medal in archery. As it happened the consolidation came thereafter. Tennis (two gold including Somdev Devvarman's singles gold, a first for India), athletics (five golds including Ashwini's double), kabaddi (two golds) and boxing (two golds) pushed up India's stock while masking the disappointments that also included hockey, women's tennis and table tennis.
One revelation from this Asiad clearly is that there are still disciplines, which may not have earned adequate focus but have enough talent-potential to rise to the occasion. This is good augury, considering the task ahead is daunting, just as imposing as China's feat (199 gold medals out of a total haul of 416 medals.
Keywords: Asian Games