Glittering show: on India’s medal tally at the Asian Games  

India’s best-ever tally in Asian Games came from a diverse set of events 

Updated - October 10, 2023 07:32 am IST

Published - October 10, 2023 12:10 am IST

India’s returns of over a hundred medals from the Hangzhou Asian Games is a watershed moment in its sporting history. The momentous achievement has understandably sent the country into a state of euphoria that has even overshadowed the start of the Men’s Cricket World Cup. The 107 medals India clinched (28 gold, 38 silver and 41 bronze) is its best-ever tally, head and shoulders above the previous high of 70 secured at Jakarta 2018. While a lion’s share of the gold medals came from the three disciplines of track and field (six), shooting (seven) and archery (five), India earning podium finishes across 22 different sports points to the nation’s increasing diversification of excellence. The rowers, squash players, kabaddi stars and the men’s hockey team impressed; there was a first-ever gold medal in equestrian; new heroes were found in roller-skating, wind-surfing, wushu and sepaktakraw. Even cricket, which has long lived an insular life away from multi-disciplinary extravaganzas, joined the party, contributing to India’s tally with two golds. This being a visual era, some moments are sure to remain etched in the collective memory, like Parul Chaudhary’s stunning heist in the final 50 metres to win the women’s 5000m and Kishore Jena leading Olympic and World Champion Neeraj Chopra in men’s Javelin before settling for a creditable silver.

However, at continental games, harsh as it may sound, some medals are worth more than others. Sports such as badminton and table tennis see near world-level competition in Asia, which adds a bit more lustre to the medals won. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty’s gold in men’s doubles badminton, H.S. Prannoy’s bronze in men’s singles badminton, and Sutirtha and Ayhika Mukherjee’s stunning win over the Chinese world champions in Chen Meng and Wang Yidi in women’s doubles table tennis to ensure a bronze all fall into this category. Additional perspective can be gleaned from the fact that of the 28 golds, only 12 have come in events that are part of the Olympics roster. Even here, just a handful of marks, like Neeraj’s 88.88m throw, are world-beating. This shows that while Indian sport has come a long way, a lot more needs to be done to bridge the gap with global standards. The Union government, Sports Authority of India and various State governments have come up with a plethora of initiatives to help athletes. But they are perennially threatened by inefficient administrators, factionalism in federations, endless court battles and the giant doping cloud that hangs around. For the head to be held high, the body and the legs cannot be allowed to falter.

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