Medal meter: on India at Asian Games 2018

With 69 medals, India’s performance at the Asian Games has many lessons going forward

September 04, 2018 12:02 am | Updated 12:02 am IST


India’s best-ever Asian Games medal haul at Jakarta has brought much cheer. The Indian contingent raked in 69 medals , including 15 gold. It may have lagged at eighth place on the medals table, way behind China with its 289 medals — but compared to recent Asiads, India registered significant progress in many events, with heroic performances among both women and men. These will go a long way in inspiring others, and also hopefully making the sports administration more responsive to the needs of athletes. Track and field was a happy hunting ground, with India picking up 19 medals, including seven of its total 15 golds. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra , whose gold-winning 88.06m makes him among the world’s best, particularly shone. As did Swapna Barman , who kept ahead of the pack to win gold in heptathlon even as she coped with a painful tooth infection and shoes far from ideal for her six-toed feet. Boxer Amit Panghal shocked Uzbekistan’s Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov with a split verdict in the men’s 49 kg category. Shooting and wrestling seized two gold medals each while table tennis broke its Asian Games drought with two bronze medals. P.V. Sindhu claimed the country’s maiden Asiad silver in badminton and Saina Nehwal got a bronze. There were disappointments too, especially in kabaddi, in which for the first time both the men’s and women’s teams finished without a gold medal. In men’s hockey, India, the defending champion and favourite, slumped with a bronze , missing automatic qualification for the Olympics in Tokyo.

While India improved on its previous best of 65 at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, it remains miles behind Asian powerhouses like China and Japan, the top two in Jakarta. The fact that one woman swimmer from Japan, Rikako Ikee, who was adjudged as the Asiad’s Most Valuable Player, could win six golds gives a fair idea of where India stands. While the competition in track and field had audiences riveted, it is a sobering reality check that independent India has not won a single medal in athletics at the Olympics; China already has 32, including eight golds, and Japan has 25, with seven of them gold. Hope of this equation changing rests on Chopra, who could excel in global events in the years to come, and perhaps on under-20 world champion Hima Das, whose time of 50.79s got her the 400m silver. India should now build on its Asiad success to do better at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games than it did in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, when the contingent returned with just two medals. It also needs to ensure that the sport is clean.


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