India's Olympic ambitions to take flight from distant Hangzhou

Sports |  IANS  | Published :

Mumbai, Sep 17 (IANS) When it comes to the Asian Games, India had experienced one of its best and worst moments in China.

The worst medal haul came in 1990 in Beijing when India bagged just 23 medals, including a single gold -- that too in kabaddi. From there on, things developed in such a way that in the 2010 edition of the continental extravaganza, India bagged 65 medals in Guangzhou, which is their second-best performance in the Asian Games so far.

Now with just a few days to go for the 19th edition of the Asian Games, India is gearing up for the Hangzhou 2022 Games, hoping to continue their recent surge in sports, continuing with the momentum that has been built since the 2006 edition of the Games as the Indian contingent has crossed the half-century mark in medals ever since.

The 2018 edition in Jakarta was the most successful Asian Games for the country, as India bagged 70 medals, including 16 gold -- their most since the 15 gold bagged in the inaugural edition at Delhi in 1951.

Considering the recent success of Indian sportspersons in the international circuit in the last decade or so, India should definitely improve upon their performance in Indonesia -- anything less than that should be considered a failure for the sportspersons and the plans and schemes put in place.

India is one of the seven countries to have competed at every edition of the Asian Games -- the other six being Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Thailand. It is also among the few countries to have won at least a medal in each of the 18 editions held so far.

In all, India is the fifth most successful nation in Asian Games -- with 671 medals  -- 155 gold, 200 silver and 219 bronze medals in the Games that were born in 1951 in Delhi.

In Hangzhou, India will be represented by 332 male and 323 female athletes, who will be supported by 144 coaches, 10 managers, 53 physios/masseurs or masseuses, six doctors, four sports psychologists and 45 other support staff, making up a total contingent of 921 -- the largest in recent times.

The contingent will be participating in a total of 39 sporting disciplines as diverse as kurash and modern pentathlon, football, rugby, kabaddi, handball, wushu, ju-jitsu and chess.

Indian fans should be expecting medals from the contingent in archery, athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, table tennis, weightlifting, squash, tennis, wrestling, hockey (men and women), chess and bridge.

With esports making its debut as a medal event, India will be aiming for at least a medal in one of the five disciplines.

Training and preparing these sportspersons for the Asian Games has cost huge monies to the exchequer -- as many of them have undergone training-cum-competition camps in foreign locations to prepare and gain experience in the run-up to the Asian Games.

It is now time for the sportspersons to prove that those efforts don't go in vain.

The Hangzhou Asian Games are also special in nature as for the first time the Games are being held less than a year before the Olympic Games in Paris next year. The Asian Games were scheduled to be held in 2022 after the Commonwealth Games, but were postponed for a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic in China.

Usually held in the middle of the Olympic cycle, the Hangzhou Games are unique and thus provide a ready reckoner on Indian sportspersons' preparations for next year's Olympic Games, giving an insight into their preparations.

Performance at Hangzhou will give a clear insight into where the Indian athletes stand at the continental level, besides providing a clue as to where they stand in the global scheme of things.

Besides a glimpse into the sportspersons' preparations for the Olympic Games, some sports also provide Olympic quota places for individual athletes or the National Olympic Committee.

In Hangzhou, Olympic quota places are available in hockey (men and women), boxing, archery (six recurve spots) and sailing.

Good performance in various disciplines not only means winning medals, but also earning ranking and rating points that could prove quite helpful in arranging training for youngsters.

So, all in all, the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou are not only a celebration of sports in the continent, but also an opportunity to assess, analyse and rework strategy for the Olympic Games.

Top stars in Hangzhou:

Neeraj Chopra: The best opportunity for athletics as the champion made his mark last month when he won the World Championships gold in Budapest. India's best hope for a medal in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Men's hockey team: Ranked 3rd in the world, Harmanpreet Singh's squad is well-balanced and thus should win the gold.

Athletics: Besides Neeraj Chopra, big names like Avinash Sable, Murali Sreeshanker, Jaswin Eldose, Parul Chaudhary, Jyothi Yerraji, Tejinderpal Singh Toor, Annu Rani and the relay teams are expected to grab medals for India.

Badminton: Though the Indian players have had an overall indifferent season so far, India should still hope for a podium finish through virtual sketch.

Tennis: Having finished runners-up in men's doubles competition at the US Open, Rohan Bopanna will be hoping to add the men's doubles title to the numerous trophies he has won so far.

Boxing: With the IOC taking over the Olympic qualifier programme, it is a chance for some of them to grab Olympic quota places.

Wrestling: Though top stars like Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik are not part of the squad, it gives an opportunity to the promising youngsters.

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