When the medal rounds begin on Sunday, the sports administrators back home would be hoping that the athletes selected by them return with their best-ever medal show from the Mainland.
In Jakarta five years ago, India had sent 572 athletes to compete in 36 sports and returned with its highest-ever haul of 70 medals, including 16 gold. But, in setting the lofty standards and aiming for the sky, did the sports ministry, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) look at things realistically and objectively. There’s no guarantee that naming a biggest-ever contingent can ensure the highest-ever medal haul. India hopes to pocket most of its medals from athletics, shooting, badminton, boxing, wrestling, tennis, rowing, sailing and cricket, besides a good show in squash, taekwondo, judo, wushu and equestrian.
But, as things stand, wrestlers, women shuttlers, men pugilists, recurve archers, show-jumping and eventing horse riders and footballers don’t inspire much confidence when we talk about medals. For instance, everyone saw what happened at the senior world wrestling championships in Belgrade, where none of our men and women freestyle – except for Antim Panghal’s bronze – and greco-roman wrestlers could win medals.
Similarly, Olympic medallist and former world champion, PV Sindhu, has been experiencing a deep slump in form, while it would be tough for other female shuttlers in the squad to challenge the might of their Chinese, Japanese, Chinese Taipei and South Korean rivals, among others.
Talking about men’s boxing, except for Deepak Bhoria (51kg), one can’t see any other name climbing up the podium. Same could be said about recurve archers, with archery powerhouses – South Korea and Chinese Taipei – standing between them and medals.
The least said about the football team is the better and hammering the Sunil Chettri-led side got at the hands of China in its opening round fixture.
The introduction of men’s and women’s cricket at the Games has certainly raised hopes for two gold. Our women’s cricket team is expected to clash with arch-rivals Pakistan in the title clash on Monday, provided the rain doesn’t play spoilsport. The men’s, too, are primed to reach the final and face Pakistan on October 7.
Athletics has been the happiest hunting ground for India, with as many as 254 medals – 79 gold, 88 silver and 87 bronze – bagged so far. And the medal count is expected to grow further in Hangzhou with Neeraj Chopra, Tajinderpal Singh Toor, Murali Sreeshankar, Jeswin Aldrin, Avinash Sable, men’s 4x400m relay team, Jyothi Yarraji, Shaili Singh, Parul Chaudhary and Swapna Barman among the title contenders.
Hangzhou ready for ‘Smart’ Asian Games
Indian rowers have made a big splash at the Games, sailing into a total of eight finals, while the men’s volleyball team has created history by reaching the quarters on Friday. With chess returning to the Games for the first time since 2010, India would be hoping to bag some more medals.
India has won 672 medals at the Games since its inaugural edition in 1951. During the 1951 Asiad, India secured an impressive tally of 51 medals, consisting of 15 gold, which positioned the country in second place overall, trailing only behind Japan, which claimed 60 medals. To this day, the second-place finish remains India’s best performance in the history of the continental event.
Xi to attend opening ceremony
Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games on Saturday, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Thursday. The ceremony, which begins on Saturday night at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, will deliver many historic firsts to provide a blueprint for the sustainable and digitally-enhanced future of such gala events, according to the ceremony’s creative team.