Mihir Vasavda at Asian Games: Sports where Chinese dominance will be challenged

More than 12,000 athletes from 45 nations will display the cliched Olympic tenets of faster, higher and stronger across the 481 medal events when the Hangzhou Asian Games begin in earnest from Sunday. But when the Games close on October 8, China will top the medals tally, as it has in each of the last 10 editions since the 1982 Delhi Asian Games.

The host nation has a 886-athlete strong contingent in the fray. This includes 36 Olympic champions and 630 Asian Games debutants, who will compete in 407 out of the 481 medal events and fight for the 74 Olympic qualification berths across multiple disciplines.

India’s ambitious target is an overall tally of 100 medals. For China, nothing less than 150 gold medals will be considered a success.

While it will be smooth sailing for China in most events, Japan, South Korea and India are expected to give them tough fight in some of the sports.

While it will be smooth sailing for China in most events, Japan, South Korea and India are expected to give them tough fight in some of the sports

Table tennis: Japan the biggest hurdle

China’s TT stars, treated as demigods, will shoulder the responsibility to extend their dominance in a sport the country has ruled for decades, but a clean sweep at the Asian Games might not be straightforward. On their home turf, Japan denied China the chance to win all gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics by winning the mixed doubles title. Now on China’s turf, the Japanese – led by their number 1 player Tomakazu Harimoto – will once again hope to halt the Chinese juggernaut.

Swimming: A three-way contest

Olympic and world champions flood the Chinese team, with Wang Shun, Zhang Yufei and Qin Haiyang headlining the swim team. But their task won’t be easy as Japanese sensation Tomoru Honda, who won the 200m butterfly bronze at the World Championship, and South Korea’s Hwang Son-woo, the winner of the 200m freestyle bronze at the Worlds, likely to be the biggest challengers.

Badminton: World-level competition

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Being the hometown girl, Chen Yufei has been followed around wherever she’s gone the whole week. Her movements and performances on the court will be equally scrutinised but in a sport where Asians dominate the world scene, Yufei and the rest of her Chinese teammates will have to play out of their skins to stand a chance. India, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea all boast of world-class players in a truly open field.

Athletics: India, Bahrain pose challenge

China won the most medals in athletics at the Jakarta Asian Games (34, including 12 gold) but in the five years since, the continental landscape has changed and India is now a serious challenger. They might be excited to watch Neeraj Chopra competing for the first time on their soil but the men’s relay quartet, sprinter Jyothi Yarraji, shot-putter Tejinder Toor and a host of others are in the fray for gold medals, with Bahrain’s naturalised athletes always in contention for a top-of-the-podium finish.

Fencing: Hong Kong vs China?

Fencing might provide an intriguing sub-plot with Hong Kong’s Olympic champion Cheung Ka-long, who recently also won the World University Games title, set to extend his dominance at the Asian Games. Fencers from Japan and South Korea, too, are likely to challenge the home nation athletes in the sport that offers a dozen gold medals.

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