Rich haul of medals at Asian Games

Many promises were fulfilled while some others withered away in the heat of the competitions but still, India ended the 18th Asian Games on a high. A record tally of medals is a reason to rejoice as the venues in Jakarta and Palembang — the host cities — witnessed the emergence of many new stars even as some old ones faded away. There were apprehensions galore when India arrived in Indonesia, with the composition of the contingent generating plenty of hue and cry. Those concerns will remain under the carpet for now as the nation celebrates the haul of 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze, making up a total of 69 medals.

India’s champions have emerged from all corners of the country and their stories have been inspiring and worrisome at the same time. Poor facilities have been a bane for long for aspiring sportspersons and almost all the athletes who have climbed the podium in Indonesia have fought off adversities in their early days to shine through. Once at a certain level, support from the government — however small that might be in comparison to stronger sporting nations — worked to their advantage. Athletics, a sport often under the cloud of doping, has been a major beneficiary and that is evident in the seven gold medals they bring, forming the biggest chunk in India’s haul. Wrestling and shooting, too, had golden moments to savour but the biggest positive for India in Indonesia has been the strides made by the young talent. The former world junior champion in javelin throw, Neeraj Chopra, stands tall on that count, his gold-winning throw being a truly world-class effort. Shooters of class, still in their teens, stepped up to the task at Palembang — air pistol champion Saurabh Chaudhary, double trap silver winner Shardul Vihan and trap silver medallist Lakshay Sheoran. Fearlessness of youth fuelled their charge and if nurtured with care, bigger laurels await them.

Despite these sparkling victories, the loss of a few gold medals rankled right till the end. India were the favourites in men’s hockey and had a reputation to protect in kabaddi, a sport they had dominated ever since its debut in 1990. The teams fell short in both these sports, causing considerable heartburn. Plenty of time, effort and money had gone into the preparation of the hockey team but they fell short tactically on the pitch. Kabaddi paid the price for administrative lacunae that has been the bane of Indian sport, hampering progress at several levels. As India bask in the successes of their champions, these defeats stand as reminders of the pitfalls to be avoided if ambition has to match performance in future championships.

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Rich haul of medals at Asian Games

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