India Lives Its Asian Dream at Jakarta and Palembang

Bajrang Punia raced to a 6-0 lead against Japan’s Daichi Takatani in the first period of the Gold medal bout of the Men’s Freestyle 65 KG. Takatani bounced back and scored four points in quick succession and the first period ended with Punia leading by two points. In the opening minutes of the second period, Takatani scored two more points and levelled the bout. Punia broke the deadlock following a firm leg-hold and made the score-line 8-6 in his favour. He then brought his aggressive best on the mat and turned over the Japanese after locking his opponent’s legs and earned a well-deserved two points. The scoreboard read 10-6. Takatani scored two-points immediately but Punia exhibited fine defensive skills and warded-off the Japanese’s attempts at staging a come-back. The final score read 10-8. Bajrang Punia raised his hands in triumph and acknowledged the cheering crowd. He won his first Gold at the Asian Games and gave India its first top-podium finish at Jakarta.

The following two-weeks at the Games brought a flurry of medals for India. From medals in fan-favourite sports like Wrestling, Shooting, Athletics, and Tennis to surprise podium finishes in Bridge, Rowing, and Sepaktakraw the Indian contingent won 69 medals, including 15 Golds, 24 Silvers, and 30 Bronze medals and finished eighth on the medal tally. India’s outing in Indonesia has been its most-successful Asian Games campaign.

Let’s walk down the memory lane and relive India’s 2018 Asian Games.

Track and Field Athletes Finished First

Indian track and field athletes bagged a rich haul of 19 medals which includes seven Gold medals.

Tajinderpal Singh Toor opened India’s tally in athletics with the Gold in Men’s Shot Put. His 20.75-metre throw won him the top-spot comfortably and set a new Games Record. Young Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra threw his spear at a distance of 88.06 meters and bagged the Gold, India’s first ever in the event. The second-placed Liu Qizhen of China managed a best throw of 82.22 meters. Seema Punia was expected to finish on the podium in the Women’s Discus Throw and did not disappoint. She finished with the Bronze.

On the track, Dutee Chand staged a stunning comeback after battling to prove her gender prior to the Games and won two Silvers in 100 M and 200 M events. The recently crowned world U-20 champion Hima Das bagged the Silver in 400 M, her pet event. She was also part of the 4X400 M relay team which retained its Gold from four years ago. India had a one-two finish on the podium in the Men’s 800 M event with Manjit Singh and Jinson Johnson winning the Gold and the Silver medals, respectively. Johnson won his second medal in the Games, a Gold, in the 1500 M. Arpinder Singh bagged the Gold in Men’s Triple Jump event.

Manjit Singh and Jinson Johnson ensured a One-Two Finish for India in Men’s 800 M
Source: Twitter/AFI
Arpinder Sigh’s Gold in Triple Jump was India’s First in the Event in 48 years
Source: Twitter/AFI

The highlight of India’s medals in athletics was, arguably, Swapna Barman’s Gold in Women’s Heptathlon. With six toes on both her feet and nursing a toothache, Barman was visibly in pain throughout the two-days of her event. She often led the event and many a time stood second. However, she finished on top at the end of the seven events with a score of 6062 and claimed a famous Gold.

Swapna Barman fought injuries on her way to Gold in Women’s Heptathlon
Source: Twitter/AFI

Shooters Shone at Indonesia

The marksmen brought home an impressive haul of 9 medals with two Golds, four Silver medals, and three Bronze medals. Rahi Sarnobat held her nerve and won the Gold in a nail-biting shoot-off against Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpaiboon in the 25 M Pistol event. After a series of injuries which forced Sarnobat to change her technique, she has come back and bettered her performance from four years ago, where she had finished sixth.

Rahi Sarnobat bagged the Gold in Women’s 25 M Pistol Event
Source: Twitter

16-year old Saurabh Chowdhary, a debutant at the Asian Games, won the Gold in the 10 M Air Pistol event. India had a twin-podium finish in the event with Abhishek Verma finishing third.

India’s first medal in the Games, a Silver, was won by the duo of Ravi Kumar and Apurvi Chandela in the Mixed 10 M Air Rifle event.

Indian teenagers Shardul Vihan finished second in Men’s Double Trap event and Lakshya Sheoran won the Silver in the Men’s Trap event. Veteran shooter Heena Sidhu clinched the Bronze in Women’s 10 M Air Pistol event. Ravi Kumar, Deepak Kumar, and Sanjeev Rajput were the other Indian medallists in Shooting.

Grapplers’ Glorious Games

After Bajrang Punia opened India’s tally of Gold medals at the Asian Games, Vinesh Phogat created history by winning the Gold in the Freestyle 50 KG event. Her Gold was India’s first in Women’s Wrestling at the Asian Games. She sailed through the first few rounds on technical superiority and broke little sweat in the final where she beat Japan’s Irie Yuki 6-2. Divya Kakran gave India its third medal in Wrestling with a Bronze in Freestyle 68 KG.

Vinesh Phogat won India’s First Ever Gold in Women’s Wrestling at the Asian Games
Source: Twitter/Vinesh Phogat

A few disappointments came India’s way In Wrestling, though. Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar was knocked-out in the first round of his event. Rio Olympic Bronze medallist Sakshi Malik lost her bronze medal bout and heavyweight wrestler Sumit Malik bowed out in the third-place clash of the Men’s 125 KG event.

A Few Pleasant Surprises

A lot of firsts came India’s way at the Asian Games.

Amit Panghal delivered the knock-out punch in the Men’s 49 KG Flyweight category in Boxing and bagged the Gold in the event. Arguably one of the best Gold medals for India in the Games, Panghal beat Rio Olympics 2016 champion Hasaboy Dustamov of Uzbekistan in the final bout. Vikas Krishnan won India’s second medal in Boxing, a Bronze.

India won its first ever medal in Sepaktakraw, a Bronze, in the Men’s Team Regu Event at the Asian Games.

India’s Men’s Quadruple Sculls team won the Gold on the final day of Rowing at the Asian Games. On the same day Dushyant Chauhan finished third in Men’s Lightweight Sculls event and the duo of Bhagwan Singh and Rohit Kumar won the Bronze in the Lightweight Double Sculls event.

Saina Nehwal won India’s first individual medal in Badminton after she won the Bronze in the Women’s Singles. An Asian Games medal was missing from her trophy cabinet prior to these Games and with the Bronze, she has completed her trophy cabinet. PV Sindhu clinched the Silver in Women’s Singles and like Nehwal, completed her trophy cabinet of medals in world events.

The Indian pair of Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar won the Gold in the Men’s Pair Bridge event, a first for India in the event. Earlier the Indian Men’s team and the Indian Mixed team bagged a Bronze each in Bridge. Bridge made its debut in the Asian Games this year and India finished with one Gold and two Bronze medals.

India won its First Gold in Bridge at the Asian Games
Source: Twitter

In lawn tennis, the Indian pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan won the Gold in Men’s Doubles. Bopanna came as a replacement to Leander Paes who pulled out of the Asian Games at the last moment. This Gold was Bopanna’s and Sharan’s first in the Asian Games. In Women’s Singles, Ankita Raina bagged the Bronze and Prajnesh Guneshwaran finished third in the Men’s Singles event.

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan won their First Gold at the Asian Games in Men’s Doubles in Lawn Tennis
Source: Twitter

In Table Tennis, the Indian men’s team won a historic Bronze and in mixed-doubles India’s ageless crusader Sharat Kamal paired up with young champion Manika Batra and they bagged the Bronze in the event.

Indians won four Bronze medals in Wushu, its largest haul in the martial arts at the Asian Games.

With so many firsts for India, one can certainly wonder as to why the Indian football team wasn’t a part of the Asian Games contingent. The All India Football Federation could have done better than disallowing the inter-continental champions a spot in India’s Asian Games contingent.

A Few Events That Could Have Gone Better

The Indian Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams enjoyed a phenomenal run in the group stage. The men’s team finished with 76 goals and topped Pool A and the women’s team found the back of the net 38 times and topped Pool B. Both the teams looked set to bring home a couple of Golds. However, the men’s team had to settle for the Bronze after going down to Malaysia in a penalty shootout in the semi-final. The women’s team made it to the finals but went down to Japan 1-2 in the final and had to content with the Silver.

The story of Kabaddi was similar. In men’s Kabaddi, the Indian team did well in the group stage, losing only to Korea. In Kabaddi, India had enjoyed a Golden run till date in the Asian Games. However, this time the Indians went down fighting to Iran in the semi-final 18-27 and had to settle for third-place. In women’s Kabaddi, India finished the group stage on a high and beat Chinese Taipei convincingly in the semi-final. But the Iranians proved to be a roadblock once again and the Indian women went down fighting 27-24.

In Archery, the Indian team did bag two Silvers in Men and Women’s Compound event but failed to finish on the podium in the Recurve event, both individual and team. Recurve archery is an Olympic sport and is one of India’s brighter medal prospects in the event. However, India has often underperformed in Archery, especially Recurve Archery.

As the curtains come down on the Asian Games, there is a lot to look forward to for Indian athletes. Youngsters and teenage athletes have performed exceptionally well at the Asian Games and have set their sets on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There is enough talent to nurture and it’s now up to the sports associations in the country to breed and groom this talent to set these athletes up for greater glories.

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