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Asian Games 2018 | Indian medal tally high on rhetoric, low on substance

Asian Games certainly has a different perspective than the Olympics given that some quirky sports being competed as medal events,which has inflated the medal telly and sports administrators are going to make much dance and drama about it.

Harpal Singh Bedi | Jakarta |

India were high on quantity but low on quality as they once again finished eight though with their best-ever medal haul of 69 medals including 15 gold at the Asian Games 2018, a performance which should be a cause for concern for sports administrator as Tokyo Olympics is barely two years away.

India’s 69-medal haul ~ 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze ~ at this edition of the included medals that surpassed the medal count from 2010 Guangzhou Games and matched the medal tally from the inaugural 1951 New Delhi Asiad.

Asian Games certainly has a different perspective than the Olympics given that some quirky sports being competed as medal events,which has inflated the medal telly and sports administrators are going to make much dance and drama about it.

The Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games offered direct qualification spots for Tokyo Olympics in only two sports ~hockey and tennis ~ but a complacent and overconfident India messed up picking those.

The two spots in hockey lost could prove disastrous in the long run as the host nation of 2020 Olympics, ended up winning gold medals in both men and women competitions. This means the Asian quota gets added on to the qualification events rather than going to the Asian Games runner-up teams.

In tennis, it was sheer arrogance of pro-Tour players that cost India the direct qualification spot as top ranked Yuki Bhambri opted to play at the ongoing US Open than focus on earning an Olympic spot.

Besides hockey and tennis, two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and seven-time men’s Kabaddi champions were the biggest losers, who will need to go back to the drawing board.  Besides creating new national records and registering some firsts ~ pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat and wrestler Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman athlete to win gold medal in their respective sports.

The major chunk of medals (7g-10s-2b) came from the track and field athletes, which bettered the Incheon collection.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s national record throw that fetched him gold. Six-toed Swapna Barman’s heptathlon title and women’s team gold in 4×400 relay was fifth in a row. Then Jinson Johnson won 1500m gold, a first in 20 years and Manjit Singh’s 800m gold came after 32 years and Arpinder Singh’s triple jump gold was first for India in 48 years.

The young Indian shooters gave a strong performance (2g,5s,3b), while the 16-year-old Saurabh won the gold medal in 10m Air Pistol, the 15-year-old Vihan struck a silver medal in Men’s Double Trap.

Rahi Sarnobat secured the second gold medal in women 25m pistol event. Then Sanjeev Rajput managed to win a silver in 50m Rifle 3 Positions and Heena Sidhu secured 10m Air Pistol bronze.

The team of Ravi Kumar and Apurvi Chandela won the bronze in 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team event, and the youngster Abhishek Verma won the bronze in 10m Air Pistol men. Lakshay brought a surprising silver for India in Mens Trap while Deepak Kumar added a silver in 10m Air Rifle.

In table tennis the country secured two medals. Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan along with Manav Vikash, Anthony Arputharaj and Harmeet Desai won bronze in Men’s Team event and then Sharath combined with Manika to win the bronze in mixed doubles.

It was a disappointing mixed-bag (2 silver) in archery after recurve archers completely fizzled out and compound teams came up with the two silver medals. Even though Indian compound men’s team comprising Rajat Chauhan, Aman Saini and Abhishek Verma lost to the powerhouse Korea in the final.

Much was expected in Badminton, though again Sindhu flattered to deceive still winning medal in badminton itself was historic. PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal won silver and bronze medals respectively in the individual event for the first time in Asian Games. In men section K.Srikanth and HS Prannoy disappointed as does women’s doubles team of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponappa.

Boxers had raised great hopes after claiming 9 medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games but their tally here was reduced to just 2.

Saving grace was Amit Panghal, who knocked out the reigning Olympic Champion in the light-flyweight category Vikas Krishan settled for the bronze medal in middleweight class and became the only boxer in the history to win back-to-back medals at three Asian Games.

In hockey, the most travelled teams Indian men and women came up with a below par performance after having started blazingly against unheralded teams. Women’s team was patchy in the gold medal match but can take heart from the progress made despite the coaches swap made at their expense. The women’s team reached their first final in 20 years even as other Asian teams are on the rise. The men’s team, and their bronze medal finish, can only be termed as a disaster.

In Kabbadi India surrendered the gold and title after holding on to it for 28 years. India men’s humiliating 27-17 defeat against Iran and had to settle for the bronze medal. Then the women’s team also failed to grab the gold, losing against Iran 27-24.

In rowing Olympian Dattu Bhokanal pulled his oars despite running fever after he lost in the single sculls and came out next day to win quadruple sculls gold medal to make a mixed bag for Indian rowing.

The team of Sawarn Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash.and Sukhmeet Singh secured the Gold. While Dushyant won the bronze in men’s lightweight single sculls, Rohit Kumar and Bhagwan Singh won the same prize in men’s lightweight double sculls.

In squash it was case of so near and yet so far.

Saurav Ghosal, Dikipa Pallikal Karthi and Joshna Chinappa won singles bronze medals and then men’s team too won bronze while the women’s team had to settle for silver Tennis stars Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan won men’s doubles gold medal, but the Indians failed to win what really was valuable. In singles, Prajnesh Gunneswaran won bronze medal, while Ramkumar Ramanathan faltered early.

In wrestling expectations were high,but Sushil’s first round loss on the first day spoiled the opening. However Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat won gold medals to redeem pride for wrestlers.

Divya Kakran also won the bronze medal in Freestyle 68 kg Weightlifters were a big disappointment as they produced a flop show India also won a gold in Bridge, two silvers in equestrian, four bronze in Wushu, and two in Kurash.