INDIANS are traditionally considered good at individual sports such as shooting, archery, wrestling and athletics; not so much in team sports. But the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, proved this notion wrong.
Not only did India win a record 28 gold, 38 silver and 41 bronze medals, including 29 medals in athletics and 22 medals in shooting, but our men’s hockey team and women’s cricket team also won gold medals each.
This is new India indeed! While last month space scientists did us proud by landing a remote mission on the dark side of the moon, this time it is our sportspersons who have won laurels for the country. With 107 medals, this was India’s richest haul. In the 72-year history of Asian Games, this was the first time that India’s medal tally crossed the 100-mark. It proved that when dreams are big and determination is strong, there is nothing that can deter one from achieving one’s goal. The Indian contingent had left for Hangzhou with the vision ‘Ab Ki Baar 100 Paar’, and it made it a reality.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the countrymen and players for this historic achievement. There is no doubt that his ‘Khelo India’- focus made a difference in taking the players to the next level.
The Asian Games started in 1951 in New Delhi and host India then stood second with a tally of 51 medals, including 15 gold. But things were not the same for another at least 40 years.
In 1990, India won only one gold medal, out of total 23. It was 1998 onwards that the country’s performance started improving, and in 2006, for the first time it won more than 50 medals away from home. Since then, India has been winning more than 50 medals. In 2010, India won 65 medals, and in 2018, it did better, at 70. This is only the second time that India has won more than 100 medals in any of the major events – Olympics, Commonwealth Games or the Asian Games.
At the New Delhi CWG in 2010, India had won 101 medals There were several heart-warming stories in the 107 medals won at Hangzhou. In the men’s hockey league match, India defeated Pakistan 10-2, its biggest victory margin against the arch-rivals. Also, the victory of India’s women’s cricket team for the first time in Asian Games paved new ground for making cricket a global sport. Cricket was played in the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games held in China and South Korea, but the BCCI had not sent its teams then.
A point to ponder, however, is host China is far ahead of others in the medals tally; its gold count alone is almost seven times that of India’s. But India’s young stars seem to have learnt to adjust better on the big stage, and that augurs well for the future. It is time for them to move faster by learning from each other’s experiences. If the players accomplish the given targets, the morale of coaches, administrators and sponsors also gets a boost.
Who knows, India may touch a new high of 200 medals in the Paris Olympics next year, or the Asian Games at Nagoya in Japan three years from now!