Asian Games 2018: After best ever medal tally, India can dare to dream in Tokyo
India won 15 gold medals, 24 silver medals and 30 bronze medals at the Asian Games 2018, which gives hopes of a record-breaking show at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020
As India finished with its best ever medal tally of 69 at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games yesterday — 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze —awards and accolades will follow suit as state governments will clamour for attention. However, India’s sports administrators must continue the hard work done with a view to carry on the good show at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Here are some of the medals won at this Asian Games that will matter at Tokyo 2020.
PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal were always favourites to finish on the podium at Jakarta and they did, with Sindhu winning silver and Saina bronze. Kidambi Srikanth was beaten early but he too, is among the diamonds that can glitter at Tokyo.
Indian tennis has seen numerous selection controversies and this Games was no different. With veteran Leander Paes pulling out just before the start of the Games, citing the absence of a doubles specialist to pair up with, captain Zeeshan Ali was disappointed, but backed his boys to succeed. And senior pro Rohan Bopanna along with Divij Sharan delivered gold in the men’s doubles. Skipper Zeeshan had told mid-day moments after the gold medal that this pair must be persisted with, and the national selectors have done exactly that by pairing them together for India’s upcoming Davis Cup World Group away tie against Serbia (September 14-16).
Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat’s gold medals in the men’s freestyle 65 kg and women’s freestyle 50 kg respectively proved that there is a lot more to Indian wrestling than just double Olympic medal-winner Sushil Kumar, who was beaten in the first round in Jakarta. Bajrang and Vinesh oozed confidence when asked about their ultimate aim. “Nothing less than a gold in Tokyo,” both said.
Neeraj (men’s javelin throw): Gold
The IAAF U20 World Champion breached his personal best, throwing his spear across 88.06m to claim gold, a distance that would have been good enough to win a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. With International training and exposure he will enhance his chances for a podium finish in Tokyo.
Shooting has always been among India’s top performing sports at both, the Asian Games as well as Olympics. And while established names like Sanjeev Rajput (silver in 50m Rifle 3 positions) and Heena Sidhu (bronze in 10m air pistol) have consistently done well internationally, the emergence of young blood like teenagers Saurabh Chaudhary, 16, (gold in 10m air pistol) and Lakshay Sheoran, 19 (silver in men’s trap) is a promising sign ahead of Tokyo. The next crucial stop for the sharpshooters is the ISSF World Championships in Changwon, Korea (August 31 to September 15), where they will bid to win quota places for Tokyo.
Men’s light flyweight gold medallist Amit Panghal became an instant hero when he stunned reigning Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov in the final recently. Middleweight boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav was also doing brilliantly before a cut on his left eyelid forced him to pull out of his semi-final bout and settle for bronze. Both Panghal and Vikas are known to be brainy, which is a step up from the otherwise brawny variety that India have known to produce.
Hima Das (women’s 400m): Silver
Another IAAF world junior champion, who did exceedingly well in Jakarta, returned with three medals out of the four events she participated in (silver in 400m, silver in 4x400m women’s relay, silver in 4x400 mixed relay). Das first set a new national record en route the women’s 400m final (51.00s) and then broke it herself in the final (50.79s). If she can come under the 50-second barrier, she’s a definite medal prospect in Tokyo.
Men’s hockey was a major disappointment given they lost to Malaysia in the semis and then were not too dominant against Pakistan in the bronze medal match, but the team’s rise to No. 5 in the world rankings speaks volumes of their consistent performance. The FIH World Cup in Bhubhaneshwar later this year (Nov 28 to Dec 16) is their next big test. Meanwhile, the women’s team will be on a month-long break after a super silver show in Jakarta.
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