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Asian Games: India eye Hangzhou high

Updated on: 24 September,2023 07:28 AM IST  |  Hangzhou
Ashwin Ferro |

1982 hosts look to achieve best-ever medal tally as Asian Games get underway with glittering ceremony

Asian Games: India eye Hangzhou high

Dancers perform during the 19th Asian Games Opening Ceremony at Hangzhou, China, on Saturday. Pics/AFP, PTI

Ashwin FerroA glitzy affair was expected and China delivered exactly that at the Opening Ceremony of the 19th Asian Games on Saturday.

A perfect amalgamation of ancient culture saw Asia’s largest nation highlight glimpses of their 10th century Song Dynasty through images and videos sprayed by lasers across a massive digitally-created screen encompassing the entire Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.

Team India, led by flagbearers, hockey captain Harmanpreet Singh and Olympic medal-winning boxer Lovlina Borgohain, stood out with their golden-coloured traditional attire, almost reminding the 665 athletes of their gold medal hunt across the next fortnight.

Flagbearers Lovlina Borgohain and Harmanpreet Singh lead the Indian contingent during the Opening Ceremony on SaturdayFlagbearers Lovlina Borgohain and Harmanpreet Singh lead the Indian contingent during the Opening Ceremony on Saturday

A confident Borgohain had no hesitation in being vocal about this. “It feels great to be India’s flagbearer, but with this honour comes responsibility, and we will try our best to win as many gold medals as we can. I want the entire nation to pray for us. We are passionate about this and want to excel,” she said on Saturday.

India earned its best-ever Asian Games medal tally at Jakarta in 2018 with 70 medals (16 gold, 23 silver and 31 bronze), and many believe the figure this time will not only surpass the last one, but in fact touch what seems to be the magical century mark. That cricket has been included at this edition and India have a strong men’s and women’s team, should help this cause.  

Athletics Federation of India chief Adille Sumariwalla recently went on record to say that 100 medals is possible while Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha and sports minister Anurag Thakur announced that the contingent will return from Hangzhou with their best-ever medal haul.  

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The trends, however, aren’t as convincing. Since the turn of the millennium, India have had a steady rise in the number of medals won at the Asian Games. Busan 2002 saw them pick 36 medals followed by 53 at Doha 2006 and 65 at Guangzhou 2010 with Incheon 2014 being the only aberration as the number of medals reduced to 57 before normalcy returned in Jakarta. Interestingly, never in India’s Asian Games history, which dates back to 1951, have they had a jump of 30 medals at a subsequent Games. India fell one short of this figure when they added 29 medals at New Delhi in 1982 (57 medals) to the 28 they won at the previous edition in Bangkok (1978).

This is not to say, however, that history cannot be made at Hangzhou. And the fact that this is India’s biggest-ever contingent at an Asiad also increases their chances of achieving it. After all, this is a Games of many firsts, with the opening ceremony showing the world that a digital torchbearer can also be part of the till-date purely human experience of lighting of the cauldron.

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