best-ever medal tally at the Asian Games
India came up with their best ever medal tally in any Asian Games
at the Guangzhou games which ended here Saturday. India's 14 gold
medals are one less than their best-ever gold tally of 15 at the
inaugural Games in Delhi in
The comparison between India and China as sporting nations is
inevitable after Delhi organised the Commonwealth Games and
Guangzhou the Asian Games within a month of each other. There is a
vast difference between the two countries despite overwhelming
The Chinese hailed the Asian Games as a platform to showcase the
tremendous achievements of their country in economic and social
development. In stark contrast, the Commonwealth Games were
condemned as the work of corrupt minds, never mind the exceptional
showing by Indian athletes to top the 100-medal mark in New Delhi
and their best-ever medals tally at Guangzhou.
In China, no one is making a song and dance about Guangzhou
spending $18.3 billion on new stadiums, roads and subway lines,
the amount being much more than the $14.7 billion budgeted for the
China is already up there as the No.1 Olympic nation in the world,
let alone in Asia, whereas India is still taking its baby steps.
With 199 gold, 119 silver and 98 bronze - for a total of 416 -
China are the runaway leaders at the top of the table for the
eighth time in a row, easily surpassing their best gold tally of
183, set in their backyard in Beijing in 1990.
The canvas has widened with 36 of the 45 participating teams
winning medals, South Korea coming in way behind China in second
place with 232 medals, including 76 gold and Japan further down
third with 48 gold in 216 medals.
The clear domination of the three major economies in the region
can be seen from the fact that the fourth-placed Iran logged in 59
medals with 20 gold and the next best Kazakhstan 19 gold in a
tally of 79, ahead of India in sixth position.
The bizarre logic of critics of India in sport is that heads I
win, tails you lose. If the athletes perform well as they did in
the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, the credit goes to
them and if they don't then it is a systemic failure brought about
by the corrupt officialdom.
Not many, save the athletes themselves, gave the Indians a record
64 medals -- 14 gold, 17 silver and 33 bronze. Only thrice since
the Games began in Delhi in 1951, the Indians crossed 50-medal
mark, the first time at the inaugural edition when they toted up
51 medals but then there were only 11 countries and some 400-odd
athletes taking part.
Again, in the 1982 Games in New Delhi, they got 57 and 53 at Doha
four years ago. India's best gold haul 15 of came in 1951 and 13
Some athletes confounded even the pundits. Not many were willing
to wager on India winning five gold medals from track and field,
though they expected them to get a few silver and bronze. It was
not without a valid reason as their best performances in recent
competitions are comparable with the best in the region in
Also, the Indians did not fare well at all in the last Games at
Doha and then in the Asian Track and Field Meet in Guangzhou last
year, winning only one gold each. Eventually, the athletes
exceeded all expectations by garnering 11 medals in all.
For once, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the national
sports federations and above all the government can rightfully
take a modicum of credit for the joyful jump of the Indian sport,
albeit a small one.
If the IOA and the sports ministry were not on the same page to
prevail upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to release Rs.680
crores ($150 million) for the training and international exposure
of the athletes in the last two years, the results would have been
different at both New Delhi and Guangzhou.
In the run up to the Commonwealth Games and after their impressive
performance, many athletes went on record to say that the training
and competition they received made it possible. The confidence the
Delhi Games gave them got carried to Guangzhou. Not very often
Indian athletes are seen challenging the Chinese and leaving them
behind as they did in some of the disciplines. It may be a modest
achievement, but it is a spark that can provide impetus to the
The days of hockey being India's prime sport to win a gold are
over. If ever India had a chance of winning the gold it was here.
They lost a semifinal they should have won against Malaysia and
they had to settle for a bronze. Imagine, they beat the two
strongest contenders for the gold, Pakistan, eventual winners, in
the pool and South Korea for the bronze.
It took quite a while for Indian athletes to warm up after the
shooters failed to provide the kind of start they had at the
Commonwealth Games. Almost the entire first week went with only
one gold coming from cueist Pankaj Advani.
It was an unbelievable start to athletics. Preeja Sreedharan, the
railway employee from Palakkad, Kerala, and Nashik girl Kavita
Raut shook the 80,000-caapcity Guangdong Olympic Stadium, at Aoti
complex, coming in one-two in the 10,000 metres and as if that was
not enough, Sudha Singh glided and waded through to the 3000
metres steeplechase gold.
Sudha's performance was fantastic, as no Indian had won the
steeplechase medal, leave alone gold. The gold-silver finish by
Preeja and Kavita in the grueling 25-lap race was as stunning as
they had left favourite China's Bai Xue behind.
Even the athletes seem to be hunting in pairs. Now it was the turn
of Joseph Abraham and Ashwini Chidananda to mint some more gold
with astonishing performances in the 400m hurdles.
Ashwini, the girl from Udupi, clocked her personal best (56.15) to
win the event P. T. Usha last won for India in 1986 in 55.42,
while Kottayam-based railwayman Joseph did enough to become the
first Indian in the men's section to win the gold from the track
after Charles Borromeo in the 800m at the 1982 Games.
The fifth gold was on the expected lines as Manjeet Kaur, Sini
Jose, Ashwini and Mandeep Kaur retained the gold India had won at
the Doha Games, the only one by the athletes.
The medals that will stand out are Bajrang Lal Takhar's rowing
gold, Ashish Kumar's gymnastics bronze and the bronze won by
swimmer Virdhawal Khade. In rowing, this is the first gold and
Khade's medal is the first in swimming since Khazan Singh Tokas
won the silver at the Seoul Asian Games in 1986.
It was a big let down by shooters. Agreed, it is not easy to be
consistently touching cent percent every time you walk out to
compete. The shooters were under tremendous pressure to deliver at
the Commonwealth Games and they could not sustain the form and had
only one gold from Ronjon Singh Sodhi in the double trap. Gagan
Narang, the CWG star could only get two silver medals.
Boxer Vijender Singh, who failed to win a gold in New Delhi,
proved strategically superior to former World champion from
Uzbekistan Abbos Atoev and won the gold. Vikas Krishan was the
other boxer to clinch a gold and he stunned defending champion
Qing Hu of China. These were the first boxing golds for India
after Dingko Singh's in 1998. Boxers swelled the tally by also
bagging three silver and four bronze.
The two gold medals from kabaddi were more or less taken for
granted. If the sport survives as a Games discipline, India can
expect some stiff competition in the years ahead.
Just as other teams like Iran are improving in kabaddi, the
Indians are also catching up with others in other disciplines.
The question now is whether the Indians are good enough to take on
the best in the world at the London Olympics in less than two
years. Some of the athletes are confident and that is a big morale
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