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Editorial Articles

Volume-24, 15-21 September, 2018


India's Best Ever Performance at Asian Games

Vidhanshu Kumar

The recently concluded Asian Games in Jakarta has been a great success for the Indian contingent. With 69 Medals, 15 Gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze, this was the best medal haul in 68 years of Asian Games history for the Indian athletes. Not only did the Indian contingent create a new record, many individual athletes touched new heights and made a mark which nobody could do so far.
It is often said that sports doesn't build character, it reveals it. The dictum was at full display during the Asian Games held in Indonesia.  There were many shining lights for India during the Games.
Indian athletes shined brightly in the track and field events.
Some athletes won more than one medal for our country. One such athlete is Hima Das who won two silver and one gold medal. In 400 meter dash, Hima won the silver medal while in two relay events she won one gold and another silver medal. Hima is the only athlete in the Indian contingent of more than 700 people who won three medals. Such was Hima's performance that had she been a country, she would have finished at number 27 in the overall medals tally. In the mixed 4 x 400 meters relay events Hima won the silver medal. But her best performance was in women's 4 x 400 meter relay event. Hima won the gold medal of this event with her three other relay partners.
Just like Hima Das, Dutee Chand was another gem in India's crown.
Dutee won two silver medals. Her first medal came in 100 meters sprint while she won another silver in 200 meters dash. This twenty year old athlete from Orissa who touched this mark and reminded one of PT Usha who did it in earlier Asian Games at South Korea in the 80's.
Another excellent performance from track events came from middle distance runner Jinson Johnson who won one gold and one silver medal in 1500 and 800 meters events. The 1500 meter was a tremendous run that reminded one about the feats of Hischam el G. and Sebastian Coe in the Olympic Games.
Seven events and two days of track and field competition is the real test of strength, stamina and endurance. Swapna Burman crossed all the hurdles to win a gold medal in Heltathlon event. It was real passion, zeal and commitment by our athletes to see the tricolour fly high on the foreign soil.
Triple jumper Arpinder Singh also made a point by winning a gold in men's triple jump.
While the athletes were shining at the Asian level, one athlete who showed promise that was truly world-class was Neeraj Chopra. In this exhilarating display of technique and skills, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra threw more than 88 meters and won the Gold medal. He has become a real hope for India at the World Championships and up- coming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Another player was exemplary in throw events. Twenty three year old shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor set a new national record of 20.75 meter and also won the gold medal in men's shot put event.
While the athletes were shining India had some setback in the team events of Kabaddi and hockey. In both the sports Gold Medal was sure for Indian players but Iranian team was better in Kabaddi. In both Men and Women team event, Iranian team won the Gold medal. In Men's Hockey, Indian team had to be satisfied with the bronze medal. Malaysia beat India in the bronze medal match.
There were more smiles for India in archery and rowing though.
Indian archers and rowers put up a splendid performance by winning medals for the country.
Fifteen year old teen sensation Sourabh Choudhary was the youngest and 60 year old Shibnath Sarkar was the oldest gold medal winner of the Indian contingent. It shows the variety and dedication of the Indian athletes. Indeed various schemes launched by the Sports Ministry, like the TOPS scheme, have started to pay rich dividends.
In wrestling events, India's Bajrang got the gold in 65kg and he is looking good in shape for the Tokyo Olympic Games too. Vinesh Phogat also won the gold medal in her category.
Shooting, Tennis, Badminton and Boxing are the games which were dominant in the medals race for India. Players such as Rahi, Sourabh, Rohan-Divij, Saina-Sindhu and Amit and Vikas have been doing excellently well and getting medals for India.
Few new games such as Kurash, Wushu, Bridge, Sepak Takraw, Equestarian and Rowing were also success stories in Jakarta.
In fact Squash and Table Tennis players are the silent heroes of the lot. Joshna Chinappa and Deepika Pallikal have been playing for very long and getting success. Table Tennis players such as Manika Batra and A Sharath Kamal are champions in their respective fields.
India has got the youngest population in the world and 70% population belong to the age group of below 30 years. It can be said that because of younger age more people are going for sports as a career. Especially looking at the age of athletes, when 15 year and 16 year old players are winning medals for the country.
Government Initiatives and outreach are paying dividends. The Government of India and the Sports Ministry has taken a number of steps and that is showing results. Among the many initiatives taken up by the, Central Government, ‘Khelo India’ is one that has caught everyone's attention. Khelo India School Games is a concept based on the Olympics model and was launched in January this year. This is a national level multi-disciplinary annual sports competition for under-17 school students of the country. Prime Minister launched this event at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi and said that sports should be given a 'central place' by the youth of the country.
A number of achievements and records were broken in the inaugural edition of Khelo India School Games. The quality of competition at the Khelo India School Games was top notch. What was most encouraging was to see some of the champions at the Khelo India Games win laurels at international stages including Common Wealth Games.
Teenagers Manu Bhaker (shooting) and Srihari Nataraj (swimming) broke many records at the Khelo India School Games and emerged as champions from the ambitious program launched by the government. Manu won gold in 10 m Air Pistol with a new national record. Nataraj also broke national record in backstroke and won overall 6 gold and a silver medal at the Khelo India Games.
The two were rewarded with berths at the Common Wealth Games in Australia and they did not disappoint. Nataraj improved upon his record in 50 meters backstroke and reached the semifinals, but couldn't qualify for the finals.
Government has ambitious plans to take this flagship sports event forward. As its future endeavors the Ministry is planning to train more coaches at the very grassroot community levels so that they are able to provide the right coaching. Plans are also afoot to involve more girls in Khelo India initiative. Idea is to bring more behavioral changes and make playing sports a true culture in the country.
The Ministry is also developing an app that will give information about nearby grounds, playing facilities etc and also provide inputs on how to improve one's game. This app will fill the gaps in 'where to play' and 'how to play'. Government and PSU playing facilities location etc. can be accessed through this app. There will also be a number of 'how to play' videos in various disciplines.
Target Olympic Podium
One program that probably deserves maximum praise for getting medals at the Asia Games is the TOPS scheme.
"Target Olympic Podium Scheme" TOPS which is sponsored and run by Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and led by Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has certainly boosted the Indian performance in the Asian and Commonwealth Games. Most of the athletes are in the list of TOPS athletes and they are getting the medals for the country.
The scheme is named as Target Olympic Podium (TOP) and was launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
The objective of the scheme is to identify medal prospects for 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games and also support them in their training. In the first stage of TOP, seven disciplines - Athletics, Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Shooting, Wrestling and Yachting - were identified. Around 100 athletes were selected in the stage who were provided financial assistance to undertake training at top institutes in India and abroad.
Overall Team India has proved a point in Jakarta and now everybody is eyeing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Jakarta Asiad has raised the bar for India and dreams of winning big medals at highest level is becoming the new and happy reality for India. Indian athletes have proved that they can beat the best in the world if they are provided with best training and infrastructure facilities. It is heartening to see that sports has become a key sector for Indian policy makers and thus India is making rapid strides in the world of sports.
(The author is a Sr. Journalist & Sports Commentator. His email id- vidhanshu.kumar@ gmail.com)