Hangzhou: With the men’s doubles pair of Satsiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty smashing their way to a historic first-ever gold medal in badminton and with two medals each in archery and kabaddi, India bagged 12 medals including six gold to end its campaign in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou with their highest-ever haul of 107 medals.
India finished the Asian Games with a bang, claiming a final-day haul of 12 medals, which took its tally to 107 —– 28 gold, 38 silver and 41 bronze medals — a total that causes disbelief for all those who still remember that the country had left with just one gold medal from Kabaddi when China hosted their first Asian Games in 1990
This is India’s best-ever performance in the Asian Games the total medal count of 107 exceeding the previous highest haul of 70 medals by a wide margin.
It came on the sheer dint of years of sweat and toil of a contingent of 963 including athletes, coaches, support staff and administrators.
While Rankireddy and Shetty uncorked wild celebrations, throwing their racquets, armbands and — in the case of Shetty his sweat-soaked shirt — they danced with gay abandon after beating an experienced South Korean pair in straight sets to win their first gold, the men’s kabaddi team resorted to an unprecedented on-court protest over an official error, holding up play for an hour.
The officials ruled in favour of the Indians after a review, which resulted in the Iranian teams having an on-court sit-in protest. The matter was finally resolved with the Indians getting the points and the Iranians left unhappy over the loss of points as India regained the gold medal after being relegated to fourth position in the 2018 edition in Indonesia.
India, in a sense, presented both the good and bad sides of sports, leaving a bad aftertaste for true sports lovers.
But the good was more prominent on Saturday as India finished fourth in the medals tally, with an unprecedented overall medal haul of 107 — 28 gold, 38 silver and 41 bronze, which though a far cry to China’s massive total of 382 medals — 200 gold, 111 silver and 71 bronze. Japan finished second with 186 medals — 51 gold, 66 silver and 69 bronze — while the Republic of Korea took third place with 190 medals of which 42 were gold, 59 silver and 89 bronze.
The Compound archers presented the good side of the sport as Jyothi Surekha Vennam, in her third Asian Games, and Ojas Pravin Deotable, in his maiden appearance, won gold medals in women’s and men’s individual events respectively in a discipline that is not the Olympic Games programme.
The women’s kabaddi team also restored their dignity by winning the gold medal after being dethroned in the previous edition in Indonesia in 2018. However, the 26-25 victory over first-time finalists Chinese Taipei was too close for comfort for fans in the sports that India gave to the world.
The men’s cricket team won the sixth gold medal for India — the biggest gold haul on a single day — based on a ludicrous rule that declared the winner based on the World rankings of the National team in a rain-abandoned match.
Wrestler Deepak Punia grabbed one of the four silver medals and archer Abhishek Verma had to console himself with his second successive silver medal after losing to Deotale in the final played in cold and rainy conditions.
The wizards from the land of Chathurangam, claimed two silver medals in chess, with the men’s team of D Gukesh, R OPraggnanandha E Arjun, Vidit Santosh Gujarathi and Pentala Harikrishna, finishing second behind Iran while Uzbekistan took bronze.
The women’s team took silver behind hosts China with Kazakhstan claiming the bronze medal.
On Saturday, the women’s hockey team restored some pride by winning the bronze medal match beating defending Champions Japan 2-1 in the third-place match. But what would rankle them most is that the team failed to secure a berth in next year’s Paris Olympics. China grabbed the opportunity to qualify for the Paris Olympics by beating the Republic of Korea in the final.
Archer Aditi Gopichand Swami won the bronze medal. At 17, she represents the future, which looks rosy going by the standard set at Hangzhou.
But the question that would plague the discerning fans of Indian sports is — how many of these will go ahead and succeed at the Paris Olympic Games next year?