Despite upsets in Hockey and Kabaddi, the 2018 Asian Games proved to be the most successful for Indian sportspersons.

First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High

572 sportspersons over the last two weeks have kept India on the edge of their seats with their record-breaking wins and heart-breaking losses. The 2018 Asian Games started with the disappointment of Sushil Kumar’s first-round exit and ended with two hitherto unknown men in their fifties bagging India first-ever gold medal in bridge. There were the firsts of Vinesh Phogat and Rahi Sarnobat’s golds and the beginnings of Sourish Chaudhry and Shardul Vishal’s promising careers.

But at the end of it all, where do the 69 medals place us? In history and at these 18th Asian Games?

From Doha to Jakarta - The Gold Rush

This year’s Asian Games in Indonesia were India’s best-ever show, with a total of 69 medals. Out of those 69 medals, 15 were gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze. Although the eighth rank was not our best ever, the 15 gold medals is the highest India has achieved in all Asian Games outings.

Ever since the beginning of the Asian Games, the lowest ranking that India has achieved is No. 11 – at the 1990 games that took place in China. Our best medal tally in Asian Games before this was the 65 medals we won in 2010, while the lowest medal tally India has had is 13 – at the 1954 games held in Philippines.

To put things in perspective, here is a brief comparison of the last four Asian Games:

In 2006, India won a total of 53 medals out of which, 10 were gold. Out of these, three came from shooting events, two from tennis and one each from athletics, cue sports and kabaddi. In 2010, India won 14 gold medals wherein 5 came from athletics, two from tennis, chess and boxing each – and one each from shooting, rowing and cue sports.

In 2014, we won a total of 11 golds – 2 in athletics and kabaddi and one in seven other games each. This year, we are taking home 15.

First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High
First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High
First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High
First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High

Huge Setbacks in Men’s Hockey and Kabaddi

We have sustained our dominance in Kabaddi (a sport that originated in India) in the Asian Games ever since it became a regular event in 1990, winning the highest number of gold medals in both the men’s and women’s discipline.

Out of the eight times that Kabaddi has been a part of the Asian Games, India has won the gold medal in every edition – until this year.

First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High
With just one bronze and one silver medal in Indonesia, it is safe to say that these Asian Games have seen the worst performance by an Indian Kabaddi team in the history of the games.

Another major setback in a game India has been known to dominate, was Hockey. Our men’s hockey team were the favourites to go home with the gold medal – and with 74 goals in the tournament leading up to the semi-final game, things were looking quite good. As we drew with World No. 12 Malaysia for the semi-final game, proceeding to the finals was very much within sights.

However, the Malaysian players scored a late equaliser against India to take the game to penalty shoot-offs. After an exhaustive penalty shoot-out, the defending champions were denied a direct entry into the 2020 Olympics, with Malaysia again proving to be their Achilles Heel.

First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High
The Malaysians had handed India a heartbreaking 6-7 loss in sudden death after an exhausting shoot-off.

Although we went home with a medal in both the men and women’s games, fans were expecting more from the Indian men’s team.

As Old-Timers Disappoint, Newbies Shine

There were, however, many new records and lots of firsts to make these Asian Games a successful outing.

India won a medal for the first time ever in several disciplines. The bronze medal in Sepak Takraw is the first medal India has ever won at the sport, as is the case with Swapna Barman’s gold in heptathlon and the men’s bronze medal in table tennis. PV Sindhu’s silver medal was also the first silver medal we have won at the Asian Games. Wrestler Vinesh Phogat was the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Asian Games gold medal and Neeraj Chopra’s javelin throw gold medal was also the first gold India has won in javelin throw at an Asian Games.

Besides these, Arpinder Singh’s triple jump gold medal is the first one we've clinched in triple jump. Rahi Sarnobat also became the first Indian woman shooter to win a gold medal at the Asian Games as she shot the top prize for her 25m pistol event.

(Photo: IANS)
India’s Swapna Barman celebrates after winning the heptathlon gold medal during the athletics competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Concluding India’s successful run in Jakarta and Palembang, Bridge – the card game that also featured for the first time at the Asian Games – gave us our first ever gold medal at the game at the same time.

This was a pretty successful outing for our youngsters as well, with seven athletes under the age of 21 winning laurels for the country.
(Photo: AP)
Debutant teenager Saurabh Chaudhary got India the first shooting gold of the 18th Asian Games.

Here are the youngsters who won medals at the events:

  • Saurabh Chaudhary (16) – Gold (Men’s 10m Air Pistol)
  • Shardul Vihan (15) – Silver (Men’s Double Trap)
  • Aman Saini (21) – Silver (Men’s Compound Archery_
  • Muskan Kirar (18) – Silver (Women’s Compound Archery)
  • Pincky Balhara (19) – Silver (Kurash)
  • Malaprabha Yallappa Jadhav (19) – Bronze (Kurash)
  • Roshibina Devi Naorem (19) – Bronze (Wushu)

No Medals in 22 Events

India went to the Asian Games with 572 athletes to the 2018 Asian Games. These 572 athletes were to perform in about 39 events. However, out of the total 39 categories, we were able to get medals in only 18, meaning we did not win a medal in 21 out of 39 categories we took part in. That is more than 50 percent of the total categories.

First-Ever Medals and Big Upsets: India End Asian Games on a High

The teams for those 21 events were made up of a total of 212 athletes.

One is reminded of how the Indian Olympics Association (IOA) left out the Indian football team, stating that they did not have a chance at winning medals. This was despite the football team witnessing major success in recent times, taking their ranking to 97 from 165 at the time of the previous 2014 Asian Games. India is ranked 13 among the teams that take part in the Asian Games.

(Photo: PTI)
The way 21 sports were left without medals, maybe taking the football team along could have also been beneficial.
Given how we have had many first-time successes this year, maybe bringing the football team could have been worth it.