Asiad Games: A stupendous show from track and field athletes

Manjit was the biggest surprise and Neeraj proved he is the best as athletics helped India achieve its best ever Asian Games medal haul.

Individual medal winners for India at the 2018 Asian Games. (Neeraj Chopra, Swapna Burman, Arpinder Singh, Tajinder Pal Singh, Jinson Johnson and Manjit Singh).

He had been waiting patiently for years, virtually living in Jinson Johnson’s shadow.  But when his big moment came, Manjit Singh grabbed the opportunity and pulled off the biggest upset of the Asian Games as far as Indian athletics was concerned.

That brought a rare one-two for India in the 800m at the Asiad. National record holder Jinson had his revenge by taking the 1500m gold.

The Indians had been trying out new things and fine-tuning their technique in countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Finland and Bhutan for the last few months. Befittingly, there was a rush of golds and impressive performances as the country finished third in the athletics table with seven golds, 10 silvers and two bronze medals for its third best finish in the Asiad after 1951 New Delhi (10 golds) and 1978 Bangkok (8 golds). 

Athletics also helped India hit an all-time Asiad high in the total medal count (69), beating the previous best of 65 at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

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While Manjit’s gold was a big surprise, the best one was Neeraj Chopra’s. The 20-year-old javelin thrower’s gold would have easily fetched him the ‘Peformance of the Asian Games’ award among Indians across all sports, if there was one.

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The Haryana youngster’s remarkable journey began with the under-20 World title and now he is the champion at the Asian Championships, the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and is getting closer to the world’s best in the Diamond League as well. He demolished the field in Jakarta with his 88.06m throw. He is also the first Indian to cross the 88m milestone and is now excitingly close to the 90m mark.

India's women's relay team on the podium after bagging gold.   -  PTI

 

Arpinder Singh’s gold was also a bit of a surprise but Romanian Bedros Bedrosian, the national coach for jumps, had predicted that the Chinese top stars  would not go big in Jakarta. That was exactly the case here.

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Shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh, heptathlete Swapna Barman, who overcame heavy toothache, and the women’s 4x400m relay team won the other gold medals but the African-origin athletes in West Asian teams like Qatar and Bahrain denied India at least half a dozen more gold medals as the country finished with a total of 19 medals.

'We are a superpower now'

Quartermilers Muhammed Anas and Hima Das – who stunningly became the first Indian woman to go below 51s – 400m hurdler

A. Dharun and sprinter Dutee Chand would have all had golds had the Games been open only to native Asians.

The IAAF has now brought in new rules, including a three-year waiting period for athletes to obtain transfers but Adille Sumariwalla, president of the Athletics Federation of India, feels India should not be bothered by these things.

“We are a superpower now, we should be looking at Olympics and the Worlds, we should not be worried about these things,” Adille told Sportstar.

“The AFI’s aim, in the last four years, has been to start looking at the Olympics and not worry about the Asian and Commonwealth. Our vision has changed to the Olympic Games.”