Asian Games glitter, Olympic dreams

Indian track and field athletes ended their Asian Games campaign with a haul of seven gold, 10 silver and two bronze medals, its best ever tally in four decades. Here is a view of the Indian performance seen in light of how the country’s medallists would have fared at the 2016 Rio Olympics with the same timings and distances.

Neeraj's throw would have clinched him bronze at Rio, gold at London 2012, silver at Beijing 2008 and gold at Athens 2004. A medal at Sydney 2000 would have eluded him, as the bronze went at 88.67. He looks India's best prospect for an athletics medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and is snapping at the heels of the mighty Germans Thomas Rohler and Johannes Vetter, and the rest. Neeraj is also coming close to the 90m mark, which is perceived to separate the men from the boys in the event.

Rio gold — Thomas Rohler, Germany, 90.30
Photo: AFP
Tajinderpal's throw would have given him sixth place in the Rio final. In the last five Olympics, the lowest mark for a bronze medal is 20.84m, at Athens 2004. Tajinderpal not only has to breach 21m, but nudge towards the 22m mark to hang in with the big boys of the sport such as Ryan Crouser, Joe Kovacs and Tom Walsh. Tajinderpal’s personal coach, M.S. Dhillon, believes he can gain 1m more in a year. What’s more, Dhillon doesn’t put 22m beyond his ward’s reach.

Rio gold — Ryan Crouser, US, 22.52
Photo: AFP
Manjit's timing would have placed him eighth in the Rio final. The slowest timing to win a bronze in the last five Olympics is 1:45.16 at Sydney 2000. Indians are yet to go below 1:45. All eight athletes who qualified for the Rio final clocked below 1:45 in the semifinals. Manjit’s performances plateaued after early promise, but he has blossomed again to achieve a personal best and Asian Games glory. His days as a pacemaker are now over and success could spur him on to be the best athlete he can be.

Rio gold — David Rudisha, Kenya, 1:42.15
Photo: AFP
Though Jinson's timing would have given him gold at Rio, this particular Olympics final was unusually slow owing to a highly tactical race in which no one pushed the pace, choosing instead to reserve energy for a sprint finish. The heats and semifinals saw faster timings. Centrowitz's timing would not have won him a medal in the preceding five Olympics. Excluding Rio, the slowest timing to win bronze in the event in the preceding five Olympics is 3:36.72 at Atlanta 1996.

Rio gold — Matthew Centrowitz, US, 3:50.00
Photo: AFP
Arpinder's jump would have placed him eighth in Rio. The last time a 16m-plus jump got a medal at the Olympics was bronze at Los Angeles 1984 at 16.87m.Arpinder is familiar with 17m-plus territory. He had jumped 17.17 in 2014. Then, he trained abroad, dismantled his original technique, had a string of poor results and is now back to what works best for him.

Rio gold — Christian Taylor, US, 17.86
Photo: PTI
Swapna's performance would have put her outside the top 20 at Rio. The lowest points tally to win a bronze medal in the last five Olympics is 6,424 at Athens 2004.

Rio gold — Nafissatou Thiam, Belgium, 6,810 points
Photo: AFP
The Indian squad's timing would not have been enough to qualify for the Rio final. The eighth place finish in Rio came at 3:27.45. The slowest timing to win a bronze medal in the event in the last five Olympics is 3:25.88 at Rio.

Rio gold — US, 3:19.06
Photo: PTI
Hima's timing would have seen her squeeze in at sixth in the Rio final, where all three medals went below 50. Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica came sixth in the Rio final, clocking 50.97. Phyllis Francis of the US was fifth with 50.41.The slowest timing to win a bronze medal in the event in the last five Olympics is 49.93 at Beijing.

Rio gold — Shaunae Miller, Bahamas, 49.44s
Photo: AP
Sudha's timing would have placed her at 16th in Rio. Lalita Babar had placed 10th in the Rio final with 09:22.740. Babar had set the national record of 9:19.76 in qualifying for the Rio final.

Rio gold — Ruth Jebet, Bahrain, 08:59.75s
Photo: AFP
The eighth place in Rio came at 6.69. Neena's jump would have placed her outside the top 10.

Rio gold — Tianna Bartoletta, US, 7.17m
Photo: AFP
Eighth-place finisher Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast clocked 11.80, but she was the only one past 11 secs. It was an aberration because she had qualified for the final in 10.94. Dutee could possibly make it past heats. South Africa's Carina Horn was the slowest to qualify for the semis. Her time was 11.32, the same as Dutee's silver medal timing. Dutee participated in Rio, but did not make it out of heat 5 in round 1 after clocking 11.69, well below her national record of 11.24.

Rio gold — Elaine Thompson, Jamaica, 10.71s
Photo: AFP
The eighth-place finisher in the Rio final, Ivet Lalova-Collio of Bulgaria, clocked 22.69. With this timing, Dutee would not make it out of the heats. The first two from all nine heats qualified for the semis and all of them clocked below 23 seconds. The last to qualify for final as fastest loser in semis was Great Britain's Dina Asher-Smith with 22.49.

Rio gold — Elaine Thomson, Jamaica, 21.78
Photo: AP
The eighth place finisher in the Olympics clocked 44.61. The slowest qualifier from semis to the finals clocked 44.49. With this timing, or even better, Anas could possibly make it out of the heats but not beyond. He participated in Rio and clocked 45.95 in heat 7 of round 1 and placed sixth. He did not qualify for the semifinal.

Rio gold — Wayde Van Niekerk, South Africa, 43.03s (WR)
Photo: AP
Dharun’s timing would have put him at seventh in the Rio final. In the last five Olympics, the slowest time to win a bronze is 48.26 at Athens in 2004. The gold in all five has been at below 48.

Rio gold — Kerron Clement, US, 47.73s
Photo: Getty Images
Seema's throw would have placed her 10th in Rio. The lowest bronze medal-winning distance in the last five Olympics is 62.20 at Beijing 2008.

Rio gold — Sandra Perkovic, Croatia, 69.21m
Photo: AFP
Chitra's timing would have placed her sixth in Rio. However, this was a tactically run race, with none of the top competitors pushing the pace. Medals in the last five Olympics have come at much quicker timings, closer to the 4-minute mark and also below it.

Rio Olympics — Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, Kenya, 4:08.92s
Photo: PTI
This Indian squad's timing would have placed it eighth in the Rio final. The catch is the slowest timing to qualify for the Rio final was 3:00.43.

Rio gold — US, 2:57.30s
Photo: PTI
Norman Pritchard won silver medals in the 200m and the 200m hurdles in the 1900 Paris Olympics and they are credited to India. However, after independence, India has never won a track and field medal at the Olympics.

Milkha Singh, P. T. Usha and Anju Bobby George have come the closest to a podium finish among a handful who have made the finals of events.
Milkha Singh, 1960 Rome, 400m, 45.6s, 4th
P. T. Usha, 1984 Los Angeles, 400m hurdles, 55.42s, 4th.
Anju Bobby George, 2004 Athens, long jump, 6.83m, sixth (it was upgraded to fifth following American Marion Jones’ doping violation).

India has been dominant in the 4x400 women's relay at the Asian Games, winning the last five golds, but an Olympics medal has been out of reach.
Photo: The Hindu Photo Archives