In a grand spectacle of sportsmanship and sheer determination, Indian athletes have etched their names in the annals of history at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China. The nation, which had set the audacious target of ‘Ab ki baar sau paar’ (This time, over a hundred) ahead of the Games, not only met but exceeded its own lofty expectations by bagging a total of 107 medals.
|1||People’s Republic of China||201||111||71||383|
|3||Republic of Korea||42||59||89||190|
Over a fortnight, more than 12,000 athletes from 45 countries came together to compete in 481 events spanning nine sports, many of which served as Olympic qualifiers for Paris 2024. The Indian contingent, boasting its largest-ever representation with 655 athletes, left no stone unturned to make their presence felt on the global stage.
When the Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Ministry unveiled the ‘Ab ki baar sau paar’ slogan, it was met with scepticism. After all, their previous best medal tally stood at 70 in Jakarta five years ago. Even midway through the event, the elusive 100-medal mark appeared distant.
The Asian Games 2023 journey was a remarkable one, highlighting India’s prowess across a multitude of sports. From water to mat, rowers to wrestlers, Indian athletes left no arena untouched. The Games witnessed heroes emerging from diverse fields, from equestrian dressage to roller skating. Beloved sports like hockey and boxing continued to bring home glory, while badminton, table tennis, and squash also contributed significantly to India’s medal haul.
India’s performance showcased its growth in sports over the years. A total of 72 years and 18 editions of the Asian Games have culminated in this remarkable achievement. At the closing ceremony, India stood proudly at the fourth position in the medal standings, with 28 gold, 38 silver, and 41 bronze medals. This was a significant leap from their Jakarta performance, where they secured 16 gold, 23 silver, and 31 bronze medals.
A considerable chunk of India’s medal tally came from traditional events, such as track and field (29 medals, including six gold), shooting (22 medals, including seven gold), and archery (nine medals, including five gold). The gender distribution of medallists was nearly equal, with 52 male and 46 female athletes contributing to the triumph. Athletes like Aishwarya Pratap Singh Tomar and Esha Singh, who secured four medals each, were among the 30 athletes who won multiple medals.
Impressively, India did not experience a single medal-less day throughout the two-week competition.
The Games were a platform where the unfamiliar shared the limelight with the well-known. Medals were won in sepak takraw (women’s regu bronze), wushu (silver), roller skating (men’s and women’s 3000m relay bronze), and bridge (men’s team silver). Furthermore, several sports considered beyond Indian boundaries, like Sutirtha and Ayhika Mukherjee’s table tennis victory against world champions and Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy’s badminton doubles gold, made history. Equestrian dressage, with the team of Anush Agarwalla, Hriday Chheda, Sudipti Hajela, and Divyakriti Singh securing a first-ever team gold, and Eabad Ali’s bronze in windsurfing, India’s first-ever international medal in the sport, were also remarkable achievements.
The Asian Games 2023 marked the end of an era for some legendary athletes, like Rohan Bopanna and Saurav Ghosal, who left no stone unturned to secure their place in the record books. Simultaneously, it ushered in a new generation of fearless athletes who aspire for more and fear nothing, exemplified by Abhay Singh’s victory in squash and HS Prannoy’s historic semifinal run in men’s singles.
The Games witnessed young talents such as 15-year-old Anahat Singh, who secured a bronze in squash, and Sanjana Bathula, who earned a bronze in roller skating. Aditi Swami, a 17-year-old world champion archer, added to her accolades with a compound women’s team gold and an individual bronze. Palak, also 17, set a new Games Record in 10m air pistol. Esha Singh, at 18, was the star of the shooting contingent with four medals.
While India celebrates this historic achievement, the challenge now is to maintain the momentum and continue the success story at the Paris Olympics in 2024. Historically, India has struggled to replicate continental success on the global stage, and the focus should remain on addressing administrative issues and challenges in various sports. Additionally, there is a need to recognise the importance of sports beyond the Olympic program, as several of India’s medals came in non-Olympic events like compound archery, squash, and various shooting team events.
As the euphoria of crossing the 100-medal milestone subsides, India’s sporting community, officials, federations, and the Ministry must unite to ensure that the progress achieved at the Asian Games 2023 is not fleeting but a stepping stone towards continued excellence on the world stage. The athletes have shown their mettle; now it’s time for the nation to ensure that their legacy endures. In the midst of all these challenges, it is indeed a time to celebrate the history-makers and the bright future that Indian sports holds.