India at the forefront of a sports competition? Well, not actually in terms of the actual medals won, but India can claim to have laid the groundwork for the Asian Games in its present format. It was at the instigation of IOC Board member Guru Dutt Sondhi in the late 1940s that some of Asian countries agreed to come together to form the Asian Athletic Federation, which would soon after lead the way for Asian sports body.
India had invited the Asian countries participating in the 1948 London Olympics to come to India, both for being part of a common sports meet and to discuss the formation of a pan Asian sports platform. The successful organisation of the first Asian Athletic Championships in New Delhi, in 1949 went a long way in bolstering the confidence of the nations.
India was chosen as the host of the first Asian Games to be held in 1950. India did organise the first Games, but delay in preparations caused the games to be pushed back by a year. They were finally held from 4 to 11 March, 1951. With 15 gold medals and 52 overall, India actually managed to finish second in the medals tally in these Games, a feat it has not equalled since then.
And this has perhaps been the state of Indian performances at the Asian level. While still acknowledged as a crucial member in organisational terms, India has steadily fallen behind in the number of medallions it has actually won at the various Games since then.
Indeed, about three decades later when India hosted the Games for the second time in 1982, it won a lesser number of gold medals (13), despite the number of events having increased manifold.
Even in its pet event, men's hockey, where India has the largest number of Olympic medals, it has just won the Asian Games gold just twice in the eleven competitions. In fact before it won the hockey gold in the last edition, it had just one gold medal from 10 outings! Even in women's hockey, apart from the inaugural gold medal in 1982, it has just won a bronze in 198.
Besides hockey, India has made its presence felt in some sports like athletics, where names like PT Usha, Milkha Singh, MD Valsamma have brought India fame and glory. Of late India has also shone in sports like billiards, shooting, weightlifting and tennis, while traditional sports like wrestling and kabbadi have also contributed a share of medals at the Games.
In the last few Games, India's gold medal tally has been in single figures. It actually improved in the 1998 Bangkok Asiad to seven from the four golds it won in 1994 at Hiroshima. Among the Indians to win golds at Bangkok were Jyotirmoyee Sikdar and Ashok Shandilya, double gold medallists both, who between them more than half of India's gold medals!
India had won ten gold medals in the 2002 Busan Asian games.