Asian Games 2023: First-ever Asiad, PT Usha's gold rush, Neeraj's record throw - India's 10 greatest moments in history
India will be aiming to better its record performance at the Asian Games in 2018, when it won 70 medals including 16 top podium finishes.
India boasts an illustrious track record in its association with the Asian Games, marked by notable achievements that span over the years. From pioneering the hosting of the tournament to scripting historic victories across a vast array of sports fields, India's legacy in the Asian Games is a tale worth celebrating. As the Indian contingent is set for this year's edition for the Asiad in Hangzhou, let's delve into the top ten moments that define this remarkable journey for a nation.
First ever Asiad hosts
India's journey as the inaugural host in 1951 and subsequently in 1982 laid the foundation for its enduring legacy in the Asian Games, showcasing its capability as a sporting nation. The 1951 Games were officially opened by then-president Rajendra Prasad, and India stood second in the medal tally with 15 gold medals, and 51 medals overall in the opening Asiad.
Football golds in 1951, 1962
Sailen Manna's team shined through as India secured a 1-0 victory over Iran in the final, with then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in attendance, to claim the prestigious gold medal in 1951. Subsequently, in 1962, India clinched their second football gold by defeating Korea 2-1 in Jakarta.
Milkha Singh's historic gold
India's remarkable era in track events owes much to the iconic Milkha Singh. In 1958, the 'Flying Sikh' clinched not just one but two gold medals in the 200m and 400m sprinting events during the Tokyo Games. This achievement earned him the title of Asia's fastest man and led to his promotion from the rank of sepoy to a junior commissioned officer.
PT Usha's gold rush in 1986
Milkha Singh's legacy paved the way for PT Usha, who went on to surpass her two silver medals from the 1982 Asian Games by claiming an incredible four golds. Known as the ‘Payyoli Express’, Usha broke national records in the 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, and 4x400m relay, securing five individual medals in total. Reflecting on her Asian Games journey, she stated, "I participated in my first Asian Games in 1982 in New Delhi and my last in 1988 in Bangkok. While I remember my races at all five of those Games, it is the 1986 edition that brought me the greatest joy."
Jaspal Rana shoots historic first gold
At 17, Rana became the first Indian to win a pistol event gold medal at the Asian Games when he secured a top podium finish in the 25m centre fire event in Hiroshima in 1994. Remembering the medal, Rana had said, “It was a blessing that we had no facilities, no big rewards and no distractions. We only knew hard work. The jubilation back home was unbelievable.”
Hockey triumph in 1998
The Indian hockey team arrived at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, determined to regain its lost glory following a disappointing ninth-place finish at the World Cup. Led by Dhanraj Pillay, the team delivered inspirational performances, notably defeating South Korea 5-3 in a shootout to secure the gold medal. Captain Pillay, who scored 11 goals in six games, played a pivotal role in ensuring that they returned home with their heads held high.
Geet Sethi-Ashok Shandilya achieve billiards glory
In a historic first for cue sports, the Asian Games in 1998 had also marked the inclusion of this discipline, and Geet Sethi and Ashok Shandilya seized the opportunity by securing a gold medal in English billiards doubles. Overcoming a challenging 1-2 deficit, they rallied to a triumphant 4-3 victory against the local favorites Praprut Chaithanasakun and Mongkhon Kanfaklang.
Mary Kom breaks the deadlock
In the 2014 Asian Games held in South Korea, MC Mary Kom achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first Indian female boxer to secure a gold medal. The Olympic bronze medalist displayed her tactical prowess by defeating her opponent, Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan, with a 2-0 victory in the 51kg category, strategically adapting her approach in each round.
Neeraj Chopra, the Javelin champion
One can say that the Asiad glory in 2018 marked the beginning of Neeraj's journey to glory in Javelin throw. Sure, he had won a Commonwealth Games gold before and had been a champion in age events as well, but the top podium finish solidified Neeraj's stature as the next big thing in the javelin event. Neeraj eventually went on to win Olympic gold three years later, and became a world champion, bagging gold in the championships last month.
First ever medal in Table Tennis
In a sport that has seen the likes of China, South Korea, and Singapore dominating for years, India scripted history in 2018 with its first-ever medal in table tennis, winning bronze in the men's team event. The side defeated Japan in the quarterfinals. The duo of Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra also won a bronze in the mixed doubles event.