As the curtains came down on the 18th Asian Games, India walked out of the arena with its head held high. Our athletes rose to the occasion and surpassed everybody’s expectations. They carried a nation’s dream on their shoulders, and every time we saw the tricolour rise during the national anthem, our hearts swelled with pride. Let’s take a look at some of our athletes who made India proud at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
The star javelin thrower was India’s flag-bearer for the Asian Games opening ceremony. There were high expectations from Neeraj Chopra after he won gold at the Commonwealth Games. And he didn’t disappoint. With a throw of 88.06m, Neeraj not only bagged a gold medal at the Asian Games but also recorded his best performance so far.
Wrestling runs in the Phogat family’s blood. So it was no surprise that Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at the Asian Games. Her elder sisters Geeta and Babita came into the limelight after the film Dangal. But Vinesh has also managed to carve a niche for herself now. With her eyes now set on the Tokyo Olympics, we hope she does India proud again.
Tejinder Pal Singh Toor not only won the gold medal in men’s shot put but also set a new Asian Games record. Now that’s how you leave your mark at an international event! He was drawn towards cricket but shifted to shot put on his father’s insistence. Now along with Tejinder, the whole country is reaping the benefits of that decision.
What’s common between Swaran Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh? Yes, they won gold in the quadruple sculls at the Asian Games, but they are also in the Indian Army. The team was down with fever during the race with Bhokanal. But they still displayed an immense amount of grit and determination to lead India to a gold medal.
An experienced campaigner, Rahi Jeevan Sarnobat, became the first Indian woman shooter to win a gold medal at the Asian Games. The 27-year-old had earlier won gold in the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games. She is a force to reckon with in the Women’s 25m Pistol event.
While many kids his age stress over the upcoming board exams, Saurabh Chaudhary had other plans. The 16-year-old defeated several World and Olympic champions in the 10m air pistol to claim the gold medal. Saurabh displayed a sense of maturity and calmness beyond his age to seal the victory in the final shot. It wasn’t surprising then that his Japanese and Chinese counterparts were in awe of his achievement.
‘Wrestler Bajrang Punia brings India’s first Asian Games gold,’ read the headline all over the country. The 24-year-old Haryanavi won the final bout 11-8 in the 65 kg freestyle category. Bajrang is widely regarded as India’s fastest and most powerful grappler. His main objective now is to elevate his fitness levels and focus on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Dutee Chand was on the tracks for a total of about 35 seconds for both her 100m and 200m events. But the sprinter had to go through a lot to reap the rewards of those few seconds. She was banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after failing the hyperandrogenism test, an event that would break many. But Dutee fought against the hardships and clinched two silver medals. She will leave no stone victory to better her achievements in the Tokyo Olympics.
Pain and agony have long been a part of Swapna Barman’s life. She was born with six toes on both her feet, so is in excruciating pain every time she wears spikes. She has dealt with injuries to her knee, her ankle and even her fingers. A few years ago she was diagnosed with a disc bulge, a career-ending back injury. While the physical pain constantly pulls Swapna down, her mental strength ensures she fights her battles tooth and nail. With an event like Hepthalon (a track and field competition consisting of seven events), she has proved that nothing can pin her down. It’s no wonder then that Swapna has been hailed as Wonder Woman after her gold medal-winning performance!
One has to make innumerable sacrifices to achieve glory, even if that means not being able to see your five-month-old son since his birth. Manjit Singh has been through all this and more. He wasn’t considered a medal prospect in the run-up to the Asian Games because of injuries. Manjit was also jobless after ONGC did not renew his sports contract because they felt he was too old to improve. The 29-year-old did not have a good start to the race either. He was in fourth position until the last 90m. That is when he channelled his inner strength and sprinted past everyone. By winning gold in the 800m, Manjit Singh has answered his critics in the best way possible.