More than the podium: Not every victory at the Asian Games came with a medal

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More than the podium: Not every victory at the Asian Games came with a medal

By Abhijit Nair

David Beckham – not the former English footballer – has been one of the standout stars for India at the ongoing 2022 Asian Games. Yet, chances are that the Indian cyclist is unheard of.

More than 10 days into the continental event, India has raked in an excess of 70 medals in Hangzhou. But Beckham, who lost his father in the deadly 2004 tsunami and mother 10 years later, did not win a single one of them.

All of 20, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands native instead became the first Indian to qualify for the sprint quarter-final at the Asian Games. He finished eighth, with a national record, in what has been one of the best performances by an Indian in the sport since the three medals won at the inaugural Asiad in 1951, in Delhi.

He might not have been remotely close to a podium, but Beckham’s display in Hangzhou deserves more adulation.

So do the efforts of Karthika Jagadeeswaran and Vikrant Ingale, who finished fifth in the women’s and men’s individual 1000m speed skating sprint events respectively. They subsequently won a bronze each as part of the men’s and women’s 3000m relay teams – India’s first roller skating medal since the 2010 Guangzhou Games.

The Asian Games – just like other multi-sports events – glamourise the victors while those who do not get to the podium are afforded those 15 minutes of fame. If at all.

Yet if there is one thing that the ongoing Asiad should compel fans, federations and ministry bigwigs to do is not let the efforts of those that did not make the podium go unappreciated.

The Indian men’s volleyball team played out of their skins, defeating two higher ranked sides – South Korea and Chinese Taipei – before finishing sixth.

Fencer Bhavani Devi flew below the radar despite a brilliant run which saw her record six straight wins in women’s individual sabre before losing out to the eventual silver medallist Shao Yaqi in the quarter-finals.

The table tennis men’s doubles pair of Manush Shah and Manav Thakkar, too, gave a brilliant account of themselves before going down in a hard fought quarter-final battle against the world No 1 pair from South Korea. Besides, multiple “Best Indian Time” were set in swimming.

Among the medallists, the bronze medal from the table tennis women’s doubles pair of Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee is worth its weight in gold. The duo from Naihati, West Bengal, defeated reigning world champions Meng Chen and Wang Yidi in their own den in the quarter-finals to secure a medal – India’s first-ever in women’s doubles at the Asian Games.

The equestrian quartet of Sudipti Hajela, Divyakriti Singh, Hriday Chheda, and Anush Agarwalla brought home the first-ever gold in the sport in 41 years. Each of their families has spent Rs 3 to Rs 5 crore from their own pockets. Agarwalla, who missed out on the 2018 Asian Games and the Tokyo Olympics three years later, also brought home India’s first-ever individual dressage medal – bronze – just days later.

Vithya Ramraj, who won bronze in women’s 400m hurdles, had equalled a 39-year-old national record held by the legendary PT Usha in the heats.

And there are many more tales of athletes punching well above their weight.

As we head into the final leg of the Hangzhou Asian Games – already the most successful in Indian history – it is important to remember that not every victory comes with a medal.

Fun Fact for the Week: The Indian shooting contingent returned from the 2022 Asian Games with its best ever medal haul in the sport at the continental event. Prior to the ongoing event, Indian shooting’s best return from an Asiad was in Doha 2006, when the team won 14 medals (three gold, five silver, six bronze). In Hangzhou, the shooting contingent won 22 medals (seven gold, nine silver, six bronze).

Here's a recap of the top stories from this past week

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