Glorious Moments of India: Asian Games
From hosting the first Asian Games in 1951 to giving its finest performance in 2010, India has come a long way. India has participated and won a medal in every Asiad. Along the way, we have had some golden moments that made every Indian proud.
Our athletes have broken shackles of constraints and shattered records. There have been tears of joy as well as heartbreak. However, these fond memories continue to inspire aspiring athletes. With the Asian Games 2018 here, we take a look at ten golden moments in Asian Games that you did not know about.
India Hosts the First Asiads
- India had the privilege of hosting the first ever Asian Games in 1951. In fact, an Indian, Guru Dutt Sondhi played a crucial role in starting the games. He founded the Asian Games Federation on 13 February 1949 along with members of five countries. The Federation organized Asiads till 1982 when it was replaced by the Olympic Council of Asia.
- Then-president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad officially inaugurated the games at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium. A total of 489 athletes participated in the first Asiads. India stood second in the medal tally with 51 medals. Japan topped the list with 60.
- The games occupy a very special place in Indian history. They strengthened the Asian spirit and gave a platform for the many newly-independent nations to showcase their strength.
India’s First Gold Medal
- The very first edition of the Asian Games turned out to be historical for India. Not only was India hosting the inaugural games, but also won its first Asiad gold medal. The man who made history was Sachin Nag.
- A man who has been conveniently forgotten with time, Nag never got the recognition he deserved. He won the gold medal in 100m freestyle at the inaugural Asiads in New Delhi. That was not all; his medal tally also included two bronze medals. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru appreciated him for this feat.
- The humble man practiced swimming in the holy water of the Ganga in Varanasi. He still remains the only Indian swimmer to win the gold in 100m freestyle event. It is really sad that most Indians don’t know the man who got our country its first Asiad gold medal. Nag passed away in 1987 in Kolkata.
PT Usha on Fire
- The queen of Indian track and field literally set the track on fire at the 1986 Asian Games. She won two silvers in 1982 Asiads. However, that was just a trailer of things to come.
- At the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, Usha shattered all records to win five individual medals. Four out of those were gold! She won gold medals in the 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, and 4x400m relay. Only in the 100m sprint, she had to settle for the silver. The Payyoli Express, as she is fondly called, made India truly proud of her daughter.
- “My first Asian Games was in 1982 in New Delhi and the last in 1988 in Bangkok. I remember my races at all those five Games but, of course, it is the 1986 edition that gave me the greatest joy,” she said in an interview.
- With her incredible feat, Usha has the record of being the best finisher at any international meet. Pilavullakandi Thekkeraparambil Usha became the golden girl of Indian athletics after the Asiads!
Hockey Team Wins Gold
- Padma Shree winner Dhanraj Pillai led the Indian hockey team to glory at the Bangkok Asiads. Indian hockey team beat South Korea in a thrilling shootout. Pillai was the top scorer of the tournament with eleven goals in six games. It was a proud moment for the entire country.
- The team was so exuberant after the win that all the players danced away the entire night. The win increased the morale of all players as they had not had a very successful 1998.
- The sport had a revival of sorts after the historic victory. Unfortunately, the next hockey gold came directly in 2014 Incheon Games for India.
Anju Bobby George Jumps Her Way to Glory
“When I flew to Busan for the 2002 Asian Games, my aim was to win the gold. I would not have settled for anything less. Having won the bronze at the Commonwealth Games at Manchester earlier in the year, I was confident that I could strike gold at the Asian Games, where, I knew, the competition wasn’t going to be as tough. I also knew that India had never won a medal in the women’s long jump event; I am proud that I could become the first. And the medal I won was the first one India got in athletics at Busan. That also made me happy.”
- Anju had come to Busan Asian Games with just one supreme goal. She reached just a day before the competition and hardly got any time to practice. She won the gold medal with a long jump of 6.53 m and created history. It was truly a golden moment for the entire country.
- Now she is working as a government observer for track and field athletics. She is trying to better the management and infrastructure for athletics.
Milkha Singh – The Flying Sikh
- Milkha Singh is called as the flying Sikh for a reason. He brought India her first success in track and field events. The year was 1958, and Abdul Khaliq of Pakistan was considered to be the fastest man in the world. A young sprinter from India came to dethrone him. Milkha Singh won gold medals in 200m and 400m sprint events at the Tokyo Asian Games. He was declared as the fastest man in Asia then.
- It was a very close finish against Khaliq. The entire nation witnessed Milkha Singh’s feat with rapt attention. Both reached the finish line at almost the same time. After much scrutiny, Milkha was declared as the winner in the 200m event.
- Milkha got a well-deserved hero’s welcome in Patiala. His achievement is truly a golden moment for all Indians. It was not just a win; it was about breaking the shackles, and the beginning of a new era.
- Milkha Singh inspired many generations with his stellar feat. Today, athletics contributes the most to India’s medal tally.
Geet Sethi and Ashok Shandilya Win English Billiards
- The year was 1998. For the first time in the history of Asian Games, a cue sport was included. Two Indians entered the finals of English Billiards doubles event. They brought the first gold medal home. History was created that day by Geet Sethi and Ashok Shandilya.
- “I was a five-time world billiards champion at the time, but none of those titles meant as much as that winning moment in Bangkok. I have cried only once after a title victory and it was at that victory ceremony in Bangkok when the tirangawas raised and our national anthem was played. Those tears are proof that that was my golden moment.”Geet Sethi said in an interview.
Dingko Singh – The Boxing Hero
- Dingko Singh is one of the best boxers in India. He did not let the last-minute selection deter him and went on to win the gold medal in the 54 kg category at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.
- His success led to a resurgence of boxing in Manipur and inspired many young boxers. The most prominent among those is boxing star Mary Kom.
- He was first left out of the India boxing contingent but was reinstated at the last moment by his coaches. The decision couldn’t have been better, as Dingko shut all naysayers and brought glory with his gold medal.
Jyotirmoyee Sikdar’s Golden Feat
- The Arjuna Award winner captured the imagination of the entire country in 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. Jyotirmoyee won gold medals at both 800m and 1500m events. She was bestowed with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for her feat.
- The Bengali sensation had sporting inspiration at home itself. Her father is a former pole vaulter himself. Hence, she started training from a very young age and made her mark at various national level competitions.
- “Getting to that level was quite difficult 20 years ago as the facilities were minimal. The athletes today are getting 80 percent more support than what we used to get, “she says in an interview.
Jaspal Rana Brings Glory
- He shot his way to glory with 30 shots in 45 minutes and a score of 290 out of 300. In the dueling event as well, he hit the target 28 out of 30 times. His average score of 588 was just two points short of a world record! The teenager made history in 1994 by winning a gold medal at Hiroshima Asian Games.
- Jaspan first picked up the gun when he was just eight years old. He had to practice by firing blanks as bullets were very expensive.
- However, the teenager did not let these constraints affect him. He hit the bull’s eye when it mattered the most. His gold medal in the 25m center fire pistol event was truly a golden moment for the entire country.
- “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,” he says.
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