Yesterday, I was discussing how interesting sepak takraw is with a colleague of mine. That made me wonder, had it not been for the Asiad glory, would I even know of the game. Probably not! The Jakarta Palembang Asian Games 2018 were spectacular for India. However, it was not because of just the medal tally. The Asiads brought the spotlight on many unknown or not so popular games. India had a lot of firsts at this edition of the games. That is what makes them special.

We did have some unexpected and heartbreaking losses in hockey and kabaddi, but some other sports brought a lot of cheer. Let us have a look at ten things that India did for the first time in the Asian Games 2018.

Asian Games 2018: Table Tennis champions make India proud

Table tennis was first introduced at the Asian Games in 1958. India has not won a single game in the event. Until now that is. The Indian men’s team brought home the country’s first Asiad medal. G Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal, and A Amalraj were the champions who scripted their names in history with the feat. India ousted Japan 3-1 to enter the semifinals and assure the nation its first medal. However, the team lost to South Korea 3-0 in the semifinals and had to settle for the bronze.

Sepak Takraw brings laurels

Sepak takraw contingent at the Asiads

Another bronze that shines like gold for Indians came from sepak takraw.  The game originates from and is popularly played in Southeastern countries. It is a recreational as well as competitive sport in which the ball is kept in the air without using hands. Many people became aware of the sport after our champions brought home the bronze.

The men’s team first defeated Iran and lost to Indonesia in the regu team event at the Jakarta Palembang Asiads. However, they advanced to the semifinals only to be knocked out by Thailand. There was the victory even in defeat for our players as both semifinalists were awarded bronze medals.

The historic feat has opened up new doors for the game as well as for players who come from humble backgrounds.

India’s wushu glory at the Asiads

The wushu team at the Asian Games 2018

Wushu is an extensive and full-contact style of Chinese martial arts. Before our athletes’ glorious performance, many of us were not even aware of the game. The Jakarta Palembang Asian Games will always be special for wushu players as they came back with not, not two, but four medals! Indian team members, Naorem Roshibina Devi, Santosh Kumar, Surya Bhanu Partap Singh, and Narendra Grewal, instantly became a star with their performances. However, the real star is the game itself.

Though the game came to India in 1989, it has not attained the popularity it deserves. Most of the wushu players are from Jammu & Kashmir. The tide will definitely turn now with the media attention and appreciation. This sport also has numerous health benefits and is played to keep fit.

Fouaad Mirza brings equestrian glory

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Equestrian star of India – Fouaad Mirza

There was a lot of confusion about the equestrian team’s participation in the 2018 Asiads.  Fortunately, the entire struggle was more than worth it. Fouaad Mirza got India its first silver in the equestrian event after the inaugural edition of 1982. He achieved the historical feat in individual jumping with a score of 26.40. The Indian team also got a silver medal.

Fitness of the horse is a major concern because he’s practically coming from a cold climate; they have to be fit to endure. He has coped very well with the weather, did a fantastic job today. Remember, he is the main athlete here. We reap the glory but he’s done all the work,” humble Mirza told The Hindu after the race.

Fouaad, just like what his name means, is a lion heart. He displayed spectacular control and technic in the race. He missed the gold due to a single jumping fault. His silver is special, as it will bring equestrian sports in the limelight. Better opportunities and financial assistance will help attract more players to it.

Rahi Sarnobat’s golden shot

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Another exciting new thing for India was the gold medal in shooting by Rahi Sarnobat. The experienced Rahi kept calm in the finals to get the better of her opponent from Thailand to clinch the gold. Her spectacular performance was all the more special as she wasn’t in the limelight before the games. She came out of nowhere and captured the imagination of the entire nation.

Manu Bhacker, with her superb performances over the years, was the favorite to win the 25 meters pistol event. However, she couldn’t handle the pressure well. It was Rahi who shot her way into the pages of history.

Rahi’s family was confident of the gold at the Asiads. In an interview with the Mid-day, her father said,

“I was confident that her preparations and sincere efforts would pay off. I was sure Rahi would win a gold medal at this Asian Games. Now, I expect her to earn an Olympic quota from the next World Championships that will be held in Korea. I personally thank the Olympic Gold Quest for providing Rahi the best physios, doctors, who helped her to overcome the injury and perform better.”

Vinesh Phogat brings home the wrestling gold

Vinesh Phogat celebrates after winning the gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games
Vinesh Phogat celebrates after winning the gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

India had another first at the Asian Games when Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman to win a gold in wrestling. The moment was truly historic and has made Vinesh the golden girl of wrestling. She got the better of her Japanese opponent, Yuki Irie by 6-2 to seal the deal. Coming from the illustrious Phogat family, the gold was truly expected from Vinesh! At the previous edition of the Asiads, she had settled for a bronze, but nothing could stop the young champion.

Now it is time to focus on the next dream – the Olympic gold!

 

Swapna Barman’s heptathlon feat

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Swapna Barman after her stunning victory

Greatness does not come easy. It involves undying passion, dedication, and sometimes sacrifice. Swapna Barman captured the imagination of the entire nation by bringing home the Asian Games gold in the heptathlon. The medal is India’s very first gold medal in the event. The obstacles that Swapna had to face make it all the more special. She scored a total of 6026 points in the final in spite of an excruciating toothache.

“I come from a very modest family background where financial struggles meant there was no easy access to training facilities. But despite these difficulties, I always dreamt that I would make a difference on the field. Because on the field, it isn’t about who you are, where you are from, and how long it has taken you to get there. This is what inspired me. Sports allow us all to dream a little,” Swapna Barman told the Bridge in an interview.

This is what India needs. Dreamers who are ready to give it all to fulfill their dreamers. Then, India will have new achievements and records.

 

Sania and PV Sindhu win first individual medals in badminton

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Golden girls of badminton in India

Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu are poster girls of badminton in India. Their achievements have played a key role in the popularity of the game among masses. At the 2018 Asian Games, they both added another feather in their caps by winning India’s first individual Asiad medals in badminton.

“I was not aware that no Indian has ever won an individual medal in Asian Games Badminton. There was no network in the room so I could not check the previous record of the Games. Only this morning I came to know about this. Now I have been assured of a medal. It is indeed a very happy moment for me,” Saina told United News of India in an interview.

She went on to win the bronze. PV Sindhu went a step further and got the silver back home. It is quite surprising that these are India’s first individual medals. However, it is good to see both young girls shattering one record after another.

 

Neeraj Chopra adds another gold to his stellar record

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Neeraj Chopra celebrating his victory

He brought India its first gold medal in the javelin throw and shattered his own national record. He is none other than the champion – Neeraj Chopra. His monstrous throw of monstrous 88.06m enabled him to win the gold. It was truly a historic feat. Neeraj is winning one tournament after another and is in absolute top form. His Asian Games feat has surely etched names in the books of history. A memorable first for India!

The young lad dedicated his gold medal to Late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is now aiming to break into the meter sees league. With his superb technique and hard work, we are sure he will get another first for India at the Tokyo Olympics 2020!

Sports always teaches us to unite people, to be good towards your competitors. Sports is not meant to show hatred to others,” he told The Indian Express in an interview.

 

Bridge makes its golden debut

A diverse team made of architects retired teachers, and industrialists pleasantly surprised us at the Asiads. The team was representing India in bridge at its debut in the Asian Games. The eldest member of the team was 79 years old! They came home not with one but two medals. Pranab Bardhan and Shibnath Sarkar won the gold in the men’s pair event with 384 points. India also won a bronze medal each in the men’s team and mixed team events.

For many people, bridge is equivalent to gambling. Hence, this victory is particularly special. It will open many doors for the game and clear the speculations.

“Bridge is not very easy to learn and has very specific rules. There are four sections: Lead, defense, hand-play, and bidding. These are the certain major rules and you need to have a good understanding with your partner to excel. One requires a lot of concentration and focus and you need to have a coach if you wish to progress,” Hema Deora, a team member, told the Scroll in an interview.

Bridge is definitely not a sport that is dependent on luck. We hope that with this stunning debut, it reaches more people across the country. It does not require physical prowess, making it enjoyable for people of all ages.  Prime Minister Modi also appreciated the team.

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