Helped along by medals in boxing and bridge, India’s gold rush in the Asian Games matched its best ever, achieved in the first games in 1951. To equal it in the more competitive modern era of trained-to-the-minute sportsmen took some doing. The athletes facilitated the overall performance by winning almost half the gold medals, besides silver medals from very promising young athletes. India did not do well in traditional sports like hockey and kabaddi, which suggests the rest of the world is catching up in these team sports. Our sportspeople cannot let the euphoria of the moment drown out the fact that as a nation with a $2.6 trillion economy, which is also the fastest growing in the world and boasts of a respectable per capita income, we haven’t fared all that well in comparison. While the powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea will remain way ahead, we must remember we finished behind host Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Chinese-Taipei (Taiwan) while just edging out Kazakhstan.
The story of difficulties some of our medal-winning sportsmen faced early in their careers are touching reminders of how thinly spread out our facilities are. There is no knowing where talent may sprout from, but our rural sportspeople have done exceptionally well in fighting the odds to get to where they are now. They would thoroughly deserve the cash awards that will be raining on them like the Rs 3 crore grant from Odisha for Dutee Chand, an athlete who had Rs 500 in her bank account after being disqualified from competing in women’s sport. The stories of what many of them have faced in their youth are stirring. The fact that India had so many teenaged medal winners presages a bright future. A sportsman as sports minister showed how sportspeople can be lent moral support. On to the 2020 Olympics now!