The Indian contingent of 516 participants will look to make their mark at the 17th Asian Games that begin today at Incheon, South Korea. Buoyed by their performance at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Glasgow, India is targeting at least 70 medals across 28 disciplines at this year’s Asian Games. The team is aiming to surpass the tally of 65 medals (including 14 gold) set at Guangzhou in 2010.
Boom News lists some of the athletes to watch out for over the next fortnight.
Vikas Gowda (Athletics)
The 6’9” discus thrower is India’s best prospect for a medal in athletics. Vikas Gowda achieved a personal best of 66.90 m in 2013 and will need to replicate the form at Incheon to bag the coveted gold medal. He is riding on a wave of confidence after his career-best achievement of winning gold at Glasgow with a throw of 63.64 m. His toughest competition will probably come from Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi who will also be aiming to cross the 65 m mark.
Deepika Kumari (Archery)
The former World No. 1 archer had missed out on an individual medal in Glasgow by a whisker. She had succumbed under pressure at the London Olympics but her recent performance at the Archery World Cup 2014 Stage 4 in Poland showed that she can live up to the high expectations of the nation.
Deepika Kumari told Times of India: "I must admit in London I was bogged down by pressure and obviously there is pressure on me here as well. The main part is how you deal with it so that it doesn't affect your performance. I have to make sure that the pressure factor works in a positive way for me."
Kumari will face tough competition from the South Koreans, especially Ki Bo-Bae, the reigning Olympic gold medalist.
P. V. Sindhu (Badminton)
The 19-year-old badminton player from Hyderabad is heading into the Games on a high of back-to-back bronze medals at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. Along with Saina Nehwal, P. V. Sindhu is aiming to end India’s 28-year-old medal drought at the Asian Games. The last time Indian shuttlers won a medal was in 1986 when the men’s team had claimed the third place. The Chinese and South Koreans are formidable opponents but Sindhu has defeated top players like Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the past.
Jitu Rai (Shooting)
Ranked No. 1 in the world, Jitu Rai leads India’s shooting hopes in the 10 m air pistol and 50 m free pistol events. Rai won gold at Glasgow and followed it with a silver medal at the 51st ISSF World Championships in Granada, which secured him an Olympic quota berth. He is the first Indian shooter to win five international medals in a calendar year and he would want to add to his tally at Incheon.
Jin Jingoh, the South Korean double Olympic champion, and Pu Qifeng, Chinese world number six and defending champion, are the prime contenders. Rai told IBNLive: "Asian Games is a huge multisport extravaganza and I would like to do well there, win a medal and bring laurels to the country. The competition is going to be tough but I am pretty confident of finishing on the podium and continue the momentum."
Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa (Squash)
India’s doubles duo of Pallikal and Chinappa won the gold at the Commonwealth Games and hope to pull off an encore performance. They are seeded third in the women’s doubles category. In singles, they are pitched to meet in the quarter-finals. This ensures another medal for the nation if both players win their respective first rounds.
The teams from Hong Kong and Malaysia could provide a tricky challenge for the Indian pairing. “We are ranked third in both men’s and women’s team events. Malaysia and Hong Kong will be there but we are capable of doing well. On a good day, anything can happen,” Pallikal said in an interview with The Indian Express.
Amit Kumar (Wrestling)
In the absence of Sushil Kumar, the hopes of a wrestling gold lie on young Amit Kumar’s shoulder. He became the youngest wrestler to represent India at the Olympics with his participation in London 2012. Kumar is the second seed in the 57 kg freestyle category. He recently secured the top podium finish at Glasgow for the same. The Indian grappler will most likely have to beat Iran's Hassan Rahimi to win a medal. Rahimi had defeated him at the world championships in 2013 and is ranked No. 1.
“At the Asian Games, we will have the top wrestlers in my weight category. Rahimi and I have the same style of wrestling. He defeated me at the World Championships but then I also defeated him. Our record stands at 1-1,” Kumar told FirstPost.
Chitresh Tatha (Sailing)
India's youngest representative at the Asian Games is 12-year-old Chitresh Tatha. The child prodigy will compete in sailing in the dinghy category. Tatha, a student from Kilpauk, has participated in several competitions across the world. He was selected after an outstanding performance during the selection trials when he won eight of 15 races and finished among the top five in the remaining races.