A year is a long time in sports and the course of events can change dramatically in 12 months.
As the clock ticks down for the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, which were postponed by a year and re-scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 8 in 2023, there’s again a shadow of doubt over them, thanks to the Covid-19 upsurge in China.
The 19th Asian Games or Hangzhou 2022 were originally scheduled to be held from September 10-26 in 2022 but were rescheduled by a year at the request of the Chinese Olympic Association because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But with the cases still rising in China and the entire region, it is doubtful the Games will be held as per the new schedule.
But then China organised the Winter Olympics in Beijing early this year despite the threat of the pandemic.
So, if the conditions improve in the next three to four months and the Games are conducted as per the revised schedule, the Games will be eagerly awaited as Hangzhou 2022 will fall bang in the middle of the qualifying period for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and thus will get a lot of attention from sportspersons from the region.
In the normal course, the Asian Games are always a preparatory event for sportspersons from the Continent for the subsequent Olympic Games as it is an opportunity to take stock of their preparations two years ahead of the event. But this time, because of the postponement caused by the pandemic, the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games less than 12 months before Paris Olympics and the medal aspirants will be in the advanced stage of their preparations for 2024.
Around 45 nations from the continent are expected to participate in the Games which feature 37 sports, including the 28 mandatory Olympic sports to be contested at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The Games will be conducted in 44 venues, including 30 existing facilities and 14 newly-constructed venues.
The Games will be crucial for India as success in Hangzhou will indicate the progress of the Indian sportspersons in their quest for medals in the Paris Olympic Games, which will be held from July 26 to August 11, 2024.
India’s performance at the Asian Games prior to the Olympics has always given an insight into their success at the Olympics. Take for example the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia in which India achieved their best-ever medal haul of 70 medals including 16 gold. Subsequently, at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, India registered their best-ever medal haul, claiming seven medals including their second-ever individual gold medal — Neeraj Chopra claiming the yellow metal in men’s javelin throw.
India have made some big strides in sports in the last decade or so and have started regularly winning medals at the Olympics. A founding member of the Asian Games and the Olympic Council of Asia, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) will be hoping to reap the rewards of this progress at Hangzhou.
India will be expecting medals from its athletes, archers, boxers, wrestlers, hockey teams, shuttlers, paddlers, shooters and weightlifters at the Asian Games and if the trend from the last few editions is any indication, India should be expecting their best performance in the history of the Games.
India will be expecting medals from the likes of Olympic gold medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, steeplechaser Avinash Sable, CWG 2022 triple jump gold medallist Eldose Paul, long jumper Murali Shreeshankar, high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, shot putter Tejinderpal Singh Toor; shooters Manu Bhaker, Anjum Moudgil, Elavenil Valarivan, Saurabh Chaudhary; boxers Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain, World Champion Nikhat Zareen and Jaismine Lamboria; wrestlers Vinesh Phoghat, Anshu Malik, Antim Phangal, Bajrang Punia, Deepak Punia and shuttlers PV Sindhu, Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty and the hockey teams to win medals.
Some of them like the hockey teams have already qualified while the others have to clinch their berths for the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou. But it sure will be an intriguing challenge for Indian sportspersons that will help them evaluate their chances for Paris 2024.