Asian Games postponement leaves Indian athletes and federations with mixed feelings
Firstpost examines the mood at some of the major national camps in several disciplines across the country and the impact the postponement of the Asian Games is going to have on their season.
The inevitable finally happened. The 2022 Asian Games have been postponed to 2023 by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) amid growing speculation as COVID-19 cases surge in China, whose city of Hangzhou was due to host the quadrennial event. from September 10.
This disrupted preparations for the multiple national camps underway in various parts of India where athletes were scrambling in training in a bid to be at their best for a grueling schedule which included the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. a month and a half in advance. of Asiad now postponed. In fact, the postponement has not only left many athletes withdrawn from their preparation at the eleventh hour, but has also resulted in a waste of government resources, as most federations have already held trials and will now have to do so again next year. next.
And with the news hitting all camps, we spoke to athletes and officials to understand how the news affected them.
Athletics: the most affected
It would be safe to assume that no other discipline would be most affected by the postponement, as the Asian Games have been a happy hunting ground for track and field athletes. For example, India won 16 gold medals in the last edition of the event in Jakarta and eight of them were won by this discipline. Besides gold, they won nine silver and three bronze medals.
At present, Indian Athletics Federation regulates three national camps in Patiala (Javelin Thrower, Shot Put, Walk), Trivandrum (400m and 100m) and Bangalore (Horizontal Jumps and Middle and Long Distance Runners ) while Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra has been training in Antalya, Turkey since March.
With the exception of Neeraj and a few select elite athletes, who are also preparing for a tougher CWG and World Championships in Athletics, the remaining team has prioritized Asiad.
“It’s disappointing news for us because the whole camp was working hard for the Asian Games,” said one of NIS Patiala’s javelin throwers. First post. “For many of us, a medal at the Asian Games is a realistic goal and an opportunity for us to make our country proud. And also, a medal there often helps us get government jobs.
However, for distance runners (any event at or above 3000m) and elite athletes, who aim to compete in multiple international events, the postponement is a help.
“For distance runners, especially marathon runners, this is good news because the two tournaments are scheduled so close together that it won’t be possible for them to run at the CWG and recover and peak in time for Asiad,” said Amrish Kumar, who is the former coach of 3000m steeplechase national record holder Avinash Sable.
For elite track and field athletes, the postponement means they don’t need to peak three times this season for three different competitions.
“I had three events to compete in earlier (CWG, Asiad and Worlds) which meant I had to hit three peaks in the season,” said national long jump record holder M Sreeshankar. “But now that the Asian Games are postponed to 2023, we will have better preparation for the Olympics in 2024 because there will be other world championships next year. So I would say the postponement helps.
Wrestling: WFI sends A team for world championships
It’s a blessing in disguise for Indian wrestlers, who train at Sonepat (for men) and Luckow (for women), who had world championships lined up 10 days after Asiad’s climax.
Previously, the trials for the CWG, Asiad and Worlds qualifiers were scheduled for May 16-17, the winners of the trials in their respective Olympic category will head to the Asian Games and the CWG while the runners-up were due to head to the World Championship. in Serbia. They were also to be joined by the winners of the non-Olympic category events.
“We are still awaiting confirmation from the Indian Olympic Association or SAI, but once we have it, we will continue with the trials as planned later this month,” said WFI Deputy Secretary Vinod Tomar. “And now with the postponement of the Asian Games, it won’t be a problem for our wrestler, but now we can send our best wrestlers for the world championships instead of sending a B team.”
Archery and badminton: star athletes should have another chance to qualify for the Asian Games
The postponement to 2023 could also be good news for star archery pair Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das, who missed out on the Asian Games ticket after failing trials earlier this year.
An official from the Archery Association of India told the website that although they are yet to make a decision as a meeting is due to take place soon to discuss the matter, it is likely that new trials will take place before Asiad next year.
The same could be true for badminton star Saina Nehwal, who could get another shot at Asiad after the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist skipped trials to manage her workload. The badminton federation (BAI) has hinted to the PTI news agency that further trials will take place next year.
The atmosphere in the compound archery camp, however, is not the best as it takes a toll on their preparations for the Asian Games, as compound archery is an event not Olympic, which makes Asiad their Olympic Games.
“As it’s our Olympics, we’re giving it our all in an Asian Games year,” said archer Abhishek Verma, who recently won a team gold medal at the Archery World Cup in Turkey. “Rajat (Chauhan), Aman (Saini) and I were in great shape and were really excited about our chances in Hangzhou after winning gold in Antalya, but now we all have to start all over again next year.”
Shooting: Another major event off their calendar
The postponement, however, has Indian shooters worried as it was another major shooting event off their schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a disappointing show at the Olympics last year, some success at Asiad, which has Chinese and Korean powerhouses as competitors, would have helped, especially after the event was dropped from the CWG. However, the NRAI will now need to find quality competition so that its shooters are better prepared for Olympic quota events.
“Very surprised with the decision,” said 2018 Asiad silver medalist Sanjeev Rajput of Delhi national camp. “The Olympics were held in much worse conditions so this decision makes no sense. And the Asian Games were very vital not only for the medal but also in our preparations for the World Championships later this year. , who have Olympic places available. Now we only have a few World Cups to prepare for the World Championships.
Weightlifting: Mirabai Chanu and weightlifters wait longer for a medal
Since Mirabai Chanu won silver at the Olympics last year, hopes have been high for the 27-year-old weightlifter to end India’s barren run at the event since winning silver in Karnam Malleswari in 1998 and the delay only disrupted the preparation, forcing his coach to re-plan the season.
“This is disheartening news as our 20+ year wait for a medal will have to wait longer,” said national weightlifting coach Vijay Sharma of the NIS Patiala national camp. “CWG is not a tough competition for Mirabai, but the Asian Games had a tough competition and a medal there would have only helped him grow. The postponement will now cause us to abandon our plans and return to the drawing board.”
As previously reported, Mirabai will be competing in the 49kg class at the event instead of the 55kg class at the CWG.
Hockey: Indian teams will wait longer for Olympic qualification
India’s men’s hockey team were among the favorites to book their Olympic spot. However, the lack of competitive practice due to COVID-19 meant India were often unpredictable at the events they were expected to win, including the Asian Champions Trophy late last year where she finished third.
Niche sports Sepak Takraw, Wushu, etc. take a hit
Niche sports such as Sepak Takraw, Wushu, Kurash and newly introduced Esports will take a hit and the Games are their only opportunity to get noticed once every four years.
“We win medals in competitions of equal stature and even in bigger events, but nothing beats the success of a medal at the Asian Games,” said Sepak Takraw player Harish Kumar. Harish made headlines in 2018 when he was found selling tea in Delhi after winning a team bronze medal in Jakarta.
The athlete still remains hopeful that all is not lost as the Asian Games will be back next year. However, with the pandemic making things uncertain, there is no guarantee against another postponement or worse, cancellation.