Asian Games: How did India reach a magic tally of 107 medals?

The scale of the achievement has been so overwhelming that it has all but overshadowed the Indian cricket team’s build-up to its campaign for the 50-over World Cup

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (left) and Chirag Shetty, the first-ever Indian badminton doubles pair to win an Asian Games gold medal (photo: National Herald archives)
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (left) and Chirag Shetty, the first-ever Indian badminton doubles pair to win an Asian Games gold medal (photo: National Herald archives)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

The morning after India’s campaign in all events ended at the Hangzhou Asian Games, the sense of awe simply refuses to fade at India’s medal rush over the last two weeks. When the flame is handed over to Aichi-Nagoya, hosts of the 2026 edition, at the closing ceremony on Sunday — the point to ponder will be can they maintain such steam after four years? 

It’s a tally which one knows by heart now — 107 medals with 28 gold, 28 silver and 41 bronze. This is a quantum 50 per cent jump from the previous best haul of only five years back in 2018 Games, where the breakdown was as follows: 16 gold, 23 silver and 31 bronze medals. 

From an eighth-place finish in Indonesia behind the hosts, Uzbekistan, Iran and Chinese Taipei (same as 2014), India stands at an impressive fourth spot in the table after China, Japan and South Korea — a position that is unlikely to change on the final day as they have a higher number of golds compared to the Uzbeks (20). A far cry this from 1990, when the Games were held for the first time in China in Beijing, and India had limped back home with one gold and 23 medals in all. 

How did Team India arrive at such a magic figure? A small statistic will reflect how they exceeded expectations throughout the campaign: once Friday’s medal events were over, the tally of medals already in the bag stood at 95 and with at least seven more assured on Saturday, early celebrations had begun in the Indian camp that they could be finishing at the 102 mark. They went ahead and did five better, claiming 12 more medals on the penultimate day to finish at 107. 

The scale of the achievement has been so overwhelming that it has all but overshadowed the Indian cricket team’s build-up to its campaign for the 50-over World Cup at home. While it could be back to cricket fever once again as the week rolls on, the impact of the so-called ‘strike rate’ (borrowing cricket parlance) of the Indian contingent, which shows a yield of at least one medal per six athletes (there was a 650-plus contingent in nearly 40 disciplines), tells its own story. 


While athletics and shooting squads accounted for almost 50 per cent of the medals (29 and 22, respectively), it’s the medals from several unexpected quarters which eventually took the country past the three-figure mark. How many of us would have expected the Mukherjee girls — as Sutirtha and Ayhika have become famous as — to ensure a bronze for themselves after turning the tables on the mighty Chinese in the table tennis quarter-finals?

The soft-spoken Sutirtha is the one who, along with her personal coach and former national champion Soumyadeep Roy, once faced the humiliation of being accused of match-fixing by Monica Batra, her teammate and a star paddler in Hangzhou.  

Talking of the wow factor, it will be difficult to match Kishore Jena, the javelin thrower from Odisha. If one had suggested even two months back that there could be two more Indian throwers in the final of World Athletics along with the formidable Neeraj Chopra, it would have been laughed off. However, Jena and D.P. Manu showed they had no stage fright and neither were they content to stay in the shadows of Chopra, a modern legend of the sport.   

Jena’s personal best of 87.54 m, which gave him silver in Hangzhou on Friday apart from a ticket to Paris Olympics, showed he has come to stay. The list of such surprise packages, from the equestrian foursome who gave India a historic gold and their first medal in the sport after 41 years to the historic bronze for canoers Arjun Singh and Sunil Singh Salam or Ram Babu and Manu Rani’s bronze finish in the mixed 35 km walk, has been endless.  

There is clearly a paradigm shift in the mindset of the majority of Indian athletes. They are no longer afraid to look fancied rivals in the eye, or meekly accept any foul play in the system — the best example of this being hurdler Jyothi Yarraji holding her own despite a poor start after being sandwiched between Chinese runners because of her rival’s false start, and still going on to win silver. 

Does Hangzhou, then, signal the birth of a new sporting superpower in Asia? It’s still early days, but we can certainly see the makings of one!

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