The 68-member Indian athletics contingent finished their 2022 Asian Games campaign pocketing a total of 29 medals – six gold, 14 silver, and nine bronze.
This is the country’s highest medal tally in the sport since the turn of the century. It is also the country’s best-ever showing in terms of number of medals since the inaugural edition in 1951 when the track and field athletes from the country pocketed a total of 34 medals, including 10 gold.
While it was indeed a highly successful campaign, as expected, which reiterated India’s rise as a force in athletics, it did not come without its share of controversies and twist of the unprecedented.
The Indian athletes were subjected to poor officiating three times during the week-long athletics competition in Hangzhou.
It all started with Jyothi Yarraji being disqualified from the women’s 100m hurdles final for no fault of her own. As local favourite Wu Yanni left the starting blocks before the starting pistol was fired, the officials decided to send off Yarraji from the race too in a bizarre move. Following a lot of on field deliberations, both the athletes were allowed to run under protest.
While Yarraji finished third, Yanni took the silver medal position behind yet another local star Lin Yuwei. Eventually, the Indian was upgraded to silver post-race with Wu being disqualified for her false start.
“Jyoti Yarraji was robbed in front of 80,000 people today! Disgraceful by the Chinese athlete,” tweeted Indian decathlete Tejaswin Shankar on the incident.
Just three days after the hurdles saga, athletics fans across the globe were left in disbelief after the reigning Olympic and World champion Neeraj Chopra was forced to retake his first attempt in the men’s javelin throw final.
Chopra’s attempt, which seemed to have soared more than 85m to the naked eye, could not be measured due to “technical difficulties.” To make matters worse, the officials lost the mark as well and could not measure the distance manually as Kuwait’s Alazemi Abdulrahman, who was next in the throwing order, took his throw before Chopra’s attempt was registered.
After almost 15 minutes of delay in proceedings, the Indian was eventually asked to retake his first throw.
Minutes after this, an attempt from Kishore Kumar Jena was called a foul because the official thought the Indian went past the throwing line after releasing the javelin.
Chopra was quick to spot that Jena was well within the line and accompanied the Odisha athlete to the officials desk asking for a review. The replays showed that Jena was well inside the line and that the throw was indeed valid.
Chopra and Jena eventually took home the gold and silver medal respectively in the competition.
“It happened with Jyothi, me, and Jena,” Chopra told reporters after the event, as per The Indian Express. “There’s something wrong but still, we have shown how hard we’ve worked and won medals. I haven’t seen anything like this in a big tournament. Athletes can get mentally down – even Jyothi was affected,”
Even long jump Murali Sreeshankar had to wait at the officials’ desk for a long time to check the validity of one of his jumps in the final. He eventually returned with a silver.
The Barman-Agasara saga
There was controversy in the heptathlon a day after Nandini Agasara won bronze ahead of Swapna Barman.
Barman, a gold medallist from the 2018 Jakarta Games, alleged that her bronze medal was stolen by a transgender athlete – an indirect dig at Agasara who won the 1500m race to leapfrog Barman for the medal, via a tweet.
Barman eventually deleted her tweet, but not before accusing Agasara of fleeing the Asian Games village right after her complaint to the officials. Days later, she also tweeted out an apology for her social media outbrust.
“I wish to tender my unconditional apology for my tweet the other day specially to my co-athlete was the sheer disappointment and momentous emotional outburst which made me react in this manner against the ethos of sports and deeply feels sorry everyone for my emotional reaction,” she wrote on her account.
While the likes of Chopra, Avinash Sable in 3000m steeplechase, Tajinderpal Singh Toor in shot put, the men’s 4x400m relay teams all cruised to victories on expected lines – there were a few unexpected results as well in store for India.
The women’s javelin thrower Annu Rani, who bagged a gold medal in the event, tops the list.
The 31-year-old had endured a forgettable season in the field. But all that changed after she landed in Hangzhou.
Rani, whose best throw in the season up until then was 59.24m, breached the 60m-mark twice during the final. She started off slowly before taking the lead with a 61.28m throw.
The Meerut-native, however, saved her best for later as he brought out a monstrous 62.92m attempt after the eventual silver medallist Nadeesha Hatarabage overtook her with a personal best 61.57m.
In the women’s 5000m race, Parul Chaudhary shocked Japan’s Ririka Hironaka with a splendid late surge in the final 50 metres of the race to pocket a gold medal to go with her 3000m steeplechase silver.
Ancy Sojan, in women’s long jump, also impressed with a silver medal winning effort with a personal best leap of 6.63m.
Much earlier, India had also earned a double podium in men’s 10000m run. Kartik Kumar and Gulveer Singh both recorded personal best times to win silver and bronze respectively in the event. The Indians were among the trailing pack and looked completely out of contention before a clash towards the end of the race between the leading pack took multiple runners out, propelling them towards an unlikely medal.
Double podiums galore
It was not just Kumar and Singh in men’s 10000m who earned a double podium for India in athletics.
Ajay Kumar Saroj and Jinson Johnson in men’s 1500m finished with a silver and a bronze respectively. So did Chaudhary and Priti Lamba in women’s 3000m steeplechase.
Besides, Chopra and Jena also finished on the podium in men’s javelin on the penultimate day as India ended their athletics campaign with four double podiums in Hangzhou.
The Indian track and field athletes also set national records during the continental games.
While Vithya Ramraj equalled the women’s 400m hurdles national record held by PT Usha with her run in the heats, Shankar broke the decathlon national record with his silver-medal winning effort.
Ramraj clocked 52.42s to equal the longest standing women’s athletics national record, while Shankar notched up a total of 7666 points to go past Bhartinder Singh’s tally of 7658 points from 2011.
Indian Athletics Medallists at 2022 Asian Games
|Men's Javelin Throw
|Men's 4x400m Relay
|Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Muhammad Ajmal, Rajesh Ramesh
|Men's 3000m Steeplechase
|Men's Shot put
|Tajinderpal Singh Toor
|Women's Javelin Throw
|Women's Long Jump
|Women's 3000m Steeplechase
|Men's Javelin Throw
|Kishore Kumar Jena
|Mixed 4x400m Relay
|Muhammad Ajmal, Subha Venkatesan, Vithya Ramraj, Rajesh Ramesh
|Women's 4x400m Relay
|Aishwarya Mishra, Prachi, Subha Venkatesan, Vithya Ramraj
|Men's Long Jump
|Ajay Kumar Saroj
|Women's 100m hurdles
|Women's Shot put
|Women's Discus Throw
|Women's 3000m Steeplechase
|Men's Triple Jump
|Women's 400m Hurdles
|Team 35km Racewalk
|Ram Baboo, Manju Rani