The South Asian Games (SAG) has been one of the major biannual tournaments where India has been performing exceptionally well when compared to the rest of the seven competing nations, since the tournament's inception in 1984.
This edition of the SAG, the 13th version of the tournament will begin from 1st December 2019 at Pokhara in Nepal and will culminate with the final day on 10th December 2019.
The Indian contingent has dominated the tournament in each edition, having finished on top of the medals tally in 14 seasons of the competition. The nations which will be competing in this edition of the competition are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Notable, Afghanistan will not be participating in this year’s edition of the South Asian Games.
In the last edition of the SAG held in two cities of Northeast India - Guwahati and Shillong in 2016, India bagged a total of 308 medals of which 188 were gold, shining the spotlight on the host nation's dominance in the tournament.
With expectations sky-high from the Indian fans for this edition as well, the Indian athletes will be expected to give their best shot at finishing on top of the medals tally this season as well.
The Indian contingent is expected to reach an overall medal count of 350 in this year’s edition, including a predicted 200 gold medals, and if India does achieve this feat, history will be made as the first-ever nation to record the magical figure in the history of the South Asian Games.
With the predictions being made, there will be few risks India will be facing in this year’s Games. World Archery suspended the Archery Association of India, dismissing the chances of the Indian archers strengthening India's chances of picking up medals in the upcoming event.
Considering that India have always clinched the top honours in archery, this could come as a big dent to harbouring hopes of crossing the 200-gold medal mark. Notably, Taekwondo and Wushu athletes will also miss out from participating in the event, after the entries of the athletes from the aforementioned sports were declined by the organisers.
Another unexpected blow was received on Tuesday when the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) decided not to send Saikhom Mirabai Chanu and Jeremy Lalrinnunga to the upcoming 2019 South Asian Games, also depriving them of a chance to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Failing to adhere to an anti-doping norm, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) stripped South Asian Games of its Olympic qualification status. Additionally, India will not be participating in cricket, neither in women’s or men’s category, adding another shortcoming to the medal possibilities while the country's participating in tennis, wrestling, table tennis and golf remains in doubt.
To look on the brighter side, despite all the drawbacks, strong hopes still lie in the fields of kabaddi, athletics, football, volleyball, boxing, basketball and more. In athletics, India's hope will be pinned in the 800m and 1500m events, where Asian mile queen Chitra PU will be competing, while Jabir MP will be competing in men's 400m hurdles.
Asian junior youth champion Abdul Razak CR will be keen to land the top spot in the men's 400m event while the men's volleyball team will look to defend their title from the previous edition.
In boxing, Vikas Krishan and Manish Kaushik will be competing in 69 kg and 64 kg category respectively. Kaushik, assured of a spot in the Olympic Qualifiers in the 63kg division, claimed a bronze in the World Championships this year held in Russia.
The women's team consists of two-time world silver-medallist Sonia Lather (57kg) and former Commonwealth Games bronze-winner Pinki Rani (51kg) among four others. In Football, the women’s team will look to assert their dominance once again while the men’s team will be eager to finish with a gold medal when compared to last year's silver medal finish.
Last but not least, the Indian men's kabaddi team will be looking to clinch their 10th gold medal at the SAG. The team will be spearheaded by Deepak Hooda, and comprises of some brilliant raiders in the form of PKL 7's stars Pawan Sehrawat and Naveen Kumar. The women's team will be captained by Priyanka, and the squad could be in line for a gold medal with an exciting team lining up for South Asian Games 2019.