Road to Jakarta Asian Games 2018 : Can Indian wrestlers script the Jakarta epic again?
1962, Jakarta Asian Games
India returned successfully with an impressive 3rd rank at the Jakarta Asiad. However, the apple of the eye were the 12 Indian wrestlers, who pummeled their Asian counterparts from various nations royally to win a whopping total of 3 gold, 6 silver and 3 bronze medals. This has been India's most successful haul in the arena of wrestling at the Asian Games, a feat that is unmatched to this day.
56 years later
It seems that life has turned a full circle for the Indian wrestling. Once again, the sport of wrestling finds its place in the Jakarta Asian Games, to be held at Jakarta International Expo. A sort of 'Mini Olympics' for any amateur freestyle or Greco Roman wrestler, the Asian Games is a test that must be passed with flying colours, if one even wishes to be considered as a bet for the podi in Summer Olympics.
In such a competitive environment, one tends to wonder, if India can recreate the Jakarta magic once again, and script a tale that none forget. One saw the signs of recovery at the Incheon Asiad, where Yogeshwar Dutt led India to a historic gold after 28 years in any category of wrestling, apart from impressive performances by Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Geetika Jakhar and Narsingh Pancham Yadav.
As such, India has a golden opportunity to cement their success from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where for the first time, none of the Indian wrestlers came back empty handed. If the feat is repeated at Asiad, India can very well consider themselves in contention for a historic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Commonwealth Games 2018 : The return of Indian 'pehelwans':-
Given how Indian wrestling has fared at the Rio Olympics 2016, and the 2017 World Wrestling Championships [Seniors], the performance of Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was just the tonic the sagging spirits of the wrestlers wanted. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Games, the entire Indian wrestling team has come back with medals, not even a single player leaving the arena empty-handed, even if it's just a bronze medal.
Simply put, India has maintained a 100% success rate in all the sections of wrestling, in terms of making a podium finish, one of their best performances after Delhi 2010 CWG edition. Except for the average outing of Rio 2016 bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, most of the wrestlers performed way beyond the expectations.
The standout performances were that of Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, who not only asserted their authority but also put themselves as strong bets for a historic gold at the Jakarta Asian Games. While Sushil took only 80 seconds to beat his opponent, Vinesh displayed a superb class of wrestling in the finals.
Bajrang, who is also famous as the diligent protege of the legendary wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, however, was the showstopper, and with his gold medal performance, it never looked as if his silver medal from the World Under 23 Championships was a fluke. All eyes will be on primarily on him as he leads the Indian team in the quest for glory at the Asian Games.
Asian Games 2018 : The brilliant warm up for World Championships:-
To be truthful, Commonwealth Games was only the starter, the main course for 2018 would be the Jakarta Asian Games, which can be termed as the 'Mini Olympics', owing to the presence of ultra-competitive, world-class Olympic champions in the following disciplines:-
- Athletics [Field events]
- Table Tennis
- Taekwondo and other Martial Arts
Given that a number of Rio Olympics medalists have turned up from the arena of the Asian Games, it would be nothing less than a brilliant warmup if the Indian contingent brings laurels in the same fashion as they did at the Commonwealth Games. Though it is too early to say anything, but a performance which could even emulate the historic performance at Jakarta Asiad 1962 would be more than enough to give India the confidence booster they need in the runup to 2018, as well 2019 edition of the World Championships, apart from the ultimate goal, 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Can India make it?
If one asks me, YES THEY CAN! Unless and until something strikes bad, India is very well capable of creating miracles in the arena of wrestling. Since the World Under 23 Championships 2017, Indian wrestlers have proved by leaps and bounds, and following wrestlers are very much capable of repeating the Jakarta feat, maybe even breaking that record:-
- Sushil Kumar Solanki
- Rahul Balasaheb Aware
- Bajrang Punia
- Yogeshwar Dutt
- Mausam Khatri
- Babita Phogat
- Vinesh Phogat
- Ritu Phogat
- Pooja Dhanda
However, they need to keep a few things in check. It's not that Indian wrestlers lack strength or stamina, or even skills for that matter. What they might lack is simply the one extra push that creates the difference between the eliminated and the podium finishers. If India manages to clear that hurdle, it can surely do what none have dreamt of: even winning the Olympic gold if need be.