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PHOTOS: Indian athletes shine at glittering Asiad opening

August 18, 2018 21:54 IST
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Led by young flag-bearer Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the athletes, clad in blue suits, waved to the crowd with small flags in their hands.

IMAGE: India's athletes led by flag bearer Neeraj Chopra march during the opening ceremony. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

The 18th Asian Games opened in Indonesia with a vibrant and slick ceremony in Jakarta on Saturday.

In a presidential dig at the country's traffic woes, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was shown taking a motorcycle to the stadium after his convoy was stuck in one of Jakarta's infamous traffic jams. The footage, played out on the stadium's giant screen, had Widodo grabbing hold of a motorbike and breezing past stranded vehicles through narrow lanes to make it to the stadium in time.

 

A helmet-clad biker, presented as the President, eventually appeared at the stadium before Widodo revealed himself at the dignitaries stands amid loud cheers from the crowd.

The Indian contingent drew a huge applause. Led by young flag-bearer Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the athletes, clad in blue suits, waved to the crowd with small flags in their hands.

India's 572 athletes hope to return home from the Asiad with an overflowing treasure chest of medals. Four years ago, in Incheon, South Korea, India won 57 medals: 11 gold, 9 silver, 7 bronze medals.

IMAGE: Neeraj Chopra, right, poses with India's boxers. Photograph: Boxing Federation of India/Twitter

India's contenders range from Manu Bhaker (shooting), a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Haryana, to the proven-but-struggling Sushil Kumar (wrestling) to the in-form and consistently rising to new heights Neeraj Chopra (javelin throw).

Then there are the likes of sprint sensation Hima Das, who has raised hopes of a medal, after becoming the first Indian woman to claim a World Championships gold, albeit in the under-20 competition.

India's track-and-field stars have historically done well at the Asiad, delivering 282 medals so far, 74 of them gold, and it is not expected to be any different this time.

In badminton, P V Sindhu will be hoping to break her final jinx in a strong field that includes traditional power centres China, Thailand, and Japan.

Saina Nehwal's grit and ability to bring her A game to the table on the big stage can never be discounted but it remains to be seen how her body responds to the challenge. Along with K Srikkanth and HS Prannoy, the abovementioned shuttlers are expected to contribute to India's medal tally.

IMAGE: India's golfers all ready to walk the parade at the opening ceremony. Photograph: IOA/Twitter

India can also hope for a good show in wrestling where the in-from duo of Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat are being seen as sure-shot medal hopes.

Punia not only won a gold at the Commonwealth Games but also emerged champion at the Tbilisi Grand Prix and Yasar Dogu International in the run-up to the Jakarta Games.

However, it's redemption time for a few struggling stars. Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Sakshi Malik are not in the best of form. Sushil recently lost his first bout in four years at the Tbilisi GP in Georgia and Sakshi failed to reach the medal round at Yasar Dogu in Istanbul.

The men's hockey team will be aiming for a gold and a direct entry into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The team, which recently ended runner-up to Australia at the Champions Trophy, does not have many tough nuts to crack and it will only be a disaster if it returns without gold.

The women's team missed out on a historic place in the world cup semifinals but the Rani Rampal-led side is expected to fare better and improve upon its bronze-medal show in Incheon.

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