India at Asian Games: A storied history and why PT Usha is jewel in the crown

India have won 672 medals at the Asian Games since the inaugural edition in 1951. India finished with a record haul in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

India have been a powerhouse since the Asian Games started in 1951.

Having participated in all editions of the quadrennial showpiece, India played an integral role in the establishment of the Asian Games and even hosted the inaugural edition in New Delhi.

India won 51 medals – 15 gold, 16 silver and 20 bronze – at Asian Games 1951 to finish second behind Japan (60 medals). It remains India’s best finish at the continental Games.

Swimmer Sachin Nag won the 100m freestyle event at New Delhi 1951 to become India’s first gold medallist at the Asian Games.

In the same year, Roshan Mistry became the first Indian woman to win an Asian Games medal when she took silver in the 100m sprint at the 1951 Asian Games.

Since then, India have won 672 medals at the Asian Games, including 155 golds, 201 silvers and 316 bronze.

India have returned with a gold medal at every edition to date and are the fifth-most successful country at these Games.

Indian track and field stars have led from the front, bagging a massive 254 medals in 18 appearances at the big-ticket event.

Sprint legend Milkha Singh, unarguably the biggest name in Indian athletics, won the 200m and 400m gold at the 1958 Asian Games and followed it up with two more golds (400m and 4 x 400m relay) at the 1962 edition in Jakarta.

Then, PT Usha continued the trend of Indian athletes running away with track and field honours at the Asian Games.

Nicknamed the ‘Payyoli Express’, PT Usha set the track ablaze at the 1986 Asian Games, winning four of the five gold medals India won that year along with a silver.

A three-time Olympian, PT Usha broke the Asian Games record in four events (200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and 4 x 400m relay) at the Seoul 1986 Games.

PT Usha ended her glorious career as the most successful Indian athlete at the Asian Games, with 11 medals – four golds and seven silvers.

India’s best medal count came at the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta. India won a record 70 medals. Unsurprisingly, athletics was the most successful sport, accounting for 20 medals.

At Asian Games 2018, Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win a gold medal in the javelin throw while Dutee Chand brought home India’s first medal in the women’s 100m since PT Usha’s silver in 1982.

The upcoming Hima Das also returned with three medals – golds in women’s and mixed 4 x 400m and silver in 400m – from the previous Games.

Neeraj Chopra celebrates after winning the gold medal in javelin throw at the Asian Games 2018.
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Apart from athletics, wrestlers, boxers and, most recently, shooters have contributed handsomely to India’s medal count at the Asian Games.

All top Indian athletes such as wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, boxers Mary Kom and Vijender Singh and shooters Abhinav Bindra and Jaspal Rana have also stood on the Asian Games podium.

India, however, have been the most dominant in kabaddi, winning seven of the eight editions since the sport debuted in 1990. Their only loss came versus Iran at Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta.

The men’s Indian kabaddi team has won a record seven gold medals at the Asian Games.
Picture by 2006 DAGOC

India will be keen to regain their kabaddi title at the Asian Games 2022 which will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 10.

India at Asian Games: Medals by each edition

Edition Gold Silver Bronze Total medals Rank
New Delhi 1951 15 16 20 51 2
Manila 1954 5 4 8 17 5
Tokyo 1958 5 4 4 13 7
Jakarta 1962 10 13 10 33 3
Bangkok 1966 7 3 11 21 5
Bangkok 1970 6 9 10 25 5
Tehran 1974 4 12 12 28 7
Bangkok 1978 11 11 6 28 6
New Delhi 1982 13 19 25 57 5
Seoul 1986 5 9 23 37 5
Beijing 1990 1 8 14 23 11
Hiroshima 1994 4 3 16 23 8
Bangkok 1998 7 11 17 35 9
Busan 2002 11 12 13 36 7
Doha 2006 10 17 26 53 8
Guangzhou 2010 14 17 34 65 6
Incheon 2014 11 10 36 57 8
Jakarta 2018 16 23 31 70 8

India at Asian Games: Medals by each sport

Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total medals
Athletics 79 88 87 254
Wrestling 11 14 34 59
Shooting 9 21 28 58
Boxing 9 16 32 57
Tennis 9 6 17 32
Kabaddi 9 1 1 11
Cue Sports 5 4 6 15
Field hockey 4 11 6 21
Equestrian 3 3 6 12
Golf 3 3 0 6
Board games 3 0 4 7
Rowing 2 5 16 23
Diving 2 1 2 5
Football 2 0 1 3
Sailing 1 7 12 20
Archery 1 4 5 10
Squash 1 3 9 13
Swimming 1 2 6 9
Water polo 1 1 1 3
Weightlifting 0 5 9 14
Badminton 0 1 9 10
Wushu 0 1 8 9
Cycling 0 1 2 3
Volleyball 0 1 2 3
Kurash 0 1 1 2
Judo 0 0 5 5
Roller sports 0 0 2 2
Table tennis 0 0 2 2
Canoeing 0 0 1 1
Gymnastics 0 0 1 1
Taekwondo 0 0 1 1
Sepaktakraw 0 0 1 1

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