With the Asian Games starting with a bang, gymnastics has created quite the buzz within the country about its medal prospects this time around.
What seemingly justifies this continuous chatter is that India has sent one of its strongest teams to the Games this year. With the return of Dipa Karmakar, looking stronger than ever after her surgery last year, Aruna Reddy winning her first ever international medal and the likes of Pranati Nayak, Pranati Das and newbie Mandira Chowdhury, the hopes are high, and the pressure is on.https://twitter.com/IndianGymnastic/status/1029708150788775938
Dipa Karmakar is coming off an event win at the Turkey World Cup this past month, winning vault with an average of 14.150.
She has retained her double twisting tsukhara vault from the Rio Olympics but changed the somewhat dangerous Produnova, which is also valued much lower in difficulty this quad, to a full twisting Handspring Pike front as of what she competed in Turkey.
As for her other events, based on how she competed at the Games trials in India, she seems to have retained all of her previous routines, but eyeing the podium on vault and getting into event finals on beam and floor.
Not far behind her, is Aruna Reddy, who placed third at the Trials in Delhi at the end of June, but won her first international medal, winning the bronze on vault scoring a 13.649 at the Melbourne World Cup this past February.
She also represented the country at the Commonwealth Games this year, narrowly missing out on the vault finals. Since the Trails, Reddy has been training in Germany for three weeks to prepare for the Games.
According to the latest news, she plans to upgrade her vault from the Handspring Pike front full, the same as Dipa’s, to a one and a half, which she claims to have been landing consistently.Not far behind her, is Aruna Reddy, who placed third at the Trials in Delhi at the end of June
This will give her an advantage on the difficulty of that vault, but she competes on a full twisting tsukhara compared to Dipa’s double, so it will be interesting to see whose execution scores are higher and the competition amongst them as they vie for medals.
Of course, it will indeed not be made easy for them at this competition, as the Asian Games means they must beat the likes of China, Japan, Malaysia and many more to medal.
China is bringing it’s A team to Jakarta with Liu Tingting, Jinru Li, Chen Yile, Jin Zhang and Li Qi. While China is traditionally weak on vault and floor, Jinru Li will be the biggest competition for the Indian gymnasts as she comes in as a vault and floor specialist for China. She competes for a double twisting yurchenko and the front handspring 1.5, which usually scores in the low to mid 14’s, same as Dipa
She is also won the gold on floor at the recent Chinese National Championships. As for the rest of the team, they are expected to dominate the competition in the group, all-round and are the absolute class of the field on beam and bar events. This is the same team China hopes to send to the World Championships coming up soon, so other countries like India will have to bring their top performances even to come close to them.
Japan has chosen to send their B teams on the men’s and women’s side to Jakarta to rest their top athletes for the World Championships coming up in October. Today’s podium training will be a good indication as to what the Japanese teams bring to the competition.
A preview would not be complete without including a legend in the sport of gymnastics, Oksana Chusovitina, who is the oldest gymnast to be competing internationally in the world and has competed at five Olympic Games and three Asian Games.
She is a vault specialist and has won an Olympic medal on vault at the 2008 Olympics, looking good as ever to challenge for that top spot. Malaysia’s Farah Ann is another comprehensive contender, with consistent routines across all events, who hopes for better results here after a disappointing Commonwealth Games where she ended up 12th in the all-round.
Across on the men’s side, the team of Rakesh Kumar Patra, Ashish Kumar, Yogeshwar Singh, Gaurav Kumar and Siddarth Verma hope to win India its first medal this year on the men’s side.
The most significant medal prospect comes from Rakesh Kumar Patra who won the all-around competition at the Trials in Delhi, but will make his mark indeed as a Rings and Parallel Bars specialist in Jakarta.
He has upped his difficulty on the Rings to match the top gymnasts in the world but has often struggled to compete for a clean routine consistently. The Orissa native finished a disappointing fourth place at the Turkey World Cup this past month.
He spent most of the last month back in Tukey training with their top gymnasts, aiming for the podium at the Games hoping to break the string of fourth place finishes.
Meanwhile, there has been a resurgence in the performance of Ashish Kumar who was not seen on the Indian squad until the Commonwealth Games this year. The Arjuna Awardee has medalled previously at the Asian Games in 2010 Asian Games winning bronze, and hopes to do the same this time around.
His best events include the vault and floor exercise and might also compete for the all-round. He hopes his training in Uzbekistan leading up to these Games will prove fruitful as he takes on the top gymnasts across Asia.
Both Patra and Kumar competed at the Commonwealth Games back in April along with Yogeshwar Singh, who will also compete for all-round, and this will be the first international outing for Siddarth Verma and newbie Gaurav Kumar in 2018.
Their biggest competition will come from China, arguably the top men’s gymnastics team in the world as of now. They will send their top team to Jakarta which includes 2017 world champion Xiao Ruoteng and reigning silver medallist Lin Chaopan.
The star-studded team also includes Zou Jingyuan, the reigning world champion on Parallel Bars. China aims to win the team and all-around competitions, and provide challenging scores in event finals as well. Our Indian gymnasts may not have the difficulty of the top teams but must execute clean routines if they hope to outperform the Chinese.
Once again, Japan will not send its top team and their stars like Kohei Uchimura to rest them for the World Championships, but their B team is going to prove to be a challenge for the rest of the field as indicated in the podium training. Gymnasts from Korea and Uzbekistan will also aim to individual medals and provide fierce competition for the Indian men.
Medaling at the Games is no easy task, we continue to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best from our team. They have the support of a nation behind them, and we continue to recognise them for the continuous hard work and sheer perseverance to excel in a sport the country is not known for.
Check out the entire competition schedule here.