5 debutants who are set to make a splash at the 2023 Asian Games
Here are a few star athletes from India in various sports who have broken through since the Tokyo Olympics and will look at the 2023 Asian Games as a chance to win their biggest medals yet.
Multisports games of the stature of the Asian Games are always huge occasions for young sportspersons, who dream of becoming household names with a medal at these once-in-four-years events.
India will be sending a whopping updated contingent of 655 members across 40 events for the 19th edition of the Asian Games happening in Hangzhou, China, set to officially begin from September 23.
Of these 655 athletes, the majority will be playing at their first Asian Games, while there are some, like squash player Saurav Ghosal, who will be playing his sixth edition of the Asian Games.
The trending Esports is one of the sports making its debut at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, and India are sending teams in four titles. India is also sending its debutante teams to some of the pre-existing sports such as women’s softball and jiujitsu at this Asiad.
With the 2023 Asian Games knocking on the door, here's a look at a few individual athletes who are set to make a big step in their fledgling careers.
A young 19-year-old wrestler in the 53kg weight category, Antim Panghal is one of the strongest contenders of a medal in the Indian wrestling contingent. She was included in the team as a replacement for the injured Vinesh Phogat.
Panghal was India's first-ever U-20 world wrestling champion in 2022 and she retained her championship title the following year. She also won a medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship 2023. Her consecutive wins at the U20 championship show her grit. The 2023 Asian Games will serve as a test to see if she is ready to make the jump in the senior level - if she does, Vinesh Phogat's selection in the Paris Olympics would seem dubious.
The 24-year-old Jyothi Yarraji is a 100-meter hurdles specialist track and field athlete who has had a stunning rise over the last year. The current Indian national record holder, Yarraji is the first Indian woman to dip below the 13-second mark in the 100m hurdles event.
Yarraji won a gold medal in the 2023 Asian Athletics Championships in 100m hurdles whereas she won a silver in 200m. Within a very short span of time, Yarraji has established herself as an Asian great in Athletics. If she could win a gold medal in Hangzhou, she will have consolidated that reputation.
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar
While on the one hand there had been a steady decline in the results of shooters who were India's best a few years ago, on the other hand, there has been Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar. The 22-year-old won the bronze medal in the 50-meter rifle three positions event at the 2019 Asian Shooting Championships and since then his medal tally has been on a steady rise.
He recently won a medal in the 50 m rifle 3-positions team in the 2023 World Championships in Baku. He is one of India’s likeliest bets to clinch an Asian Games gold medal in Hangzhou. He has clinched medals in Asian Championships in the same event in the past.
Tipped to be the next wrestling sensation, Aman Sehrawat is a men's 57kg freestyle category wrestler. Sehrawat won India’s 1st gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships this year. He also became the first Indian wrestler to win gold at the U-23 World Championships in Spain last year.
In the absence of several veterans, Aman and Antim Panghal are set to be two of India's strongest wrestlers in the Asian Games contingent.
All eyes were on Jyothi Surekha Vennam to win the gold medal in the Compound Women's final at the 2023 World Archery Championships, but yet another compound archer, 17-year-old Aditi Swami, did that historic feat. Aditi's rise over the last year has been rapid, such that she is currently the reigning junior as well as senior compound archery world champion.
Honourable Mention - Nikhat Zareen
It would be inaccurate to say that boxing sensation Nikhat Zareen has emerged since the Tokyo Olympics, but the 50kg flyweight boxer has truly come into her own after the gradual decline of Mary Kom. A two-time world champion with medals also in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Championships, World Junior and Youth Championships, and almost all the other international and national events, Nikhat will be making her first Asiad appearance in Hangzhou.
The Asian Games also being the first qualification event for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Nikhat Zareen would be looking to turn her Asiad debut into an epic medal-winning one.