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India's 16 gold medallists at 2018 Asian Games — Where are they now?

Neeraj Chopra has gone from strength to strength since the last Asian Games, but many of the heroes from 5 years ago have fallen by the wayside since then.

Indias 16 gold medallists at 2018 Asian Games — Where are they now?

The women's relay team - Sarita Gayakwad, VK Vismaya, Hima Das and MR Poovamma - with their gold medals from the 2018 Asian Games


Aswathy Santhosh

Updated: 14 Aug 2023 7:47 PM GMT

India won a record 16 gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. But as the 19th Asian Games in China approach, we find that most of the heroes from five years ago are no more in the reckoning.

Neeraj Chopra has gone from strength to strength since his 88.03m javelin throw in Jakarta, but all the others have had setbacks of some kind. Injuries, off-field problems or simply lack of form - for one reason or another, no other Indian is a sure-shot contender at defending their Asiad title.

Here's a look at where the 16 gold medallists are now:

Strong contender to defend title

Neeraj Ch
opra (Javelin)

Neeraj Chopra etched his name in history as the first Indian to claim gold in javelin throw at the Asian Games in 2018. This laid the foundation for his meteoric rise, culminating in an Olympic gold medal in 2020. Though the 90m mark has still remained elusive, Neeraj is still a top contender among the world's best and will be favourite to defend his gold medal.

Neeraj Chopra

Doubts over defending title

Bajrang Punia (Wrestling)

Bajrang Punia's success in the men's 65 kg freestyle wrestling category five years ago led to a period of India having a dependable contender at the world level. However, Bajrang's famed stamina, which allowed him to take his matches deep, has shown signs of waning. Now at the age of 29, Bajrang has lost much of previous sting.

Over the last year too, Bajrang has had to remain out of practice for a long time as he was a central figure in the protest against WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh. However, given his 'contributions to the sport', Bajrang has been given an automatic berth in the wrestling team for the upcoming Asiad.

Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling)

Vinesh Phogat's historic victory in the women's 50kg wrestling category made her the first Indian woman wrestler to claim an Asian Games gold in 2018.

Similar to Bajrang, however, Vinesh has had to remain out of practice for a long time. At the age of 28, she is also hardly the rampaging tigress she used to be five years ago. Despite that, like Bajrang, she has been given a direct berth at the upcoming Asiad.

Swapna Barman (Heptathlon)

Swapna Barman also won India's first ever gold medal in her event at the 2018 Asian Games - heptathlon. Given the punishing nature of her event, Swapna will go into the 2023 Asiad hoping to carry her injury-ravaged body to one last hurrah.

If there were doubts if Swapna could replicate her form, her silver medal at the Asian Athletics Championship last month showed that she could still come up with something special to defend her title.

Jinson Johnson (1500m)

Jinson Johnson had been on a record-breaking spree in middle-distance events when he had won two medals at the 2018 Asiad - a gold in 1500m and a silver in 800m. However, what followed in the next few years derailed his career. A calf injury, an Achilees tendon injury and a hamstring injury kept him out of action for a long period before he launched an attempt to resurrect his career before the 2023 Asiad.


Injury Doubt

Tajinderpal Singh Toor (Shot put)

Going by records and recent form, Tajinder is the only other athlete other than Neeraj Chopra who can be said to be an assured contender of defending his Asiad gold. He set a new Asian Games record by registering a throw of 20.75m, but has since then only established himself as Asia's best.

At the Asian Athletics Championships last month, Tajinder once again established himself as the top shot putter in the continent, but had to retire midway with a groin injury. He will be missing the World Athletics Championships in August. Fingers crossed that he can come back in time to defend his Asiad gold.


Teams which have broken up since 2018

Rowing Quartet

The Indian rowing quadruple sculls team comprising Sawarn Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh crossed the finish line in first place with a time of 6:17.13 to bag the gold medal five years ago. Dattu Bhokanal has since then been reprimanded for indiscipline, Sawarn Singh has been dropped for his below-par performance at the Asian Olympic qualifying camp. Om Prakash is out too.

Sukhmeet Singh is the only rower from the quartet included in the Asian Games 2023 squad.

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan joined forces to secure the gold medal in men's doubles tennis. It is the ageless wonder Bopanna, now 43, who will once again be leading the Indian tennis team in the Hangzhou Asian Games. Divij Sharan, meanwhile, has been dropped.


Gold Medallists who have been dropped for 2023 Asiad

Shibhnath Sarkar and Pranab Bardhan (Bridge)

Shibhnath Sarkar and Pranab Bardhan showcased their strategic brilliance in the men's bridge competition, earning India a gold medal. Pranab Bardhan became the oldest man in the Indian contingent to secure a medal at the 18th Asian Games. Alongside Shibhnath Sarkar, he clinched gold in the men's pair event of the bridge competition, underlining the power of experience and strategy.

Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting)

Saurabh Chaudhary's exceptional victory in the 10m air pistol finals at just 16 years old in the 2018 Asian Games was seen as the start of something special. However, since the disappointment at the 2020 Olympics, Saurabh has failed to recover his form. He made a late charge during the national trials held to select the Asiad squad, but it was too little too late.

Saurabh Chaudhary in his younger days

Rahi Sarnobat (Shooting)

Rahi Sarnobat's victory in the 25m pistol event made her the first Indian woman shooter to clinch an Asian Games gold. While she is not in the current team, she has overcome physical challenges - neuropathic pain - to continue to shine in the shooting arena.

Amit Panghal (Boxing)

Amit Panghal's boxing gold earned him a reputation as one of the most talented boxers in the country in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, but he has struggled to make a mark since his disappointing show there. He lodged a court case after he was not taken into the 2023 Asian Games squad, but the court ruled that they would not interfere in selection matters.

Relay Teams (Athletics)

While the performances of Saurabh Chaudhary and Amit Panghal have been disappointing, the most shocking decline has been seen in the women's relay team, which had been touted as a world-beating team when they had won the gold in 2018.

Among the biggest stars from that team, MR Poovamma is currently serving a two-year doping ban, while Hima Das has disappeared with a series of mysterious injuries. VK Vismaya and Sarita Gayakwad were the two others in India's gold medal-winning women's 4*400m relay team. Md Anas and Arokia Rajiv, whose silver medal in the mixed relay final was upgraded to gold later, however, are still active.

Arpinder Singh (Triple Jump)

Arpinder Singh clinched India's first men's triple jump gold in 48 years at the 2018 Asian Games. Now 30, Arpinder is still active in the circuit, but mostly as a foil to the generation of triple jumpers who have since then taken the baton from him - Praveen Chitravel, Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker.

Manjit Singh (800m)

Manjit Singh won the gold medal in the men's 800m category in the Asian games 2018. He announced his retirement in 2022 at the age of 33 after competing at a national meet in Kerala.

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