Yeh Jo India Hai Na | Ten Mantras That Helped Clinch 107 Medals at Asian Games

India needs to follow these few 'mantras’ to fulfill our next goal – #AgliBaar150Paar.

6 min read

Video Producer: Mayank Chawla 

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan 

It was improbable, a gimmicky hashtag, a clever ad-man’s copy dressed up as passion, a 'jumla’ even – #IssBaar100Paar.

We had won 70 medals in Indonesia's Jakarta in 1918, our highest-ever medal tally at an Asian Games. After that came COVID-19 for almost two years; the pandemic was particularly harsh in India as everything was shut down, athletes weren't able to access stadiums and gyms, perhaps, nipping thousands of budding sporting careers in the bud.

Given all this, how could we possibly get to 100 medals, except in our wildest imagination? But come 7 October 2023, on the final day of the Hangzhou Asian Games, as the referee’s whistle blew, signalling the end of a close Women’s Kabaddi final against Chinese Taipei, that 100th medal actually happened.

Fittingly, the 100th medal was a Gold. Just as fittingly, it went to an Indian women’s team, and most fittingly, it was for a quintessential Indian sport –Kabaddi.

Team India Hits the Ball out of the Park, but What Next?

By the end of that memorable final day, India went well past 100, bringing its tally to a remarkable 107 medals!

For a kid, who in Class 9 back in 1982, watched an 18-year-old PT Usha win two Silvers (she would go on to win a staggering four Golds and seven Silvers at multiple Asian Games) in Delhi, who has since been a fervent fan at every Asiad, this feat, which has been a long time coming, felt great.

But as another Asian Games hashtag goes, #RuknaManaHai. So, let’s set ourselves a goal for Nagoya in Japan, where the next Asian Games will take place, in 2026 – #AgliBaar150Paar.

To achieve that, let’s understand what worked for Team India at Hangzhou. For easy reading, we’ve crunched it down to 10 'mantras’, we may glibly call them #MantrasForNagoya2026. There is also the small matter of the 2024 Paris Olympics, but hey, the same mantras will apply.


#1 Get Them Young

It’s critical to spot, train, and back teen talent, and that has paid off. At Hangzhou, Anahat Singh, just 15, got us two bronze medals in Squash. Aditi Swami, 17, won a gold medal in Archery. 18-year-old Esha Singh returned with four medals, one gold, and three silvers in Shooting.

We even backed 13-year-old Dhinidhi Desinghu, India’s current 200m freestyle swimming national champion. She didn’t make it to the finals in a pool full of world-class Chinese and Japanese swimmers, but sending her was a great idea.

Sending Pooja Singh, just 16, but with a whopping personal best of 1.82 meters in High Jump, was another great idea. The daughter of a construction worker from Haryana, Pooja finished a creditable 6th. Let’s stay invested. Teen talent, if nurtured, will win us medals for years.


#2 Back Our Women

Of the 107 medals India won, 46 went to Indian women, and 8 were won in mixed team events, which means women had a hand in 54 medals. That is woman empowerment paying off.

Currently, working women are a very small fraction of India’s workforce. Getting families to let their girls take up sports, wear sports gear, and leave home to train at district or state sports centres – all these are challenges. Let’s plan media campaigns featuring our women champs to encourage families. Let’s try this hashtag – #HarLadkiChampion.


#3 Aur Khelo India

It is an idea that has worked, so let’s expand Khelo India in scope, budget, and momentum. Under ‘Khelo India’, let’s keep improving district-level sports stadiums and sports facilities. Let’s have more state-level Centres of Excellence. Let’s continue to spot more local talent. Let’s build a sporting mindset and a supportive sports ecosystem.


#4 Spend Big, Win Big

We used to stinge on sending our best athletes abroad for quality training; we’d stinge on bringing in foreign coaches. But well before Hangzhou, the thinking changed.

Medal winners like Avinash Sable, who won a Gold in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase, and a Silver in the Men’s 5000m, and Parul Choudhary, who won a Silver in the Women’s Steeplechase, and a memorable Gold in the Women’s 5000m – both of them, along with the rest of India’s middle and long distance runners, benefitted from an extended period of expert training at Colorado Springs, in the US.

We’ve done the same for our shooters, wrestlers, boxers, and athletes in other sports too. We get repaid in the form of medals, so let’s not roll this back.


#5 Kheloge To Jeetoge

It’s countries who excel in multiple sports that finally do well at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics. At Hangzhou, India won medals in no less than 22 Sports! From Wushu to Sepaktakraw, to Rowing and Sailing and Skating, and many more.

We also regained podium finishes in our traditional strengths – we wrested back the Men’s Kabaddi Gold from Iran, and we took back the Men’s Hockey Gold from Japan.

We built on recent successes – taking 22 medals in shooting, and built on our highly improved throwing and jumping skills in Athletics, taking our tally to 29. From Chess to Cricket to Golf to Equestrian events, we grabbed medals from everywhere.


#6 Mental Health Is Key

At the top level, it’s mental strength that pulls athletes through at crunch-time moments. In the past, some Indian athletes have crumbled under pressure or have failed to deliver on the big stage.

But now we have embraced mental health experts. Paddy Upton, a top mental health coach, who worked with India’s World Cup-winning cricket team in 2011, was brought in to work with India’s Men’s Hockey team. A great idea that surely contributed to their success.

We also saw HS Prannoy battling through pain to win his quarter-final in Badminton, that was mental strength kicking in. We saw Abhay Singh come from 8-10 down in the decider against Pakistan, to hand India the Men’s Squash Gold; that again, was mental strength.


#7 Plan Smart

We should be very proud of our medals in team sports – Kabaddi, Hockey, Cricket. They amount to just one medal per team, and don’t really push up the medal tally, but they are the result of years of hard work. Having said that, let’s also get smart about targeting more medals. That simply means targeting sports that would win us more medals.

We have done that fairly successfully in Shooting, where out of a total of 99 medals to be won, we picked up 22.

For the future, let’s try to target Swimming. At the Hangzhou Asian Games, there were 123 swimming medals to be won. We picked up zero. To achieve #AgliBaar150Paar, we will pick up medals in Swimming.


#8 Encourage Private Sponsorships

Let’s embrace corporate sponsorships for our athletes. It’s a win-win. As more of our athletes come home with medals, it reflects well on the sponsor. They also get recognised for taking their CSR seriously. The flip side is obvious.

It allows us to make ambitious training plans for our athletes, fund extended training abroad under world-class experts, hire the best coaches, sports scientists, physios, nutritionists, psycho-therapists, and more, for them.

We have also seen how events like the Kabaddi League have upped the interest in the game, made it more lucrative for the players, and therefore, drawn more young talent towards the sport. Earlier, we often looked at corporate support with suspicion. That’s over. Great!


#9 Winners to Heroes

The Hangzhou Games have thrown up a whole new set of medal winners. For instance, Jyoti Surekha, who won three Golds in Archery, and her fellow archer, Ojas Deotale, who also returned with 3 Gold medals.

There is Harmilan Bains with two superb Silver medals in the Women’s 800m and 1500m, emulating her mother’s 800m Silver back in the 2002 Asiad. There’s the explosive Badminton pair of Chirag Shetty and SS Rankireddy, who won the Men’s Doubles Gold in Badminton. Champions like Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Sania Mirza, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Abhinav Bindra, and others inspired earlier generations.

Now, let’s make the new sporting heroes of the Hangzhou Games into the new household names. Let’s design publicity blitzes, contact programmes, lecture series, let’s exploit the power of social media and use these new heroes to inspire the next sporting generation.


#10 Netas Not Allowed

Finally, a desperate appeal to please keep politics out of sports. It was sad to watch Bajrang Punia go without a medal at this Asiad. The man who has an Olympic medal, two previous Asian Games medals, a God and a Silver, the only Indian wrestler with 4 World Championship medals, was a pale shadow of himself at Hangzhou.

Why? Because instead of spending the last couple of months in training, he spent them at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, protesting against the former Wrestling Federation chief and Lok Sabha BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who faces multiple charges of sexual assault from female wrestlers.

We don’t do politics in sports. Sports federations must stop being the personal fiefdoms of politicians. We are seeing that trend going down. Let’s keep it that way, let’s put a stop to netas in sports.


Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it needs to follow these few 'mantras’, to fulfil our next goal – #AgliBaar150Paar.

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Topics:  Medals   Asian Games   Yeh Jo India Hai Na 

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