New Delhi: For someone like shuttler Saina Nehwalit could very well serve as a new lifeline, but for star tennis player Sania Mirza and archer Tarundeep Rai, the last chance to represent India at a multidisciplinary large-scale event seems to have slipped away with the postponement of the Hangzhou Asian Games.
How does procrastination affect individual athletes?
Saina, who is outside the top-15 in the world, had skipped the national selection tests for the CWG and the Asiad because she didn’t want to expose her body to more competitions between international tournaments.
Now, when the new dates are announced, the gap between the CWG and Asiad could allow her to push back into the Indian team and stand another shot at winning an Asian Games medal, provided the national federation considers its form close to the Games.
Sania, who is 35, has already announced that 2022 will be her last season. The most successful Indian female tennis player will now have to re-evaluate if she can extend her career by a few months to reach a peak.
Likewise, Tarundeep Rai, the three-time Olympian and individual silver medalist of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, planned to retire in September after the Hangzhou event and is now in trouble.
“It’s a big, big blow to me. I’m already 38 and I was planning to retire after the Asian Games this year. I have no idea now, this is really a huge setback for my preparations. I have I feel like I’m back at the pinnacle of my career after the disappointment of last year’s Olympics.
“I recently won the World Mixed Gold World Championship (with Ridhi Phor) in Antalya for the first time. Everything was planned and on schedule for me and now I have to take another call. I need to consult with my family and coaches to take a new call now,” Rai told PTI.
On the track, Seema Punia (discus, bronze), Manjit Singh (800m, gold) Jinson Johnson (1500m, gold) and MR Poovamma (4x400m relay gold) had done well at the 2018 Jakarta Games.
Of these, Seema is 38 years old while Manjit is 32. Both Jinson and Poovamma are 31. Well, Jinson, if he is fit, will be a certainty at the Hangzhou Games, but it will be hard for aging Seema and Poovamma, who is past her peak, if the Games resume later in 2023 are planned.
Athletics is the sport that has always contributed significantly to India’s standing in the Asian Games. Of the total of 672 medals the country has won to date, athletics has won 254.
Indian track and field athletes had won 20 medals (8 gold, 9 silver, 3 bronze) out of a total of 70 in the country at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
Planning and preparations
From a larger perspective, it is largely the scheduling of both individual and team events that are affected as they all schedule their training and competitions to peak near the big event.
The postponement also resolves the dilemma faced by the National Sports Federations (NSFs) who were planning to send several teams to the CWG and Asian Games due to a short gap between the two multi-sport events.
Now the hockey federation can field its best team in both teams and increase the medal chances. Hockey India had decided to send the second best players to Birmingham CWG and the best team to Hangzhou.
The Asian Games is also an opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The hockey teams and the singles tennis players can book their slots for the Olympics by winning their events in Hangzhou.
The postponement is unlikely to affect the hockey teams. On the contrary, they are happy that they have more time to prepare for the big challenge.
The last time the men’s hockey won gold at the Asiad was in 2014 Incheon edition while the women’s team did it in 1982.
The postponement is also a relief for track and field athletes, as they had a lot of big tickets lined up this season and can now hold their own with one less event.
Now they can only focus on the World Championships (July 15-24) in Eugene, USA and the Birmingham CWG (July 28 to August 8).
Likewise, Davis Cup players can breathe a sigh of relief as the dates of the away game against Norway (September 16-17 or September 17-18) will not clash with Asian Games and AITA can draft the best teams at both events.
The Indian government has spent a lot on the preparations of the athletes through ACTC and TOPS. With the Asian Games postponed, government officials will need to discuss with the NSFs whether national camps should be extended and whether more overseas training and competition trips for athletes are needed.
The government is unlikely to deny whether such requests are coming, but it certainly means more burdens as the money spent so far has been used for both CWG and Asian Games due to the short time span between the two.
Also read: TPCC Requests Tripura CM’s Resignation Due to Public Order