As the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are all geared up to be bigger than ever, India will be featuring a large contingent in the 5th edition hosted by Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
With the emerging need to have a wide variety of sports presented on a global platform within the Asian continent, the Olympic Council of Asia organised the first Asian Indoor Games in Bangkok, Thailand back in 2005. With the success of Asian Indoor Games, it became a nursery to test new and emerging sports.
While the Asian Indoor Games flourished, the Asian Martial Arts Games came to the fore too. The Asian Indoor Games aka AIG (Organised thrice in 2005, 2007, 2009) were held every alternate year while the Asian Martial Arts Games or AMAG were held only once in 2009, were supposed to get conducted every four years. For the first time, the Olympic Council of Asia’s decision to merge the two consequently resulted in the very first Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games being held in 2013 in Incheon, South Korea thus creating the 2nd largest multi-sports events in Asia after Asian Games.
The Ashgabat Olympic Complex is set to provide a platform for athletes from 65 delegations to showcase their skills in 21 sports. The 5th edition is scheduled to be the grandest version in the history of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
India has displayed some excellent performances in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games circuit. So far Indian athletes have won 119 medals (25 Gold, 28 Silver and 66 Bronze) at AIG, AMAG and AIMAG.
And now the Indian contingent is all set for the 5th edition of the event. A team of 22 athletes will be representing India after being sent by the Athletics Federation of India. The Indian team comprising 13 men and nine women athletes looks to be a good combination of experienced and young athletes who will lead Indian challenge in 9 disciplines.
The criteria for selection of Indian team was athletes’ rankings as on July 5 this year at National and International competitions. Only 13 track & field events including long jump, triple jump and high jump, 60m, 400m, 1500m, 3000m, and shot put.
Hailing from Kerala, athlete PU Chitra who won the gold medal in the 1500m race in 22nd Asian Athletic Championship and recorded her best time 4.17.92, will be featuring in the 22-member Indian team. Dutee Chand will also be starring in the Indian contingent. She won two bronze medals at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar,
Also, with wrestling events appearing at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games for the very first time, India is determined to perform strongly. India won gold, five silver and four bronze medals finishing fifth overall in the Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi. Besides, six Naga wrestlers from Nagaland have been selected to represent the country in both traditional and belt wrestling championships also. Naga wrestlers will compete in the tournament representing the National Traditional Wrestling Federation – India (NTWFI).
Sandeep Tomar, the 2016 Asian Wrestling Champion will be leading India’s challenge in the freestyle men’s 57Kg event. Vinesh Phogat, the 2014 Glasgow gold medal winner, will feature in the women’s 48 Kg event. Among other wrestlers in almost every freestyle category, these two veteran grapplers have the chance to win their respective games.
Apart from these Government recognised events and athletes, around 70 Indian athletes of five unrecognised sporting disciplines were given clearance to take part in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The 70 athletes of traditional and belt wrestling, kurash, jujitsu, dancesport and sambo, were refused clearance because these disciplines are neither recognised by it nor by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
As a goodwill gesture, the Sports ministry allowed them to participate in the 12 days event finally but not without a stern message to these federations and IOA that this emotional blackmail will not be entertained in future.
With more 200 Indian athletes taking part in the event, India can aim high to win a plethora of medals and get a podium finish in the rankings.