India, Sports, Stories

Data: Analysing India’s Performance at the Asian Games


India won 70 medals at the 2018 Asian Games, the highest ever. But India’s position of 8th at the 2018 games was not the best. While India has won an increasing number of medals, its position in the medal tally did not improve correspondingly.

A total of 655 athletes are part of the Indian contingent participating in the 19th edition of the Asian games at Hangzhou, China. Indian athletes would be competing across 39 events. Events like Shooting, Wrestling, Weightlifting are few of the events where India has traditionally performed well.

Over the years, Asian Games has provided a platform for Indian athletes to do well on an international stage, with many memorable moments. Indian athletes have shown some strong performances in the run up this edition of the Asian games, increasing hopes for a better medal haul than in previous editions.

In the first part of our series on Asian games, we looked at the history of the Asian games. In this story, we review the performance of India in Asian games over the years. The data is from the datasets available on Dataful, which is based on the information updated by Indian Olympic Association, and the official Asian Games portal.

With 16 Gold medals and overall haul of 70 Medals, India’s best performance was in 2018

India’s performance in the Asian Games has varied across the editions. India did have a particularly good start to its journey. During the first Asian Games in 1951, held in New Delhi, India had the home advantage by winning 15 Gold medals and 16 Silver medals. As per the information available on the official Olympics website, India managed to win another 20 Bronze medals for a total medal haul of 51 medals.

India’s performance was only bettered by Japan. China, which evolved into Asia’s sporting powerhouse was not part of the initial editions of Asian games. Sachin Nag became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the Asian Games when he won the 100-meter freestyle event in swimming. This remains to be the only gold medal that India won in Swimming. India also managed to win the first Gold Medal in Football in Asian games, with this edition coinciding with India’s golden period in football.

However, India did not match up to this performance in the subsequent editions of the Asian games. In 1954, India was able to win 17 medals, which included 5 Gold, 4 silver, and 8 Bronze. The performance slipped further in 1958, with a total medal tally of 13.

In the 1962 games in Jakarta, India’s performance improved significantly and won 33 medals, of which 10 were Gold Medals. India was placed 3rd in the medal tally at the end of this Asiad. India’s football team also clinched its second Gold Medal in these games.

India’s next better performance was when it hosted the Asian Games in 1982. India won 57 medals in total, which included 13 gold, 19 silver, and 25 bronze. This was the highest tally of medals for India till then. It was only in 2010, that this medal tally was bettered with 65 medals.

However, the best performance of India in the Asian Games was in the most recently concluded games of 2018. In these games held in Jakarta (Indonesia), India won 70 medals, which included 16 gold, 23 silver and 31 bronze.

India’s position in the first Asian games remains to be its best position

Despite India’s best tally of medals in 2018, with 70, India only achieved the 8th position in that edition of the Asian Games. India secured 16 gold, which places it below Iran, and Chinese Taipei, which won more gold medals but fewer overall medals. It ought to be noted that the position in the Olympics, Asian Games, and such, is determined by the number of Gold Medals won followed by Silver, and so on.

The best position secured by India was in the very first Asiad, where it secured the second position. Over the ensuing editions, while India managed to win more medals on some of the occasions, the comparatively better performance by other countries meant that India was unable to secure a position in the top three. China, Japan, South Korea along with Iran and other Central Asian republics generally tend to perform better than India.  India’s lowest position was in 1990, where it stood at 11th out of the 36 countries that participated in that edition.

Athletics contribute to the highest share of medals followed by Shooting, boxing & wrestling

In the first Asian Games, India won 10 Gold and 12 Silver in athletics, contributing to nearly all the medals won in that inaugural edition of the Asian Games. Over the years, while India was unable to repeat this performance in athletics, overall, it still contributes to a major share of the medals won by India. India’s increasing number of medals in more recent editions also marked an improvement in India’s performance in Athletics. However, it ought to be noted that there are multiple events that are part of Athletics. So, athletics as a category winning the highest number of medals can also be attributed to the multiple events.

From a stand-alone sports event perspective, India has traditionally been stronger in Wrestling and Boxing.  Across different weight classes of these sports, Indian boxers and wrestlers have managed to win medals in various editions of Asian Games.

Overall, as per the information available on the website of the Indian Olympic Association, Wrestlers have won 59 medals for the country. This includes 11 Gold, 14 Silver, and 34 bronze.

Indian boxers have won 57 medals, of which 9 are Gold, 16 silver, and 32 bronze medals.

Shooting is another sport where India does well in the Asian Games. Even in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, India’s better performances have been in Shooting. Indian Shooters have won 58 medals of which 9 are Gold. It has further won 21 Silver and 28 bronze in this category.  Among the team events, Indian men have won gold three times.  With the introduction of cricket in this edition of the Asian games, there are better chances of India winning another medal in a team event.  

While the number of medals won by India is on the rise in recent editions, its position has not correspondingly improved. Few of the other countries that rank better than India in medals tally perform very well in specific events helping them win more golds. India can do well by focusing on the sports that it has traditionally done well and improving its performances, especially in terms of securing more gold.


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