Sat, 02 Dec 2023

Hangzhou [China], September 23 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his good wishes to the Indian contingent as the Asian Games officially kickstarted here with a glittering opening ceremony on Saturday with Olympic medalist boxer Lovlina Borgohain and men's hockey skipper Harmanpreet Singh as country's flag-bearers.

PM Modi took to X (formerly Twitter) to wish the Indian contingent all the very best, hoping that it shines with its performances and demonstrates what "true sporting spirit" is.

"As the Asian Games commence, I convey my best wishes to the Indian contingent. India's passion and commitment to sports shines through as we send our largest-ever contingent in the Asian Games. May our athletes play well and demonstrate in action what true sporting spirit is," tweeted PM Modi. India will be aiming to scale new heights at the Asian Games after registering their best-ever medal count during the 2018 edition of the event, a total of 70 medals.

The games officially started on September 23, while sports like cricket, football, volleyball and beach volleyball kickstarted on September 19.

The men's and women's cricket teams, led by Ruturaj Gaikwad and Harmanpreet Kaur will be making their debut at the continental level event. The women's team started its campaign on September 21 and the final will be on September 25. After this, the men's cricket teams will kickstart their campaigns on September 27 and the title clash will take place on October 7. Indian men's team will play its first match on October 3.

India is fielding a contingent of 68 players in track and field events, this will be India's largest representation in the sport. Olympic and World Champion Neeraj Chopra will be India's biggest face at the event, aiming to replicate his gold-winning heroics in Jakarta in 2018. Athletics competitions will be held from September 29 to October 5, with the men's javelin throw final on October 4 as its biggest attraction due to India's 'Golden Boy' Neeraj.

Neeraj is not the only Olympic medalist from India as badminton star PV Sindhu, boxer Lovlina Borgohain, wrestler Bajrang Punia and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu are also playing at the Asian Games. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze-winning men's hockey team is also playing.

Badminton competition will be held from September 28 to October 7, with Sindhu leading the 19-member Indian team which will feature Commonwealth champions Lakshya Sen and HS Prannoy, who is also the bronze medalist at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships held last month.

Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Chanu, a former World Champion as well will be making her Asiad debut in women's 49 kg weightlifting on September 30. Tokyo 2020 bronze medalist Bajrang Punia, the defending champion in men's 65 kg freestyle wrestling will play on October 6.

Meanwhile, boxing at the Asian Games will be a qualifying event for the Paris Olympics next year. Two-time and current world champion Nikhat Zareen will kickstart her campaign in women's 50 kg from September 24 and Lovlina will represent India in women's 75 kg from September 26 onwards. Boxing competitions will end on October 5.

The hockey competition will also serve as a Paris 2024 Olympics qualifier, with Indian men's and women's hockey teams aiming for gold, which will give them a direct ticket to next year's multi-sport extravaganza. The men's hockey event will kickstart from September 24 and the Indian women's hockey team will play from September 25.

Hurdler Jyothi Yarraji, steeplechase racer Avinash Sable, long jumper Murali Sreeshankar, former Asian champion boxer Shiva Thapa, Indian table tennis stars Manika Batra, Sharath Kamal and teen chess prodigy R Praggnanandhaa are some other high-profile players who will be in action.

The games were originally slated for 2022 but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in China last year. (ANI)

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