NEW DELHI: Several of India’s achievers and consistent performers, including tennis ace Rohan Bopanna, hockey great P R Sreejesh and TT legend Sharath Kamal, are gearing up for one last hurrah at the Asian Games.
Both Sharath and Rohan are still pulling off world class performances in their 40s while 35-year-old Sreejesh remains the proverbial wall of the Indian hockey team.
The other big names that are expected to say goodbye to the continental event include wrestling veteran Bajrang Punia, squash star Dipika Pallikal, tennis player Ankita Raina and discus thrower Seema Punia.
All of them might be in the twilight of their careers but remain medal contenders at the Games.
The 43-year-old tennis veteran is turning the clock back with his exploits on the men’s doubles circuit this year. Having made the semifinals and final of Wimbledon and US Open respectively this season, the big serving Indian is showing age is just a number. On Sunday, he bid adieu to the Davis Cup on a winning note and would be expected to do the same in the men’s doubles event in China. Bopanna, who made his Asian Games debut way back in 2002, goes into the tournament as the defending champion, having won the doubles gold alongside Divij Sharan in the 2018 edition. He could partner Yuki Bhambri in Hangzhou.
Ankita will be another medal contender on the tennis court. The 30-year-old became only the second Indian female tennis player after Sania Mirza to win a singles medal at the Asian Games when she secured a bronze in the 2018 edition. Besides a bagful of doubles medals, Sania managed to win a singles silver and bronze in Asian Games. Ankita is also likely to feature in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles event.
The 41-year-old table tennis ace will look to add more medals in his fifth and final appearance at the Asiad. Last year, he was among the stand out players in the Commonwealth Games, where he won as many as three gold medals. The lead up to the Asian Games has not been the smoothest for him but one can expect him to raise his game when the stakes are high. The men’s team bronze in the last edition had ended a 60-year wait for a table tennis medal at the Asian Games and that event remains India’s best bet.
P R Sreejesh
The veteran hockey goalkeeper is taking one tournament at a time at the far end of his career. The upcoming Asian Games is definitely Sreejesh’s last shot at the continental showpiece and he will be giving his all to help India claim the gold and qualify directly for next year’s Paris Olympics. He has registered 301 international caps so far after making his India debut in 2006. He played a major part in India winning an Olympic medal after four decades and his form will be crucial if the team is to regain the gold after settling for a disappointing bronze in Jakarta five years ago. Sreejesh will continue to share goalkeeping duties with the much younger Krishan Pathak.
The 40-year-old discus thrower has managed to win a gold and bronze in the previous two editions. The CWG in Birmingham last year was a disappointment as she failed to win a medal after doing so in the past four editions. Asian Games will be her last chance to end on the podium.
The 29-year-old champion wrestler will be making his first appearance on the mat after leading the protest against former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers. All eyes will be on the seasoned pro who will take the mat to defend his 65kg title in China. The Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist will be making his third appearance at the Asian Games. Before the gold in 2018 Jakarta, he had secured silver in the 2014 edition.