There are no medals for grit.
Even if there were, would a medal of any colour do justice to swimmer Sajan Prakash, who shattered the 200m butterfly national record in the pool at Jakarta’s GBK Aquatic Centre despite five of his family members missing in the Kerala floods?
As the 18th edition of the Asiad ends, the narrative will turn, perhaps inevitably, to India’s 69 medals — its best-ever showing at an Asian Games.
Yes, India’s 69 medals are a story in itself. But behind dry statistics hide many a tale of grit and perseverance.
Take Swapna Barman for example. Her father bed-ridden due to a stroke for the last few years, she put her problems behind her to soldier on at Jakarta. With an infected and painful tooth, she competed in the high jump event and winced each time she landed on her back. With six toes in each foot, shoved uncomfortably into running shoes, she ran the 100m and then the 200m. And then in the 800m. She finished with India’s first gold in heptathlon.
Then there was Manjit Singh, who once lost his job with a PSU because his employers deemed that he cannot get better at his chosen sport. At Jakarta, he beat his fancied compatriot Jinson Johnson to win a gold medal in the 800m race.
Then there was the tale of 15-year-old Shardul Vihan, who wakes up at 4 in the morning to travel over two hours from Meerut to train at New Delhi’s Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range. And then he travels the same distance back home.