Top Indian debutants to watch out for in Hangzhou Asian Games 2023
Two athletes from the list have already earned Olympic quotas for India.
Asia is all set to witness the biggest continental sporting extravaganza as the Asian Games 2023 is officially scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 8. The Games, however, began with the commencement of sports like beach Volleyball, volleyball, cricket, football, modern pentathlon, rowing, and sailing.
India, the second largest country in Asia, is sending a record-breaking 655-member contingent that will feature in 39 sports disciplines. This is also India’s biggest contingent at the Continental Games. The athletes from the nation are slowly but steadily showing their prowess at the global level in various sporting events.
With this, let’s look at the top ten Indian debutants to watch out for at Asian Games 2023.
Anahat Singh (Squash)
Anahat Singh made headlines at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham as the then 14-year-old was the youngest athlete representing India. Singh secured a stunning victory over Jada Ross of St Vincent and the Grenadines, with a margin of 11-5, 11-2, 11-0 in the women’s singles Round of 64, but exited in the following round.
The youngster will be making her debut at the Asiad this year. Some of her biggest accomplishments so far include becoming the Asian Junior Squash U-17 champion in 2023 and U-15 champion in 2022 and earning the gold medal in the U-15 girls’ category at the British Junior Open 2023.
Pranav Prince (Basketball)
At just 20, Pranav Prince has rapidly emerged as one of the brightest talents in Indian basketball. His journey, fueled by the dreams of his taxi-driver father from Alappuzha, Kerala, has been nothing short of phenomenal. From transitioning to St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School known for its basketball legacy to making an impression at the district level and receiving the best player award in the State sub-junior championship in 2014, Pranav has consistently proven his mettle on the court.
Prince’s defensive capabilities, underlined by his aptitude as a weakside help defender and an impressive +4.5 wingspan, gives him an unique edge, often thwarting opponents from scoring shots near the rim. His engagement with elite programs, notably the NBA’s development program in India and his stint at the Delhi NCR NBA Academy, has helped in refining his skills. Owing to all these factors, Pranav Prince is definitely an athlete to look out for at the Asian Games 2022.
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Aditi Gopichand Swami (Archery)
At the young age of just 17, compound archer Aditi Gopichand Swami has made a name for herself in the sport. On August 5, 2023, she rose to fame when she scripted history for the country by winning India’s first-ever individual gold medal at the World Archery Championships in the 2023 edition of the tournament. Besides this, she became the youngest World Archery champion in the World Cup era, i.e., post 2006.
In the same tournament, she had previously bagged the gold in the women’s compound team event, alongside Jyothi Surekha Vennam and Parneet Kaur. This was also India’s first-ever gold in the competition’s history. In July 2023, she clinched two gold medals at the World Archery Youth Championships 2023 in the women’s individual and team events.
Considering the fact that she has had a phenomenal 2023, it won’t be surprising to see Aditi, bagging one of the podium finishes at the Asian Games 2022 in Hangzhou.
Jyothi Yarraji (Athletics)
Jyothi Yarraji, who is the national record holder in the women’s 100m hurdles, is all set to make her debut at the Asian Games 2022. The 24-year-old will start as the mega-favorite in her signature event, having claimed the gold at the Asian Athletics Championships 2023 and bronze at the Summer World University Games 2021, held this year.
On October 17, 2022, Jyothi Yarraji became the first Indian female hurdler to finish under 13 seconds. This outstanding performance positioned her as the year’s second-best Asian in the women’s 100-meter hurdles and ranked her 11th in the all-time Asian leaderboard. In 2023, she surpassed the nation’s indoor 60-meter hurdles record on five separate occasions. Additionally, she won the silver medal at the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships 2023 held in Astana.
Indian men’s and women’s teams (Cricket)
Both Indian men’s and women’s cricket teams will debut at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou. Although the team sport made its first appearance in Asian Games in 2010, the mega-event didn’t feature any of the Indian teams in the competition. In addition, the sport was not a part of the Asian Games in 2018.
In this edition, the women’s team is led by Harmanpreet Kaur, with Smriti Mandhana as her deputy. On the other hand, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has sent a second-string men’s side, with Ruturaj Gaikwad as the skipper. The men’s and women’s teams are both considered strong favorites in the tournament and are expected to bring gold medals in this edition.
R. Praggnanandhaa (Chess)
After a 13-year hiatus, Chess will be making its return to the Asian Games in Hangzhou Games 2022. As Chess is all set for a comeback, all the eyeballs will be on teen sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who finished as the runner-up at the Chess World Cup 2023. Nevertheless, R Praggnanandhaa has been listed to play in the men’s team event in Chess, alongside Gukesh D, Vidit Gujrathi, Pentala Harikrishna, and Arjun Erigaisi.
Popularly known as “Pragg”, the 18-year-old lost to five-time World champion Magnus Carlsen in a round of tie-breakers, after the first two games ended in a draw in the tournament. However, on his way to the final, Praggnanandhaa went on to defeat World no. 2 Hikaru Nakamura and World no. 3 Fabiano Caruana. Earlier, he had become the youngest player in the world to advance to a World Cup final.
Rudrankksh Patil (Shooting)
Having achieved the accolades of being the World no. 1 in the ISSF rankings previously and a two-time World champion, Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil will be making his Asian Games debut in Hangzhou 2022. The year 2022 was a year to remember for Rudrankksh as he not only became the World champion in the 10m air rifle competition but also secured a significant Paris Olympics 2024 quota for India.
So far, in 2023, the Indian rifle shooter has collected four medals in two ISSF World Cup 2023 stages – Cairo and Bhopal, which include two gold and two bronze. He will be aiming to replicate a similar dominant show at the 19th edition of the Asian Games as he competes in the individual, mixed team, and men’s team events.
Antim Panghal (Wrestling)
There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that Antim Panghal is one of the top-performing athletes for India at the moment. Having claimed the World U-20 Wrestling Championships title twice, the 2004-born wrestler is now a force to be reckoned with in the international arena.
At the World Wrestling Championships 2023, Antim clinched the bronze medal, defeating Emma Malmgren of Sweden 16 – 6 by technical superiority, and bagged India’s first Paris Olympics 2024 quota in wrestling. She had previously defeated reigning World champion Dominique Parrish 3-2, before losing to Vanesa Kaladzinskaya in the semis.
Unfortunately, Antim competes for India in the same weight class as the other notable wrestler, Vinesh Phogat, which leads her to compete against the two-time World Championships medalist, whenever someone is sent from the nation to compete in the senior international events.
One such instance was when Vinesh was picked ahead of Antim for the Asian Games 2022 based on the former athlete’s seniority without the conduction of a match-up between the two. Despite an appeal by Antim, her writ petition was dismissed by the Delhi High Court.
However, with Vinesh pulling out of the Continental Games, owing to an injury, the pathway for Antim has become clear. Antim, who has been given an entry to the Hangzhou Asian Games 2023 now, will be raring to go and make every opportunity count in the prestigious event.
Nikhat Zareen (Boxing)
Nikhat Zareen first rose to prominence when she clinched the prestigious gold medal at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships after getting the better of Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas in the 52kg weight class. With this, she became the fifth Indian women’s boxer to bag the ultimate championship title and the then second Indian to collect the gold outside India after the legendary MC Mary Kom.
Nikhat Zareen capped off a sensational 2022 season by becoming the Commonwealth Games 2022 gold medalist in Birmingham where she defeated Carly McNaul of Northern Ireland in a unanimous decision in the 48-50 kg category.
At the IBA World Championships 2023 held in India, the Nizamabad-born boxer played a crucial role in landing the host nation on the top of the medal table as she emerged as one of the four gold medalists for India. She consolidated her status as one of the best boxers in the world, defeating Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Tam by unanimous decision (5-0) in the final.
With the Paris Olympics 2024 quota up for grabs at the Asian Games 2023 in boxing, the two-time World Champion pugilist, Nikhat Zareen, is certainly one of the top debutants to watch out for at the Hangzhou Asian Games.