Oceania athletes competing in the Asian Games is likely to transform the whole medal table of the continental showpiece. Going by the tally at the last two Olympics, only China, Japan and South Korea compared to the hauls achieved by Australia and New Zealand.
Australia finished inside the top 10 at London 2012 and Rio 2016, with eight medals on each occasion. They are traditionally strong in athletics and anything to do with water – they have won gold medals in swimming, sailing, canoeing, rowing and modern pentathlon over the last two Games. The Aussie women also took gold in the women’s Rugby Sevens event in Rio. The same goes for New Zealand, whose 10 gold medals spread over London and Rio were claimed in athletics, rowing, canoeing and sailing.
In addition to the two powerhouses, the Fiji men claimed the Rugby Sevens gold when the sport made its Olympic debut in Rio. The two countries have been traditionally strong in diving and cycling as well, and hence would be strong contenders next year in Tokyo.
- Australia won two gold and a silver in 2012, while Valerie Adams won the women’s shot put for New Zealand. Four years later, there was no gold for the Aussies in track and field, but Jared Tallent followed up his 50km walk gold in London with a silver in Rio while Dane Bird-Smith gave testimony of their strong credentials in the discipline with a bronze in the 20km walk. Adams also managed a silver in Rio, while Tomas Walsh clinched a bronze in the corresponding men’s event. There were also podium finishes for New Zealand in women’s pole vault and men’s 1,500m.
- China is the dominant country in race walking in Asia, and Australia’s entry could provide a threat to their prospects. They are also strong in women’s shot put at the Asian level, and if Adams is competing in three years’ time, she could be a contender.
- Australia were once a swimming powerhouse almost at par with the United States. They won a gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay in 2012 among a big haul in the pool. They improved upon it with three gold in Rio. China, Japan and Korea are the dominant forces at the Asian level but could see their hegemony challenged by the new entrants.
- Anna Meares brought home a gold for Australia in the women’s sprint in 2012, and though they failed to get a yellow metal in Rio, that was more to do with the British dominance in the sport. The Aussies would be a tough proposition on the bike for the Asians. New Zealand also managed a silver in the men’s team sprint in Rio.
- Australia have been one of the most consistent sides in hockey over the years, across genders. They have been multiple-times world champions and should be heavy favourites for both gold medals.
Implication for India
- In hockey, India has been the strongest contender as far as the men’s side is concerned. Australia has been a tough nut to crack for a long time while the Black Sticks have also made life difficult at times. India may be relegated to the minor medals. What that means for Olympic qualification remains to be seen. On the women’s side, India has made rapid strides of late, competing at par with the likes of Korea, China and Japan. But the new entrants could push the Indian girls off the podium.
- At Jakarta 2018, India were pipped of almost 10 athletics gold medals by competitors from Bahrain and Qatar, who hailed originally from African countries. The entry of Australia and New Zealand would only make matters tougher.
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