The 19th edition of the Asian Games has transpired into a historic occasion for India in terms of medal output as the country has already scripted its all-time best performance in the history of the continental event.
The Indian contingent participating in the 19th edition has produced a record-shattering effort to propel the country's medal tally to over 90 (and counting). However, this monumental journey has been an arduous one for the Indian athletes but certainly not in the way they would have imagined.
From the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist and world champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra to India's emerging track and field athlete Jyothi Yarraji, several athletes have fallen prey to umpiring gaffes. While one or a couple of horrid judgements can be overlooked, a recurrent chain has brought the rectitude of the officials into question.
These recurring events have also given rise to several voices, including some prominent ones alleging the intentional targeting of the Indian athletes by China - the host of the mega event.
An intentional attempt to target the Indian contingent in Hangzhou?
The incident that arguably gave rise to all these allegations was the disqualification of India's track and field athlete Jyothi Yarraji during her 100m hurdles final. During the event, China's Yanni Wu running in the adjacent lane to Jyothi got off to a false start and was staring at disqualification but appalingly the umpires officiating the event disqualified the Indian.
Livid with the ruling, Jyothi held her nerve and protested which forced the officials to realise their blunder and they reinstated her. Jyothi finished in third place behind Wu but her bronze was eventually upgraded to silver. Wu took to the Chinese social media platform Weibo and apologised to Jyothi after the whole incident.
While the incident involving Jyothi, was enough to garner numerous eyeballs, what followed afterwards put the cat among the pigeons and added more substance to all the widespread talks of China impeding India's way to glory.
Olympic gold medallist and arguably India's strongest medal contender in an individual event in Hangzhou, Neeraj Chopra was also left flabbergasted when his first-ever throw in the men's javelin event which looked within touching distance of 87m was not measured.
Neeraj was left scratching his head after he learnt from the ones officiating that it wasn't recorded. The world champion chose to register a protest and was subsequently offered another opportunity to rethrow.
Neeraj's compatriot and eventual silver medallist at the event, Kishore Jena had to suffer as well after his second attempt was declared a foul. Self-assured of his throw's legality, Kishore protested too and was joined by Neeraj. It soon bore fruit and led to a change in the judgement and the decision was reversed.
In the end, Neeraj bagged gold and Kishore claimed silver to finish the event on a high despite the obstacles that came their way.
The list isn't limited to these three incidents. It also involves javelin thrower Annu Rani, Manju Rani (race walk) and Murali Sreeshankar (long jump). All these athletes encountered major hiccups during their respective events but still went on to claim medals for the country.
While Annu clinched gold in the women's javelin throw event, Manju Rani claimed bronze alongside Ram Baboo in the 35km race walk mixed team event and Murali won silver in the men's long jump category.
Vice president of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), Anju Bobby George has taken congnizance of the matter and thinks that there is a deliberate attempt to "disturb" the Indian athletes and that there is some "mischief" at the heart of it.
"Neeraj’s first throw was a very good throw. But they weren’t ready to measure it. Same thing also happened with Annu Rani (who won gold for India in women’s javelin throw event) yesterday. I don’t know why they are doing this with Indian athletes. They are trying to cheat us, disturb our athletes. Neeraj’s first throw was a very good one,” Anju Bobby George told reporters after Neeraj's event.
"We are planning to protest against the officials. Now the competition is over. We've got gold and silver for Neeraj, Jena and Annu Rani. But this cannot because we knew. uh, our winning medals in China is very difficult. Even if you do better, they will do some mischief," she added.
While it can't be ascertained whether all these incidents are mere umpiring gaffes or a deliberate ploy to hamper the progress of the Indian athletes in Hangzhou as of now, something that is beyond contention is that they have certainly tainted China's reputation as a host on a global platform.