Guangzhou, Nov 12 : Buoyed by their unprecedented success in last month's Commonwealth Games, Indian athletes are now bracing up for the tougher challenge of making their presence felt against regional powers such as China and Korea for a top-five finish at the Asian Games beginning here tomorrow.
"We finished number eight in the last Games (at Doha in 2006) with a tally of 10 gold medals. We aim to double that tally here and finish in the top five. The success in the Commonwealth Games has boosted our athletes' confidence," said the Indian contingent's Chef de Mission Abhay Singh Chautala.
In Doha, the Indians hauled in 10 gold, 17 silver and 26 bronze medals. In CWG, India had a record medal tally of 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze that pushed them to the second spot for the first time ahead of England.
Chautala expects the Indians to rip open the gold medal chest on the first day of competitions itself, saying a 1-2 sweep of the men's 10m air rifle featuring star shooters Gagan Narang, the four-gold winner at CWG, and Beijing Olympic Games bronze medallist Abhinav Bindra was very much on the cards.
Also present is "Goldfinger" Samaresh Jung, who picked up five gold medals in the 2006 Melbourne CWG, and is to take part in the 25m standard pistol for men.
"We are hoping for a 1-2 in the rifle event and two more gold medals at least in billiards," said Chautala. The billiards semifinals and the final are slated for November 14.
Billiards features former world professional champions Geet Sethi and Pankaj Advani, among the gold medallists in 2006. A total of 10 men and seven women are in different cue sports ranging from billiards for men to 6-red snooker for women.
"We have come with 600-odd players, the biggest-ever for the Games. We hope to double the Doha gold tally and also like in the Commonwealth Games improve our standing," said Chautala.
The last time India finished inside top-five in Asiad was in 1986 at the Seoul Games when it ended up fifth with five gold, four of them from track queen P T Usha, nine silver and 23 bronze medals.
In the overall medals tally in all Games put together, the country stands fifth with 114 gold, 151 silver and 215 bronze behind hosts China, who are again expected to finish as the number one contingent, followed by Japan, Korea and Iran.
But that list includes medals won in the absence of former Soviet bloc countries like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Indian Olympic Association secretary general Randhir Singh, who holds an identical post in the Olympic Council of Asia, was also confident of India finishing among the top five in this edition of the Games.
The major medal hopes for India, who are to take part in 35 out of 42 disciplines, rest with the shooting squad that had unprecedented success in the CWG but can expect a stiffer challenge from top Asian countries China and Korea.
The 21-strong men's challenge will again be led by Narang, who is to take part in the 10-metre air rifle and 50-metre rifle 3-position events - and would be striving to get a medal in both individual and team events along with Bindra.
World champion Tejaswini Sawant, who disappointed in the CWG, would lead the 15-strong women's campaign.
A lot of hope also rests on the men's and women's hockey squads, star woman shuttler Saina Nehwal, top men's and women's tennis players Sania Mirza and Somdev Devvarman, the men's (defending champions) and women's kabaddi teams, the wrestling squad which would miss the services of world and CWG champion Sushil Kumar because of injury, the boxers led by Olynpic bronze medal winner Vijender Singh and the men's and women's chess teams.
Saina, kept as the back-up for Narang to carry the country's flag at tomorrow's opening ceremony, has arrived here along with Devvarman who flew in from the United States.
Men's hockey team's foreign coach Jose Brasa, for whom this is expected to be the last outing, is hoping that the lessons learnt by the team in the routs by Australia in the league stage and in the final would stand it in good stead.
"We played really well in the final barring the defense. We conceded goals to Australia at the end of the first and second halves. These are lessons to be learned and we are trying to find the solutions," he told PTI.
Indian medal hopes, far slimmer however, also rest with the archers, weightlifting squad and the athletics contingent that tasted unprecedented success in the CWG with the focus firmly on discus thrower Krishna Poonia and the women's 1600m relay quartet.
Forty men and thirty women have been picked for track and field events which have traditionally fetched a heap of medals for the country in the Games history.
The archers did very well in CWG, with Jamshedpur girl Deepika Kumari stealing the show with a two-gold haul, but faces an enormous task of repeating the same against world champions Korea here.
The Indian football team has already lost two matches -- against Kuwait and Qatar -- in Pool D and are facing elimination ahead of their clash with Singapore later today. PTI