India will be represented by a 572-member contingent at the Asian Games in Indonesia, which begins on Saturday.

Five lesser known Indian contestants to watch out for at Asian Games 2018(L to R): Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Jinson Johnson, Elavenil Valarivan
Sports Asian Games 2018 Friday, August 17, 2018 - 21:11

With the 2018 edition of the Asian Games almost upon us, the Indian contingent in Indonesia will be looking to put up a strong display. The 2014 Asiad saw India winning a total of 57 medals, which included 11 golds. Athletics was the most successful discipline pocketing a total of 13 medals, while the Shooting team finished with nine medals. Tennis, Wrestling and Boxing teams all finished with five medals each. Both the men’s and women’s Kabaddi teams picked up gold and will be expected to do so again this year.

The 572-member contingent at this year’s Asian Games will be looking to better their medals tally from four years earlier. Here’s a look at some of the lesser known faces who would be looking to make a mark:

Ayyasamy Dharun

Ayyasamy is a track athlete who initially specialised in the 400m and 4x400 relay but has since also taken to the 400m hurdles. Born in Thrissur, the 21-year-old B. Tech graduate first represented the state in kho-kho before taking to the track in 10th grade.

In 2016, Ayyasamy first won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the South Asian Games held in Guwahati. He then followed it up by being part of only the third Indian team in history to qualify for the 4x400 men’s relay event at the Olympics in Rio.

Earlier this year, Ayyasamy broke an 11-year-old national record in the 400m hurdles set by Joseph Abraham. He finished with a time of 49.45s.

Jinson Johnson

Jinson has made a name for himself over the last few years as a middle-distance runner who has excelled in both the 800m and 1500m events. The 27-year-old from Kozhikode joined the Indian army in 2009 before taking to the track competitively.

He had a strong showing at the 2015 Asian Athletics Championships in China by finishing second in the 800m event and then followed it up with three gold medals later on in the year, at the Asian Grand Prix in Thailand.

This year has so far been a memorable one for Jinson. He first set a new national record in the 1500m event where he finished fifth at the Commonwealth Games. He then broke the 800m record as well at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships in June. 

Soumya Baby

Soumya’s rise to the top as the nation’s premier 20km walker was so sudden that it even surprised her. She had been a relatively unknown athlete but in February 2018, she rose to prominence by breaking the national record in the 20km event at the National Racewalking Championship held in New Delhi. After the race Soumya was quoted as saying, “I wasn't aware I was so close to the record. I never thought I would break it. I don't know how to explain it.”

The 27-year-old, born in Thiruvananthapuram, went on to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year. Soumya works as a constable at Central Reserve Police Force at Jharoda Kalan in Delhi. 

Elavenil Valarivan

Elavenil is a young competitor who has shown promise in the sport of shooting. She turned 19 recently and has been making waves since 2017, in the 10m air rifle event.

Born in Cuddalore, Elavenil first burst onto the scene when she became the senior national champion in the 10m air rifle event after beating numerous seasoned campaigners.

She trains at Olympic medallist Gagan Narang's ‘Gun for Glory’ academy. In 2018, she shattered the world record at the ISSF Junior World Championship in Sydney and in the process took home the gold. What was even more impressive was that her world record score of 631.4 was higher than the women’s senior record at the time.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Prajnesh is a 28-year-old from Chennai who has been making a name for himself as a singles tennis player. He has won eight Indian Tennis Federation (ITF) singles titles and one doubles title. He also represented the country in the 2017 edition of Davis Cup.

In 2018, he came close to qualifying for the French Open but lost his final qualifying round match. Subsequently, Nick Kyrgios from Australia withdrew from the tournament at the last minute and Prajnesh was named as his replacement in the main draw. Unfortunately, Prajnesh had already left the French capital by then and could not make it back in time for his first match.

Less than a month later, Prajnesh was in the limelight again after scoring an upset victory over world number 23 Denis Shapovalov in the opening round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart. Prajnesh, unfortunately, lost in the next round to Argentina’s Guido Pella. Victory in the second round would have seen Prajnesh take on Swiss legend Roger Federer.

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