Asian Games 2023: Indian skaters elated after securing surprise bronze; match best ever haul in roller sports
India's speed skaters dazzled at the Asian Games 2023 with two surprise bronze medals in men's and women's 3000m team relay events to match their best-ever performance in roller sports at the showpiece event on Monday.
India's speed skaters delivered a stunning performance at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, China, by securing two unexpected bronze medals in the men's and women's 3000m team relay events. This achievement equaled India's best-ever performance in roller sports at the continental showcase, marking a memorable day on Monday.
In the women's team, teenagers Karthika Jagadeeswaran and Heeral Sadhu, along with 29-year-old Aarathy Kasturi Raj, clinched India's inaugural medal in the discipline of speed skating at the Asian Games. Following their success, the trio of Anand Kumar Velkumar, Siddhant Kamble, and Vikram Ingale matched their female counterparts by claiming the third position with a timing of 4:34.861s in the final event, held at the Qiantang Roller Sports Centre.
Roller sports made its debut at the Asian Games in 2010, and it was Anup Kumar Yama who earned a bronze medal in the men's single free skating event. Later, he combined with Avani Panchal to secure a third-place finish in the pairs skating event.
In this year's competition, the women's quartet completed their event with a timing of 4:34.861s, securing the third spot on the podium. They trailed behind the gold medalists from Chinese Taipei (4:19.447) and the silver medalists from South Korea (4:21.146).
Aarathy, who is a doctor and the wife of Indian cricketer Sandeep Warrier, expressed the significance of the bronze medal, saying, "Winning bronze will definitely open up a lot of opportunities for us because we are not on the priority list in India. Sadly, this isn't an Olympic sport."
In a parallel outcome, Chinese Taipei (4:05.692) and South Korea (4:05.702) secured the top two spots in the men's event. The Indian trio had initially recorded a timing of 4:15.126 in the heats, and they improved upon it during the final.
Siddhant Kamble, a 24-year-old member of the team, mentioned that his wheel had slipped during the race, causing a slight setback, but they continued to fight for a medal.
"We were really hoping for a medal today, as we knew we were in the mix. Being with the Chinese Taipei and Republic of Korea guys is a really big thing for us, as they're the best in the world, and we are not at that level yet. We're maybe among the top 15 athletes in the world," Kamble said.
"We were still going to try and fight for silver in the relay, but in my second last lap, in one of the corners, my wheel slipped a little bit and a small gap grew between us and the other teams. After that, it was all about recovering," he added.
Many of the Indian skaters were making their maiden appearance at the Asian Games. An elated Velkumar, a 20-year-old computer science student, described it as a tough race and a dream come true.
"It was really hard racing. It was my first time racing in the senior category, so it was a great experience to be racing with them. Winning the medal was a dream come true, and all the people in India will be happy," he said.
17-year-old Sadhu, who had an impressive seventh-place finish in the women's 1000m Point-Elimination race, expressed her joy at winning a team medal at her first Asian Games. "This is my first Asian Games. I'm just 17, and I'm really happy we got a team medal."
Lastly, 15-year-old Karthika, also making her Asian Games debut, hoped that this medal would inspire others to take up the sport and generate more interest in roller skating in India. "It was really great, it was my first experience at the Asian Games and it is going to be the best experience for me," she said.
"This is a really good opportunity for others to get into the sport. It's an opportunity for everyone. It shows we can get medals in any sport. I would like to see more competitions in roller skating and make everyone really proud of roller skating in our country," she added.