Pistol shooter Jitu Rai and freestyle grappler Yogeshwar Dutt were among the other heroes of the Games, where the Indian contingent entered with the aim to better or equal the record medal haul of 65 fetched in 2010. The huge Indian contingent fell short of the target and emerged with a diminished tally to its credit in this growing South Korean business hub. (Complete list of Indian medal winners)
India secured 11 gold medals, three fewer than what they collected in China four years ago, 10 silver (including the upgraded one of Manju Bala in women's hammer) and 36 bronze for a total haul of 57. Four of those gold medals came in athletics (two) and kabaddi (two) while archery, boxing, hockey, shooting, squash, tennis and wrestling accounted for the rest. (PHOTOS - India's golden stars)
The gold medal haul also placed India in the eighth position on the medals table, two rungs below where they had finished in China. In 2010, where the country's Asian Games preparations had started earnestly with the immediately preceding Commonwealth Games hosted in New Delhi, the break-up of 65 medals won was 14 gold, 17 silver and 34 bronze earning India the sixth spot on the medals rostrum.
In 2010, a total number of 609 competitors piloted the country to a two-and-a-half-decade-high spot out of 45 countries and regions. At the end of it all competitions here, the 541-strong Indian sporting contingent has once again secured the top 10 place out of the same number of nations and regions.
Here, the first golden touch to India's campaign, which stuttered early on before picking up some pace, came from talented army shooter Jitu Rai who handled the pressure well to nail the men's 50m pistol crown on the very first day.
The yellow metal tally got rounded off by the double team gold won in kabaddi yesterday. However, to put the whole picture in the right perspective it should be noted that some of the gold medals came in non-Olympic sports, including the team double in kabaddi, which is hardly known even within most parts of Asia.
Indian chef de mission Adille Sumariwalla summed up the Indian overall show, saying the final medal haul was on expected lines. "We had predicted 50-55 medals and have secured 57. We lost the plot after 2010, otherwise could have performed better," he felt.
This time too, India had come here after performing well in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but the vast chasm between the CWG and the Asian Games level in most events, where world sports superpower China sets the benchmark, was palpable.
As the country's campaign was tapering off, India's men's hockey squad led by Sardar Singh brought immeasurable joy by reclaiming the gold via the penalty shoot-out in a nail-biting and action packed final against arch-foes Pakistan.
India won the shoot-out 4-2 after the South Asian rivals were level 1-1 at the end of the four quarters, a new concept introduced in world hockey here. This was a huge moment for the struggling game in India, the triumphant team and its support staff led by Terry Walsh, as well as for the innumerable and disheartened supporters of hockey who wanted nothing less than the gold last won in 1998 at Bangkok.
The well-coveted triumph also piloted India directly into the Rio Olympic Games competition without the trouble of going through the slippery qualifiers. It was also for the first time since 1966 that India emerged winner in the high-pressure Games final against Pakistan. Their previous encounter at this stage in the 1982 Delhi Games had gone comprehensively in Pakistan's favour.
In between these cherished successes came memorable gold medals in other disciplines - fetched by compound men's team archers, 'Magnificent Mary Kom' (the first-ever in women's competition and the only one from the ring), Yogeshwar Dutt, men's squash team spearheaded by Saurav Ghosal, tennis mixed doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Saket Myneni, woman discus thrower Seema Punia and the 4x400m relay team.
Yogeshwar came with a mission to win a gold and accomplished it in style by ending India's 28-year-old gold medal draught in the ancient sport. The London Olympic Games bronze-medallist fought with verve and determination to win the men's freestyle 65kg gold and was the saving grace on the mat.