Incheon: India's subdued campaign at the 17th Asian Games is expected to get a boost on Saturday with the commencement of the track and field events at the 61,000-capacity Incheon Asiad Main Stadium.
With just one gold medal coming so far, India are outside the top ten on the medals table, the Indian camp is hoping for a sizeable haul from the athletics track and field events.
However, they are aware that competition has got stiffer due to the induction of some former Soviet bloc countries and the grabbing of African-origin runners by some petro-dollar-rich West Asian nations.
The best bets from India to snatch gold medal appear to be in men's field events, specifically in discus throw and triple jumps in which Vikas Gowda and Arpinder Singh are the leading lights of Asia this year going into the competitions.
Glasgow CWG gold medallist Gowda, who is set to reach here on Sunday, will have to contend with Iranian strongmen Mohammed Samimi and Ehsan Hadadi who have thrown 65-plus in their careers and are no. 2 and 3 performance-wise.
Arpinder, who is the leading triple jumper in the latest Asian top ten list with a clearance of 17.17m at Lucknow, also has his task cut out as he will fight it out with Cao Shao and Dong Bin of China who have cleared 17.30m in their careers.
In men's shot put, India's Inderjit Singh and Om Prakash have not managed to reach the 20m mark but are contenders for a podium finish. Chinese Taipei's Chang Ming Huang, whose seasons best is 20.13m, would start as favourite.
Joseph Abraham who won the 400m hurdles gold four years ago in Guangzhou, the first track medal among men for India the Asiad since 1982 at New Delhi, is not in peak form but is in the fray. His best has been a modest 50.75secs.
There is also triple jumper Ranjit Maheshwary, termed reak jumper by Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla, who qualified pretty late ? just before the Games kicked off.
Among women, medal hopes lie on Tintu Luka, seasons Asian leader in 800m with a time of 2:00.56 clocked in the Doha Diamond League event in May as she will try to improve on her bronze medal finish in Guangzhou.
Among others in the fray are Guangzhou gold medalists Ashwini Akkunji (400m hurdles), Preeja Sreedharan (5000M, 10,000m) and Sudha Singh (3000m triple chase), but none of them are currently in peak form.
The womens 4x400m relay team is also considered to be an area where there are realistic hopes for a medal. The Indian foursome clocked the seasons second-best time (3:33.67) at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games which is less than a second short of Japan's best time of the season.
The squad's top four runners in the fray to make the team are Ashwini, Tintu, M R Poovamma and Mandeep Kaur. Poovamma has got an outside chance in the 400m.
The other leading contenders for medals are seasoned discus throwers Seema Punia Antil, who won the CWG silver medal with a season?s best of 61.61m, and Krishna Poonia who won the CWG gold in 2010 at Delhi and has a season?s best throw of 57.84m.
Sumariwalla, who hinted that athletics has got step motherly treatment after its high four years ago, expects a medal rush.
"I expect 10-12 medals and 2-3 gold medals as of today when confirmation of who will take part from other contingents will be available only 24 horus before each race," Sumariwalla told PTI.
"I wont name individual athletes but can tell you that we are optimistic of getting medals from 110m hurdles, discus, triple jump, shot put and all three walk events among men plus a few from womens middle distance events, discus throw, steeplechase and the 4x400m relay team," he said.
The Moscow Olympian rued that middle and long distance coach Dr Nikolai Snesarev (of Belarus) has been re-appointed only recently after he had done wonders four years ago.
"We completely lost the plot (after the performance in CWG and AG four years ago). For the last one and a half years we have had no meaningful exposure (in the run-up to Glasgow CWG and the Asiad here)," he said.
"Athletics is not easy any more with China having become a super power and the Arabian countries importing African talent. Dr Nikolai has been employed only three weeks ago. We have won so many medals in CWG and AG four years ago," he said.
In the past Games, the bulk of India's medal have come from track and field athletes, who have accounted for over 200 medals, nearly a third of them of the golden variety.
Wrestling comes a very distant second with just over fifty medals followed by boxing, shooting, tennis, hockey, rowing, weightlifting, cue sports, which has been axed from the Incheon Games, and sailing - all tallying in double figures.