India’s remarkable performance at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games at Australia’s Gold Coast would certainly bring a smile not just to the sports enthusiasts but the entire nation. India’s 66-medal haul, which includes 26 Golds, 20 Silvers and 20 Bronzes, is its third-best performance in the Commonwealth Games.
Predictably India did well in shooting, wrestling, boxing, badminton and weightlifting. These five sports accounted for 52 of the 66 medals Indian won, or 78 per cent of the total medal tally. But the real surprise was India’s exceptional performance in Table Tennis, where it won an incredible eight medals including the men’s and women’s team events beating the favourites Singapore.
The real stars of the Games, among the many others, were Manika Batra and Neeraj Chopra. Manika, apart from helping India win the Gold medals in the men’s and women’s team events, won the women’s singles title by defeating the higher ranked Singapore players Mengyu Yu and Tianwei Feng in the finals and semi-finals respectively. This performance should provide a fillip to this sport like badminton.
Neeraj Chopra, the junior world record holder, won a rare Gold medal in athletics for India in the men’s javelin throw. Chopra’s 86.47-metre throw was way ahead of the silver medalist Hamish Peacock who could manage a best throw of 82.59. Chopra’s 86.47-metre throw would have won him a Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics where Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott won it by a 85.38-metre throw. So Chopra has a real shot at a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics.
Shooters won 16 medals and Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh and Anish Bhanwala making household names. Sixteen-year old Bhaker lived up to her promise by winning the Gold in the 10-metre Air pistol event. Veterans such as Mary Kom and Satish Sivalingam too lived up to their billings by grabbing Golds at their respective events – women’s boxing and weightlifting. For Sivalingam it was his second successive Commonwealth Games Gold medal.
Badminton too gave a rich haul of six medals with Saina Nehwal defeating compatriot PV Sindhu in an all-Indian women’s singles final. Kidambi Srikanth did well enough to win the Silver but would be a tad disappointed to lose to old warhorse Lee Chong-Wei of Malaysia.
There were some disappointments too. In hockey, both the men’s and women’s team failed to live upto expectations by not making it to the podium.
But in the end the positives far outweighed the negatives and the more than satisfactory outing for our athletes at the Gold Coast should provide a solid platform to build on for the Asian Games later this year and Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
The Centre and various State governments have announced handsome cash rewards for the athletes which is welcome. The athletes’ performance must have surely grabbed the attention of the corporate sponsors too. But in a cricket-mad nation, the challenge is to sustain this state and corporate support, for achieving sporting excellence is a marathon not a sprint.