GOLD COAST, April 16: The exuberance of youth, the endurance of experience and a bit of usual drama that is signature Indian sports – the country’s Commonwealth Games campaign was all this and much more with a medal count that turned out to be the third best ever.
From the teen shooting trio of Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh and Anish Bhanwala, the historic table tennis performance by Manika Batra to the arrival of a very confident Neeraj Chopra on the big stage, India had its next crop of stars ready to challenge the world.
The redoubtable Saina Nehwal provided the final day golden touch with her women’s singles gold, much like the 2010 Games where her top finish was a shade more significant for it took the overall tally to 100.
With 26 gold, 20 silver and as may bronze medals, India signed off third on the table – a promotion of two positions from Glasgow and it was a combination of youth and experience which delivered the results.
At 2010 Games in New Delhi, India won 101 medals, including 38 gold while at 2002 Manchester Games India had managed a total of 69 medals of which 30 were gold.
The likes of MC Mary Kom, Seema Punia and Sushil Kumar showed that experience can never be discounted either, turning back the clock to deliver performances which were nothing short of awe-inspiring.
While the shooters, weightlifters, wrestlers and the boxers were expected to bring home the maximum share of medals, there was a significant new addition to that in table tennis.
After just one bronze in the 2014 edition, there were significant concerns about how the performance might shape up this time. But Manika Batra was determined to ensure that things turn out differently. The 22-year-old, who dropped out of college to focus on her game, justified what many would call a massive risk.
It was by far the best individual performance by an Indian athlete as she ensnared a historic individual gold, a team gold, a women’s doubles silver and a mixed doubles bronze.
On the other end of the spectrum were Mary Kom and Sushil. Without a shadow of doubt among the greatest athletes of their respective sports but faced with questions about their future quite often now, the duo decided to show what it means to turn the clock back.
So, both a 34-year-old Sushil and a 35-year-old Mary Kom gave performances to remember, quite literally schooling their younger opponents just how to turn on the style without compromising on the substance.
The sheer diversity of medal winners was a heartwarming aspect of the Games for India. There were medals from squash, although not gold, there were nine medals from boxing, 12 from wrestling, 16 from shooting and nine from weightlifting.
In fact, it was the weightlifters who set the ball rolling with their best ever performance – the highlight of which was the absence of any doping suspicion. Records tumbled as the likes of Mirabai Chanu, Sanjita Chanu and Sathish Sivalingam remained heads and shoulders above their competitors.
Shooters were not to be left behind and almost everyday, a gold tumbled out of the Belmont Shooting Centre in Brisbane. The only blip was the seasoned Gagan Narang going empty-handed from the event but the mantle was passed on to the likes of Manu, Anish and Mehuli – the teen trio that lived upto the pre-event hype.
With shooting not a part of the 2022 Birmingham CWG, India would be at a massive loss on the medal count and the performance this time is likely to be cherished for a long time to come.
At the badminton courts, it was mostly about Saina and PV Sindhu but K Srikanth continued to create a space of his own, taking down the legendary Lee Chong Wei during the gold-winning team competition.
In the Saina against Sindhu battle, the former came out trumps, displaying a very special kind of aggression in the final.
The boxing arena at the Oxenford Studios was witness to a historic Indian performance in which all eight men in fray won medals – two gold, three silver and three bronze, while Mary Kom continued to be the top performing woman with her gold. – PTI