Young and old shine in 3rd best CWG show

With 26 gold, 20 sil­ver and as may bronze medals, In­dia signed off third on the ta­ble

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - POONAM MEHRA

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.

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 medal, 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 22year-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 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 emp­ty­handed from the event but the mantle was passed on to the likes of Manu, Anish and Me­huli — the teen trio that lived up to 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 P V 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.

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.

And there were lots to cel­e­brate in track and field too with Neeraj’s sea­son’s best 86.47m show for gold be­ing the big­gest take­away. The 20-year-old showed he is one for the fu­ture with a per­for­mance that had bril­liance writ­ten all over it.

But there were dis­ap­point­ments too, the big­gest be­ing the two hockey teams. The women man­aged to im­prove to fourth this time from fifth of the past two edi­tions, but the men, sil­ver-medal­lists in 2010 and 2014, em­bar­rassed them­selves with a fourth­place fin­ish. Manpreet Singh’s team lacked fi­nesse and re­solve, the low­est point of its cam­paign be­ing a 2-2 draw with a Pak­istan in sham­bles.

Out­side the com­pe­ti­tion arena, In­dia bat­tled a cou­ple of em­bar­rass­ing con­tro­ver­sies. Two ath­letes — race walker KT Ir­fan and triple jumper V Rakesh Babu — were sent back for fail­ing to ex­plain the pres­ence of nee­dles in their room. Be­fore that, the doc­tor of the box­ing team earned a rep­ri­mand for not dis­pos­ing the nee­dle prop­erly af­ter use, hav­ing ful­filled the dec­la­ra­tion norms of the no nee­dle pol­icy.

Away from the furore, how­ever, In­dia could cer­tainly be glad about emer­gence of a new crop of ath­letes ready to con­quer the world.

PM HAILS IN­DIA’S SUC­CESS

Prime min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on Sun­day said the In­dian con­tin­gent’s

In­dia could cer­tainly be glad about emer­gence of a new crop of ath­letes ready to con­quer the world

suc­cess in the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games made ev­ery In­dian proud and hoped it would mo­ti­vate the young to pur­sue sports as well as cre­ate aware­ness on the im­por­tance of fit­ness. Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi also tweeted to con­grat­u­late the In­dian team for its third place in the Games, held at Gold Coast, Aus­tralia.

“In­dia’s con­tin­gent at the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games has made ev­ery In­dian ex­tremely proud. All our sportsper­sons gave their best and played very well. I con­grat­u­late all those ath­letes who are bring­ing back medals,” Modi tweeted.

He added that ath­letes who rep­re­sented In­dia at the Games in­spire peo­ple. “Their life sto­ries il­lus­trate the power of ded­i­ca­tion and a nev­er­say-die at­ti­tude that made them over­come count­less hur­dles to at­tain the heights of suc­cess they did at the CWG,” he said.

Gandhi also took to the mi­croblog­ging site to con­grat­u­late the team. “Con­grat­u­la­tions Team In­dia on your 3rd place fin­ish at Com­mon­wealth Games 2018 with 26 Gold Medals. You’ve made us all very proud,” he said.

Flag­bearer MC Mary Kom leads the In­dian con­tin­gent dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony

at Gold Coast on Sun­day

Sports min­is­ter Ra­jyavard­han Singh Rathore takes selfie with women's sin­gles bad­minton gold medal­ist Saina Ne­hwal and chief coach Pul­lela Gopic­hand

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