India finished a creditable third behind hosts Australia and England in the Commonwealth Games which came to a close at Gold Coast on Sunday. It was an improvement from the fifth spot in the previous edition at Glasgow and the fact that the number of gold medals witnessed an increase from 15 to 26 was a big plus for the Indians.
As expected, the shooters, wrestlers, weightlifters, and boxers contributed to the bulk of the Indian medals. The shuttlers and the paddlers too brought joy to the Indian camp.
Neeraj Chopra's gold-medal winning effort in the men's javelin throw was one of the highlights of the Indian campaign. The 20-year-old produced his season's best of 86.47m to win only the fourth individual gold in athletics for the country in the quadrennial event. Chopra is a truly world-class Indian athlete and the Athletics Federation of India needs to nurture him for bigger things can be expected from the youngster.
Veteran Seema Punia and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, who bagged sliver and bronze, respectively, in women's discus throw, were the other Indians to return a medal in athletics. Seema's fourth successive medal at the Games was a testimony to her longevity.
Keralites Muhammed Anas, who missed a bronze by a whisker in men's 400m, and Jinson Johnson, who ended fifth in men's 1,500m race, too can return with their heads held high having broken national records. However, the rest of the Indian athletics contingent disappointed and have their task cut out ahead of the Asian Games.
Hitting the bull's eye
Shooters won the most number of medals - 15 - which included seven golds. Teenagers Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker proved they are champion stuff by winning the men's 25m rapid fire pistol and women's 10m air pistol events, respectively. The 15-year-old Bhanwala became India's youngest gold medal winner at the Games, while the 16-year-old Bhaker continued her phenomenal run in major events. The seasoned Jitu Rai, Sanjeev Rajput, Shreyasi Singh, Tejaswini Sawant and Heena Sidhu too cornered glory.
The weightlifters began India's account and bagged a rich haul of five gold, two silver and two bronze medals. World champion Mirabai Chanu proved her class yet again in the women's 48kg.
The wrestlers contributed handsomely to the Indian medal tally by winning five gold, three silver and four bronze. Sushil Kumar underlined his credentials as one of the greats of the sport by winning his third successive gold at the Games, while Vinesh Phogat wiped off the tearful memories of Rio Olympics, where she suffered a nasty injury, by clinching the women's 50kg gold. Olympic bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik could finish only third in women's 62kg, but the Haryana woman will be determined to make amends in the forthcoming Asian Games.
Saina proves a point
Badminton star Saina Nehwal proved a point by getting the better of P V Sindhu in the women's singles final. Saina also played a lead role in India's triumph in the mixed team competition. The newly-crowned world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth came second best to Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei in the men's singles summit clash.
Manika Batra was simply sensational in the table tennis events. The Delhi girl won a first-ever individual gold in women's singles at the Games for the country besides playing a key role in India coming up trumps in team event. She also clinched a silver in women's doubles and bronze in mixed doubles. The Indian men won the team gold while Achanta Sharath Kamal clinched a bronze in men's singles. The tally of eight medals - three gold, two silver and three bronze - against a strong field was commendable to say the least.
Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa could not repeat their heroics of Glasgow and had to settle for silver in women's squash doubles. Dipika also picked up a silver in mixed doubles in the company of Saurav Ghosal.
The boxers had an impressive outing and returned three gold, three silver and three bronze medals each. The veteran M C Mary Kom was simply magnificent on her Games debut and reigned supreme in the women's 46 to 48kg. Vikas Krishan and Gaurav Solanki too punched their way to gold medals.
Hockey teams disappoint
The hockey teams returned empty handed after losing their bronze-medal play-offs to England. The Indian men, who had won silver in the last two editions, did not really get going apart from the final group game against England when they pumped in two goals in the last three minutes to top their pool. But the Indians were guilty of squandering numerous chances against the Kiwis in the semifinals and bowed out 3-2 before going down to England in the play-off.
The women's team bounced back after suffering an unexpected loss to Wales in their opening game and stunned Olympic champions England in the group stage. The Indian eves lost a hard-fought semifinal to Australia (1-0) before being blown away by England in the play-off (6-0).
Race walker K T Irfan and triple jumper V Rakesh Babu being sent home after the duo was found guilty of breaching the event's strict no-needle policy was a big setback for India. The fact that the two were found to have broken the norm after an Indian boxer was reprimanded ahead of the Games for a similar offence only added to the misery. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) too got a fair bit of stick for not securing enough accreditation for a few of the coaches and support staff and the IOA could do well to avoid such instances in the future.
Despite these blips, it was an overall satisfying outing for the Indians and it augurs well ahead of the Asian Games where the field will be much stronger.
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