Nothing succeeds like success. This adage aptly sums up the performance of the Indian athletes at the recently concluded CWG Games in Birmingham —the 8 medals which they won bear testimony to this. What’s more important is the fact that the Indian athletes hogged the limelight in the absence of an injured Olympic champion, Neeraj Chopra. Overall, India finished fourth in the Birmingham edition with a tally of 61 medals (22 gold, 16 silver, and 23 bronze).
An important point here is that the Indian performance should be viewed in the light of the fact that, despite the exclusion of four major disciplines in this current edition (shooting, archery, tennis, and Greco-Roman wrestling), our athletes had won the majority of medals in the previous editions of the Commonwealth Games. .
There are some lasting moments which will remain etched in the memory for a long time. The sight of t-shirtless shuttle prodigy Lakshya Sen exulting after winning the gold medal in the men’s singles of badminton was indeed a sight to behold. The 21-year-old Lakhsya from Almora , who won a bronze medal at last year’s World Championships, has proved that he is one of the brightest stars of the game and certainly a world beater in the making.
On the other hand of the spectrum, you had a 40-plus nimble-footed Sharath Kamal weaving his way to 3 gold medals in TT, making him one of the most distinguised Indian athletes at the Commonwealth Games with 13 medals to his credit in four different CWG’s. When asked how he managed to have such a rich haul and that too in a fast and foot-speed based sport like table tennis, all Sharath came up with was “I still feel young and motivated to compete. I cannot quite explain it, but there is a special love for CWG, “he added.
It is worth mentioning here that India won eight medals in athletics—the first time that they had such a rich haul in track and field. The highlight was a historic gold-silver finish by Eldhose Paul and Abdullah Abubakar in the triple jump—this was the first time two Indian athletes finished first and second on the podium of a major multilateral Games.
Apart from Eldhose and Abdullah, Murali Shivshankar (silver-long jump), Tejwaswin Shankar (bronze-high jump), Abhijeet Sable (silver-3000m steeplechase), Sandeep Kumar (bronze men’s 10km walk), Priyanka Goswami (silver 10km walk) and Annu Rani (bronze javelin).
“I would say athletics was the showstopper for Indian sports at the CWG,” opined Anju Bobby George, one of the only two Indians ever to win a medal at the World Championships. She also went to add that competition in athletics at the CWG was world class and “winning a medal at the CWG means that our athletes are at par with the best in the world,” she added.
Badminton is another sport in which the Indians dominated, as we won three gold medals on the final day to pip New Zealand for fourth place. By winning her maiden gold, PV Sindhu showed why she is one of the greatest shuttlers ever. This was in addition to the bronze and silver she had in the previous two editions of the CWG. She is the only shuttler who has won a medal at all the multi-disciplinary games (Asian Games, CWG and Olympics)..
The wrestlers came up with a sterling show just like every time. Among the notable winners were Sakshi Malik, who won a gold medal in the 62 kg category, defeating Ana Goelinaz Gonzalez of Canada. For Sakshi, it was her major triumph after the bronze medal triumph at the Rio Olympics. In all, our wrestlers won 12 medals, which included 6 gold and five bronze.
She proved her mettle when she was trailing 0-4 in the first half of the final. Just when one thought that Sakshi would have to be content with a silver, the champion in her woke up. Thereafter, it was Sakshi who went into an all-out offensive, showed her mettle and turned the tables on Gonzalez with a never say die attitude.
The story of Eldhose Paul is indeed worth an inspiration. His mother died when he was merely four years old and it was left to his 80-year-old grandmother, Saramma, to find the means and resources to fuel his ambition. What was more of a challenge for Eldhose was the fact that his father was a labourer and the family could barely manage to make two ends meet. “It was my grandmother (Saramma) who ensured that I could study and pursue a career in athletics and above all marshelled the running of the household. I cannot express my gratitude to her in mere words. I had to justify the faith she reposed in me. “said an elated Eldhose after his historic triumph.
The story of Delhi-based judoka Tulika Mann is equally inspirational and will leave many with a watery eye. Her father, Satbir, was murdered when she was a toddler. It was left to her mother, Amrita, who raised her. As a single parent, Amrita joined the Delhi Police and burnt the midnight oil to ensure that Tulika got the attention, time and devotion to pursue her dreams. In turn, Tulika reposed her mother’s faith by bagging the silver medal in the 68 kg category. Tulika broke down on the podium and dedicated her medal to her brave mother. Such acts of bravery by the parents/grandparents of medal-winning athletes will serve as an inspiration to the up and coming athletes faced with such trials and tribulations.
There were big disappointments also. The men’s hockey team gave a good account of themselves in qualifying for the gold medal match. But the final proved to be hopelessly lopsided when Australia thrashed India 7-0. The dominance of the Aussies was such that the Indians failed to have a single shot at the target—something which must have given sleepless nights to Graham Reid, the Australian coach of the Indian team.
But all in all, the Indian performance at the Commonwealth Games was a very good one and augurs well for the country in the light of the fact that the next edition of the Olympics will be held in Paris in 2024.