CWG 2018: A shower of success with a word of caution

The haul of 66 medals (26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze medals) here from 15 disciplines is India’s third best showing in the history of the Games after the ones in New Delhi 2010 (101 medals) and Manchester 2002 (69).

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games also saw India (above) finishing third in the overall medal table, behind Australia and England.   -  Getty Images

It was not a joy ride and India getting to a memorable third place finish at the recently concluded XXI Commonwealth in the Gold Coast with a haul of 66 medals (26 golds, 20 silvers and an equal number of bronzes) only spoke about the opportunity available to the athletes to work themselves through this pathway for greater glory.

Of course, there was no stopping the all-conquering Australians who simply mastered all, getting back to the medals table in expected fashion or rather brutally. Second best was England but that India could get right behind them was always taken with a pinch of salt until it actually happened.

Unique in many ways, especially in terms of gender equality and in the case of inclusiveness, the Gold Coast Games can be the benchmark for all multi-discipline events including the Olympics.

The performance dished out by the Indian athletes, at least in some select disciplines, is a ray of hope for the future of the sporting nation which is still reeling from its abysmal show at the 2016 Rio Olympics where it managed to win only two medals – a silver and a bronze compared to the six medals it won at the 2012 London Games.

READ: India ends action-packed campaign with 66 medals

A lot of hype could well be created in the coming days, creating a room of false hope for the Asian Games which will be held in Jakarta later in the year (August-September). The continental event being a different kettle of fish and of a higher plane, it is only certain that the bouquets now being handed out could very well turn into brickbats in the event of a dismal performance in Indonesia.

Having said that, it would be a great injustice to the athletes involved if the positives from the Gold Coast are not highlighted in a meaningful and balanced manner, without getting into any unwanted hyperbole.

High on any such list should be the performance put in by the teenagers —  Manu Bhaker, all of 16, came good in the women’s 10m air pistol; 15-year-old Anish Bhanwala's dominated the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event; Mehuli Ghosh, 17, was unlucky to miss the gold in the women’s 10m air rifle by the proverbial whisker.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra landed the country’s fourth track and field gold in Commonwealth history with a monster of a throw and Heena Sidhu overcame the odds in women’s 25m pistol.

Seema Punia scripted success in her fourth successive Games; Mirabai Chanu Saikhom and Sanjita Chanu expectedly won the women’s 48kg and 53kg lifting golds, paddler Manika Batra set a precedent by winning the women’s singles title – a first for India after the country cemented its class in the team events and the badminton team rose up to the occasion to clinch the mixed team event, also for the first time.

Incredible too was the journey of the magnificent M.C. Mary Kom who won her first ever Games medal and that too the gold in boxing, which served more than an inspiration to Gaurav Solanki, Vikas Krishan and others to put their weight behind the Indian tally.

Glorious remains the sole word to describe the deeds of an unflagging Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu who set up the first ever all-India title clash in women’s singles even as unheralded Sachin Choudhary made his own contribution by turning out to be only the third para athlete to deliver a medal in these Games.

On the flip side, it was a disappointment when Kidambi Srikanth failed to match his World No. 1 ranking and get past Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei in the men’s singles of badminton, while both the teams in hockey had to make a shameful return – medal-less.

The revoking of the accreditation of two athletes – A. V. Rakesh Babu and K.T. Irfan for flouting the no-needle policy was another unfortunate episode which stressed the casual way in which the powers-that-be and the athletes approach international regulations.

It will be interesting to see how the Indian athletes fare in the Asian Games as they will have a much prepared contingents from China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and other nations to contend with. The real test is only going to happen then and it would be exceptional if the athletes do well in the second biggest multi-discipline event.

It would be only then that this performance would have any value.

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