India registered one its most successful Commonwealth Games campaigns at the 2022 edition in Birmingham with 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze for a total medal tally of 61.
However, as is often the nature of the sport, some athletes missed out on adding to that rich medal haul despite valiant performances, such as boxer Ashish Kumar bearing the brunt of a questionable verdict.
On the other hand, there were others who clinched a medal but fell just short of the gold, long-jumper M. Sreeshankar being a case in point.
Praveen Chithravel (men’s triple jump final)
A few centimetres denied India a podium sweep in the triple jump final. While gold-medallist Eldhose Paul and silver-medallist Abdulla Aboobacker secured the country’s first 1-2 finish in athletics at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), Praveen Chithravel was just three centimetres shy of bronze medallist Jah Nhai Perinchief’s 16.92m. Chithravel registered his best of 16.89m in his third attempt and followed it up with 16.68m, 16.85m and 16.28m as Perinchief’s mark continued to elude the Tamil Nadu triple jumper.
Ajay Singh (men’s 81kg weightlifting final)
Gold medal prospect Ajay Singh lost out on a bronze by a whisker in the men’s 81kg weightlifting event and finished fourth with a combined lift of 319kg, just one short of bronze-medallist Nicholas Vachon (320kg) of Canada. Ajay was placed joint-second at the end of the snatch round with a best of 143kg, five short of his National Record of 148kg, after clearing 137kg and 140kg in his first two attempts. The 25-year-old started the clean and jerk on a strong footing with successful lifts of 172kg and 176kg but failed to clear 180kg – falling well short of his National Record of 190kg – in his final attempt.
Ashish Kumar (men’s boxing light heavyweight quarterfinal)
Ashish Kumar was denied a medal after losing a controversial men’s light heavyweight boxing quarterfinal 1-4 via split decision against home favourite Aaron Bowen. Much to Ashish’s disbelief, the Englishman was unanimously awarded the final round after both pugilists had bagged one round each by a 3-2 margin. The 2019 Asian Championships silver medallist, down on his haunches, smacked the floor of the boxing ring in frustration following a closely-contested third round. Ashish was coming off a thumping 5-0 victory via unanimous decision in his Round of 16 bout and a win in the quarterfinal would have assured the 28-year-old of a bronze.
Sreeja Akula (women’s table tennis singles bronze medal match)
In a thrilling and pulsating contest for the women’s singles table tennis bronze medal, Sreeja Akula lost to Australia’s Yangzi Liu 3-4 (11-3, 6-11, 2-11, 11-7, 13-15, 11-9, 7-11) after staging a series of comebacks. The Indian pocketed the first game 11-3 with ease before Liu bounced back to level the scores with a 11-6 win in the second. The Australian built on the momentum to take a 2-1 lead after three games but the 24-year-old came back to take the fourth game 11-7 to draw level again at 2-2. With Liu ahead 3-2, Sreeja made a stunning comeback, winning the sixth game 11-9 after being 1-7 down at one point. However, Sreeja couldn’t recover from a large deficit of 1-6 in the decider as Liu clinched the final game 11-7 and with it the bronze.
Manpreet Kaur (women’s para powerlifting lightweight final)
Manpreet Kaur finished fourth in the women’s lightweight para powerlifting event with a best lift of 88kg and a total of 89.6 points. The 35-year-old cleared 87kg and 88kg in her first two attempts before failing to hoist 90kg in her final attempt and was beaten to the podium by bronze-medallist Hellen Wawira Kariuki of Kenya, who scored 98.5 points with a best of 97kg. Manpreet’s compatriot Sakina Khatun finished fifth with 87.5 points and a best of 90kg as Sudhir’s gold in the men’s heavyweight category was the only para powerlifting medal India won at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Among the medals, gold just out of reach
M. Sreeshankar (men’s long jump final)
Silver-medallist M. Sreeshankar missed a historic gold in the men’s long jump final by the barest of margins and left a host of questions in his wake. The 23-year-old missed out winning India’s first-ever long jump gold medal at the Commonwealth Games after registering a jump of 8.08m in his fifth attempt, which left him level with eventual winner Laquan Nairn. With both athletes tied on best jump, Nairn clinched the gold owing to a better second-best jump. However, the Indian seemed to have jumped in the range of 8.20m in his fourth attempt, which was declared a foul based on rules introduced in November 2021. While to the naked eye it appeared that Sreeshankar’s foot was behind the take-off line while, according to the new rules, his boot had breached the ‘verticle plane’ of the line by a centimetre. “It was a millimetre,” Sreeshankar screamed to his coach in disbelief.
Avinash Sable (men’s 3000m steeplechase final)
Avinash Sable bettered his National Record for the ninth time, shocked two-time World champion and 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist Conseslus Kipruto and ended Kenya’s 24-year-long podium sweep in the event en route to his silver medal but fell five microseconds short of the gold in the 3000m steeplechase final. In fourth position, behind three Kenyans early in the race, Sable pulled away before giving eventual gold medallist Abraham Kibiwot a brief scare in the final lap to finish in 8:11.20s. Despite having India’s, arguably, most hard-fought and precious medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Sable wasn’t too satisfied. “I have won the silver medal, but I regret that it was a matter of a few centimetres. I didn’t do that well while getting over the last two hurdles. If that had worked, it would have been the best thing ever,” he said.
India women’s hockey team (semifinal)
In its bid to assure itself of a Commonwealth Games silver medal after 16 years, the Indian women’s hockey team held pre-tournament favourite Australia to a 1-1 draw in regulation time. Captain Savita then denied the Australians a goal in their first penalty shootout attempt only for the hit to be restored because of a miscommunication between the referee and match officials regarding the clock. The Indian team’s coach Janneke Schopman and players expressed their dismay but the attempt was retaken and converted by Australia on this occasion. India failed to convert its chances and eventually lost 0-3 in the shootout. “Tough to take, especially (after what happened) in the first stroke of the shootout.” an emotional Savita said after the match. “I don’t think even the officials understood what happened… it’s not an excuse but that didn’t help the team,” Schopman added.
India women’s cricket team (final)
With 50 runs to win, six overs left, eight wickets remaining, captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues in the middle of a 90-run partnership, the Indian women’s cricket team would have believed it had at last exorcised the ghosts of a defeat in the final of a multi-team tournament. What followed was a procession to and from the dugout as India lost eight wickets in for 40 runs to eventually concede a nine-run loss in the summit clash against Australia. Eleven runs needed off the last over with Yastika Bhatia on strike inspired a glimmer of hope but the clinical Australians held their nerve and bowled India out inside the first three deliveries, confining it to its third defeat in the final of a big-ticket tournament since 2017. India was coming off a stunning, come-from-behind four-run win against host England in the semifinal but faltered at the last hurdle again in its quest for redemption and settled for silver.
Sanket Sargar (men’s 55kg weightlifting final)
While Sanket Sargar’s silver in the men’s 55kg weightlifting event was India’s first medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the 21-year-old fell agonisingly short of clinching a gold to open his country’s account. Sargar, who lifted a combined 248kg, was separated by gold-medallist Malaysia’s Mohamad Aniq Bin Kasdan by just one kilogram. The Indian was leading after the snatch with a 113kg-lift that equalled his National Record and was 6kg clear of second-placed Aniq. In the clean and jerk, he successfully cleared 135kg in his first attempt but failed 139kg in the following two, having hurt his elbow on the second. Aniq made up for the deficit in the snatch by lifting 142kg in his final attempt and pipped Sargar to the gold medal.