India has the potential to make 2022 a memorable non-Olympic year

Gone are the days when most members of the Indian contingent to multi-discipline Games were counted among the also-rans. Unlike in the past, Indians are training and taking part in these Games with a belief that they are in contention for a medal.

Making its debut: One medal is expected from the newly introduced women’s cricket.   -  AFP

Buoyant by the unprecedented seven-medal haul at the Tokyo Olympic Games, India has reasons to be optimistic of an upward swing in the performance-graphs of the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in 2022.

But before rushing ahead, let’s give a quick glance at the rear-view mirror that reflects the last Indian performances at these Games.

For a nation with limited sporting successes at the multi-discipline Games, India has done better, proportionally, in Commonwealth Games as compared to Asian Games and far more if one were to go by the number of medals from the Olympic Games.

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The reasons behind this are not difficult to seek. The standard of competition in most Commonwealth Games disciplines is lower than what one gets to see in the Asian Games. Similarly, many disciplines in the Asian Games do not offer the same level of competition as seen in the Olympics. So for India, there are some easy pickings in disciplines like shooting, weightlifting, wrestling and a few others in the Commonwealth Games.

No wonder, India is among the top-five medal-winning nations in the Commonwealth Games. But it must be remembered that though India touched the three-figure mark as a host in 2010 and finished third in 2018, it still has a long way to go before it can think of matching nations like the ever-improving front-runners Australia and England in the overall medal-count.

Big setback: With shooting dropped from the Commonwealth Games, India’s projected tally in Birmingham has taken a hit. In 2018, Indian shooters accounted for seven gold, four silver and five bronze medals. That’s 16 medals — maximum in any discipline — out of a total of 66.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

 

Consider this: At Gold Coast in 2018, Australia won 198 medals including 80 gold medals and England was a distant second with 136 medals including 45 golds. In comparison, India collected 66 medals and the gold count of 26 gave it the third place, ahead of Canada which had 82 medals with only 15 gold medals.

Can India do better in July-August this year when Birmingham plays the host?

Looks unlikely. With shooting dropped from the Games, India’s projected tally in Birmingham has already taken a hit. Remember, in 2018, Indian shooters accounted for seven gold, four silver and five bronze medals. That’s 16 medals — maximum in any discipline — out of a total of 66!

India can still be expected to do well in wrestling, weightlifting and boxing. But things could be very tough to match the previous tally of eight medals from table tennis. Last time, Manika Batra proved a surprise packet and the whole bunch gave it all under coach Massimo Costantini. But since then, a lot has happened in Indian table tennis and things have taken a turn for the worse. So realistically, it looks highly improbable that the Indian TT team has the capability of matching the haul of Gold Coast. In badminton, given the absence of serious opposition, India should be able to better its previous tally of six medals, including two golds.

Sure shot: Indian medal winners at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. In this year’s Games in Birmingham, P. V. Sindhu, an inspired K. Srikanth, a young Lakshya Sen, the determined duo of B. Sai Praneeth besides the doubles combinations of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty and Ashwini Ponnappa-Sikki Reddy give ample hope.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

 

P. V. Sindhu, an inspired K. Srikanth, a young Lakshya Sen, the determined B. Sai Praneeth besides the doubles combinations of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty and Ashwini Ponnappa-Sikki Reddy give ample hope.

However, a 1-2 in women singles, like last time, appears unlikely at this moment with defending champion Saina Nehwal still looking far from regaining her form and fitness of old.

In addition, with the men’s World champion Loh Kean Yew turning out for Singapore, Indians have a serious gold medal contender to deal with.

In athletics, an improvement over the 2018 performance of a medal of each colour can be expected. Defending champion Neeraj Chopra appears the favourite, without a doubt, to retain the men’s javelin gold. A few more throw events plus a few men from the track hold some hope.

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However, it must be remembered that the standard of athletics in the Commonwealth Games is pretty high unlike a few other events where India is always expected to do better.

One medal is expected from the newly introduced women’s cricket. Similarly, after returning without a medal in hockey, India can expect a realistic medal this time.

In Asian Games, athletics will continue to give India more hopes than any other single discipline. Remember, in 2018, India’s 20 out of 70 medals came from athletics. Out of the 18 gold medals, athletics contributed eight, shooting and wrestling two each while one each came from tennis, rowing, boxing and bridge.

The biggest takeaway for India in 2018 was the fact that medals came across 18 disciplines and at least two medals were added each day.

This time, in Hangzhou (China), India will look to participate in as many disciplines out of an increased number of 40!

Athletics, archery, shooting, tennis, squash, badminton, boxing, equestrian, hockey, kabaddi, martial arts, bridge, weightlifting and wrestling are the ones where India will look for medals in varying numbers.

Cricket returns to Asian Games after eight years. India was not represented in the 2010 and 2014 editions but this time, one can expect not just participation but also a couple of medals. Similarly, the inclusion of chess offers India an opportunity to raise its medal count.

No doubt, China will look to stamp its authority more emphatically this time to underline its supremacy as the host. Japan and Korea will continue to prove their credentials as sporting superpowers in the region. But India cannot afford to let go of the momentum gained after Tokyo.

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The government support has increased and so has the interest of the corporate world. Although some hype tends to get created without helping any cause, it is time for the authorities to exercise some restraint when it comes to projecting India’s tally of medals.

On the brighter note, the rising confidence of many Indians across disciplines is hard to miss. Gone are the days when most members of the Indian contingent to multi-discipline Games were counted among the also-rans. Unlike in the past, Indians are training and taking part in these Games with a belief that they are in contention for a medal.

Still, these are early days to make a precise assessment of the likely Indian performances. Much will also depend on how the pandemic-related fears take shape over the next few months. Should there be normalcy and competitions leading to these Games are held as scheduled, India has the potential to make 2022 a memorable non-Olympic year.