Inspiring show by Indian archers

Shining bright...Indian archers Rahul Banerjee and Deepika Kumari (below).-RAJEEV BHATT Shining bright...Indian archers Rahul Banerjee and Deepika Kumari (below).

The Indian archers, Rahul Banerjee and Deepika Kumari, announce their arrival on the big stage with telling performances. Over to K. Keerthivasan.

Finishing second in the overall medals tally of the Commonwealth Games is no mean achievement. India scripted its best-ever performance in the history of the Games with a haul of 101 medals (38 golds, 27 silvers and 36 bronzes). The two disciplines, archery and table tennis, contributed in no small measure to boosting the host nation's medals tally, while in events such as lawn bowl, cycling (track and road), rugby sevens and netball India's showing was quite ordinary. These events witnessed dominant performances from Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand.

In archery India hogged the limelight along with England. Rahul Banerjee and Deepika Kumari announced their arrival on the big stage with telling performances. While Rahul won the individual recurve gold, Deepika claimed the top spot in the women's recurve.

Deepika stunned one and all in the women's recurve final. The weather conditions — the heat and heavy winds — could have unnerved anybody but not Deepika. (Even the experienced Dola Banerjee struggled in windy conditions before landing the bronze medal.) Taking on Olympian Alison Williamson in the final, the 16-year-old archer from the Tata Academy in Jamshedpur was calm and composed. Deepika's ‘perfect 10' in the final, despite the pressure of being in the summit clash, was, without doubt, master class. And after bagging the gold medal, all that the champion archer did was flash a sweet smile and quietly wave her hands.

Daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver, Deepika had to overcome many obstacles, from her father's indifference to archery to inefficient officialdom, to get to where she is now.

She has been practising hard under the watchful eyes of coaches Poornima Mahato and Dharmendar. Her work ethic and singled-minded devotion have taken her to the acme of the sport. “I am thankful to my coaches and my parents,” Deepika said after her victory.

Dola was all praise for Deepika. “She is really good. Wish we had more Deepikas in our team, then we could do even better,” she said.

Talking of Deepika's wonderful display in the final, Williamson, a bronze medallist in the 2004 Athens Olympics, said, “She is really brilliant, world class.”

Rahul has moved out of the shadow of his elder sister Dola Banerjee. Having taken up archery when he was only 13, Rahul has made significant progress. Since taking part in the World Youth Championship in 2004, Rahul has been the mainstay of the Indian team, notching up victories on the big stage like the World Cup. Tipped to win the gold, the Indian men's team could manage only a bronze. Rahul, however, put the disappointment behind him and fought hard to land the top prize in the men's individual recurve event.

RAJEEV BHATT

On the final day that had three rounds — from the quarterfinals to the final — Rahul had to fight hard to win all three via the play-offs. “Overall we were happy with the medal haul — three gold, one silver and four bronze medals. We would have been happier had we won the gold in the team event,” Rahul said.

Nobody had any hopes on the Indian compound teams. Long before the competition began the critics had written them off. But the Indian compound archers proved them all wrong. The men's team won a silver medal, while the women claimed a bronze.

The Indian compound archers faced several problems, and chief among them was the late arrival of equipment. But once they got their equipment, they didn't waste time and promptly began their preparations for the Games.

However, there were no such problems for the Indian table tennis team. They got everything they asked for. They had their preparatory camps in Patiala and Balewadi (Pune) regularly and they also took part in many Pro-Tours on a regular basis prior to the Commonwealth Games.

Second-seeded Sharath Kamal, ranked World No. 40 was deeply disappointed in losing in the men's singles semifinal to Yang Zi of Singapore. The Indian was devastated by the fact that he had lost to a player who was ranked 24 places below him and whom he had defeated many times before. But Sharath recovered from the loss quite admirably in three hours time to win the men's doubles title in the company of Subhajit Saha. The Indian duo defeated Gao Ning and Yang Zi of Singapore.

Sharath then won the men's singles bronze, defeating Soumyadeep in the play-off.

The Indian men's team went down fighting to England 1-3 in the semifinals. It settled for the third place, beating Nigeria 3-0.

The women's team of Poulomi Ghatak, Mouma Das, K. Shamini, Madhurika Patkar and Mamta Prabhu settled for the silver medal after losing to Singapore 3-0 in the final. The doubles team of Mouma and Poulomi won the bronze.

The winning feeling... Sharath Kamal and Subhajit Saha celebrate with their gold medals on the podium.-K. ANANTHAN

“We are happy with five medals; it's better when compared to the last three Games. All our planning and hard work has borne fruit,” said India's chief coach Bhawani Mukherjee.

Massimo Constantini, the foreign coach of the team, said: “We have a very good set of players. We have a great future.”

India didn't stand a chance in other disciplines such as lawn bowl, cycling (road and track), netball and rugby sevens. South Africa won three gold medals in lawn bowl, but it was Rob Weale of Wales who stole the show by winning his first singles gold after finishing runner-up in each of his six Commonwealth Games appearances. The 47-year-old defeated Leif Selby of Australia for a sixth medal to break the record held by England's Bryant, who had won five medals between 1962 and 1978.

Natalie Melmore of England defeated two champions on way to winning the women's singles gold. She sealed the title with victory over World No. 1 Val Smith of New Zealand. The 20-year-old had also beaten two-time champion Siti Ahmad of Malaysia.

New Zealand, the defending champion, overcame World champion Australia 66-64 in extra-time to win the netball gold. England beat Jamaica 70-47 for the bronze.

New Zealand clinched a historic fourth consecutive Commonwealth Games Rugby sevens gold, defeating Australia 24-17. The Kiwis won all their matches leading up to the final.

South Africa finished strongly in the second-half to defeat England 17-14 in the match for the bronze medal.

David Millar of Scotland won the gold medal in the time trial cycling road race (40km), clocking 47 minutes 18.66 seconds. Rochelle Gilmore of Australia won the women's road race and silver in the point race.