Mat matters

The Indian freestyle wrestlers take the centre stage, as Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, Amit Kumar and Vinesh prove they are a class apart. By A. Vinod.

From one day to another — what a change! It rains all of a sudden and the summer heat gives way to cold weather. The raincoats and boots are out, so are the colourful umbrellas.

Despite the rain and chill, there is no let-up in the heat of the competitions across venues at the 20th Commonwealth Games.

July 27: There is an upset straightaway, as the athletics events kick off with the men’s marathon. As the runners move into the final stretch from Glasgow Green, it is not the familiar black vests of the Kenyan runners that come into sight. Instead, one sees the silhouette of a runner in yellow and green approaching the straight to the arch. Having waited for more than two hours, the spectators are simply astounded. They try to rush forward to have a proper glimpse of the approaching runner but are turned back politely by the security staff and the ‘Clyde-sliders’, as the volunteers have been nicknamed.

As Michael Shelley of Australia crosses the finish line, he has a look of disbelief on his face. He ‘kicked’ at the 35-kilometre mark to leave the Kenyan and Ugandan runners, the pre-race favourites, in his wake. And here he was, alone at the top of the summit.

“I have got to pinch myself, it is very exciting,” says Shelley after winning the gold medal. Four years ago, in New Delhi, he had won the silver medal.

The women’s marathon seems like a formality for Kenya’s Flomena Daniel Cheyech and Caroline Kilel, who finish 1-2.

A little away from here, there is disappointment in the Indian camp. Its shooters, both men and women, fail to win the gold in the double-trap event. Shreyasi Singh settles for the silver medal in the women’s section, while Mohammed Asab claims the bronze in the men’s category.

However, late in the day, weightlifter Sathish Kumar Sivalingam adds to India’s gold medal tally by winning in the men’s 77 kg category. K. Ravi Kumar, who had won the gold medal in the 69 kg class in New Delhi four years ago, finishes behind Sivalingam for the silver medal.

July 28: They are a tough breed in Northern Ireland. Who else would prepare for his next event by taking a dive from his balcony? Artistic gymnast Luke Carson certainly would. He says so after a disappointing performance at the Hydro.

One might wish that he were a little more careful given his history. Carson twice broke his left tibia in one year and now has a leg full of metal. Wonder what he would be telling the security at airports.

Some are potent by name, others by nature. But in the case of the Australian shooter, Warren Potent, it’s both. He sets a Commonwealth Games record while winning the gold medal in the men’s 50m prone event, leaving Gagan Narang of India to savour the silver. In New Delhi 2010, Potent had won the silver while Narang, through the last two editions of the Games, had won eight gold medals.

The disappointment in the Indian camp is, however, lessened by Jithu Rai and Gurpal Singh, who finish with the gold and silver medals respectively in the 50m pistol for men. Vikas Thakur brings in another silver medal from the weightlifting arena, finishing second behind New Zealand’s Richard Patterson in the men’s 85 kg category.

On the track, Kenmar Bailey-Cole emerges the fastest athlete of the Games, winning the 100m after working well to overtake early leader Adam Gemili (England) at the halfway mark. However, the one who has the arc lights firmly trained on her is Blessing Okagbare (Nigeria). She puts the Jamaicans on notice after registering a splendid victory in the women’s 100m.

July 29: Mike Hooper, the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, drops a bombshell as it were by announcing that the teenage sensation, Chika Alamaha, has returned an adverse analytical finding following the testing of her ‘A’ sample for a diuretic. The athlete, in accordance with her rights, has sought the testing of her ‘B’ sample and this would take place in London the following day, Hooper says.

The 16-year-old is Nigeria’s first gold medal winner at the Games, having topped the field in the women’s 53 kg category in weightlifting. She also sets records in snatch and total. The incident, obviously, leaves the Nigerians red-faced.

India stands to benefit if the ‘B’ sample too returns positive, as Santoshi Matsa would be upgraded to silver and Swati Singh, who finished fourth, would be awarded the bronze.

However, there is little to cheer for the Indian shooters who experience a sudden slump. The nation has a big shock when the London Olympics silver medal winner, Gagan Narang, fails to get to the final of the 25m rapid-fire pistol.

Narang settles for the bronze in the 50m rifle 3-position, his 10th medal overall in the Commonwealth Games.

Manavjit Singh Sandhu finishes third in the single trap.

However, these disappointments are immediately forgotten, as the Indian freestyle wrestlers take the centre stage. Sushil Kumar, Amit Kumar and Vinesh prove they are a class apart. Rajiv Tomar’s silver then adds to the joy in the Indian camp.

Weightlifter Chandrakant Mali meanwhile adds another medal to the Indian kitty, winning the bronze in the men’s 94 kg category.

July 30: For once, superstar Usain Bolt is in the news for the wrong reason. The Times reports that the Jamaican sprinter has passed a negative comment about the Commonwealth Games. Though Bolt is quick to respond via Twitter, denying that he said anything negative about the event, the media is not prepared to give up. Each and everyone connected with the organisation of the Games is questioned and their comments sought. The CGF refuses to be drawn into the controversy.

The wrestlers keep the Indian camp happy for the second day running. The Wrestling Federation of India is quick to take credit for the performance, saying it had a role in the success of its grapplers. However, there is disappointment by the end of the day as none of the four wrestlers (Lalita, Bajrang, Sakshi Malik and Satywart Kadian) figuring in the finals is able to deliver gold medals.

On the track, Kirani James wins the 400m effortlessly and presents Grenada its first ever Commonwealth gold. Valerie Adams, as usual, remains unbeaten in women’s shot put.

England tastes unexpected success as gymnast Claudia Fragapane is crowned the all-around queen in the women’s section. Interestingly, Australia finishes with just one gold medal on a day when there were 19 up for grabs.

July 31: The debate on whether the amateur boxers should fight without headgear hots up after Daniel Lewis (Australia) is ruled out, on medical grounds, from the welterweight (69 kg) quarterfinal bout against India’s Mandeep Jangra the previous night. Opinions have remained divided on the issue ever since the AIBA (International Boxing Association) decided to ban the use of headgear by the amateur boxers last year. And as the issue is widely discussed — this is the first time that the new AIBA ruling is put into effect at a major event — the AIBA vice-president and tournament supervisor, Abdellah Bessalem, is quick to assure that the international body will review the rule soon after the Games.

The Indian hockey captain, Sardar Singh, is held guilty of trying to hit Australia’s Eddie Ockenden during a group match. He is officially reprimanded after the appeals jury reviews the proceedings of the match against Australia in Pool A that India lost 4-2. He is then handed a one-match ban.

The wrestlers, led by Yogeshwar Dutt, once again excel, sending the Indian contingent into a delirium. Yogeshwar triumphs in the 65 kg category, while Babita Kumari emerges champion in the women’s 55 kg class.

Vikas Gowda too brings good news to the Indian camp by winning the men’s discus throw gold at Hampden Park.