Miles to go before Asiad

If one sincerely analyses the form that India displayed in Glasgow, it will clearly show that all is not rosy with sport in the country. By A. Vinod.

A haul of 64 medals — 15 gold, 30 silver and 19 bronze — for the Indian contingent (215-member team) was quite respectable and the country finished fifth in the overall tally at the conclusion of the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

But will India continue in the same vein in the Asian Games to be held in Incheon, South Korea, in September-October this year? The country will face formidable opponents such as China, South Korea and Japan in the Asiad.

Four years ago, when India hosted the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, it finished second in the medals tally with 101 medals including 38 gold. But in the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, all it got was 64 medals including 14 gold.

If one sincerely analyses the form that India displayed in Glasgow, it will clearly show that all is not rosy with sport in the country. In Incheon, it will be a miracle if the country can match the same number of medals that it won in Guangzhou.

This is not an attempt to belittle India’s performance. In fact, the weightlifters and wrestlers revelled in Glasgow. But the much-hyped shooting team was below par in performance. In athletics, India had only three medals to show — a gold, a silver and a bronze. The cyclists, lawn bowlers and swimmers went home empty-handed despite constituting one-tenth of the total strength of the Indian contingent.

In shooting, Abhinav Bindra (10m air rifle), Jitu Rai (50m pistol), Apurvi Chandela (women’s 10m air rifle) and Rahi Sarnobat (women’s 25m pistol) lived up to expectations, while Gagan Narang finished with a silver and bronze. Worst was the case of Vijay Kumar, the 2012 London Games silver medallist. He failed to make it to the final in the 25m rapid fire pistol. Reigning Asian champion Heena Sidhu (women’s 10m air pistol) had a poor run as well.

In track and field, Vikas Gowda’s gold in discus was a facing-saving grace. The champion thrower won the Asian championships gold in Pune last year. Seema Antil did touch a season best throw as she retained the silver medal which she won four years ago. The young Arpinder Singh was done in by the torrential storm that hit the town on the day of the men’s triple jump. He ultimately won a deserving bronze medal from a field that included English star Phillips Idowu.

The performance of the men’s 1600m relay team was pathetic. It was disqualified for poor baton exchange. Tintu Luka and Mayookha Johny came a cropper in the qualifying stage itself. If the performances of Tintu and Mayookha are any pointers, then the Athletics Federation of India has a lot of work to do before the Asian Games.

Weighed against these performances, the sterling show put up by our grapplers is commendable. Sushil Kumar (74 kg), Yogeshwar Dutt (65 kg), Amit Kumar (57 kg), Vinesh (women’s 48 kg), Babita Kumari (women’s 55 kg), Sukhen Dey (56 kg), Sathish Kumar Sivalingam (77 kg) and Sanjita Chanu (women’s 48 kg) deserve a pat on the back. Parupalli Kashyap (men’s singles winner in badminton) and the golden duo of Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa (in the doubles of women’s squash) also did our country proud.