Stars of the show

Of all the gold medal winners for India, there were a few who caught the attention by either winning multiple medals or by playing crucial roles in the country's triumphs. S. R. Suryanarayan picks his best.

India had a good run in the South Asian Games in most of the disciplines that it took part in (it figured in 18 of the 20 events). Actually, India was to participate in only 17 disciplines, and the Indian Olympic Association President, Suresh Kalmadi, informed the media in Colombo just before the start of the event that the country would not be fielding teams in karate, wrestling and weightlifting. (India did not field a team in weightlifting because of the ban imposed on the Indian Weightlifting Federation by the international governing body following a doping scandal).

However, when the karate competition began, India fielded a team and even won a few medals, including a gold!

In events such as badminton and table tennis, India's domination was total, while its worst performance came in cycling.

Among the gold medal winners for India, there were a few who caught the attention by either winning multiple medals or by playing crucial roles in the country's wins.

The following were the pick of the Indian athletes at the South Asian Games:

Pinky Paramanik

The promising athlete from West Bengal put up a gritty display. Having won a double (400m and 800m) at the Asian Grand Prix in Bangalore and Pune, apart from the 800m in Bangkok, she had the best credentials.

The athlete, an employee of Eastern Railway, gave India a shot in the arm by not only winning the 400m and 800m, but also anchoring the team to victory in the 4x400m relay.

In every sense the Colombo meet was something to cheer about for Paramanik. Though she admitted later that she was sad on not clocking record times, the athlete considered the performance as another trial for the true test later this month at the World Championships in Athens. "After that is the Asian Games in Doha," she said enthusiastically.

Amanpreet Singh

In the absence of some of the big names, SAG shooting was a perfect setting for the 19-year-old lad to catch everyone's attention. He began with a remarkable effort in the 50m pistol, scoring 559 out of 600. Besides landing him the gold medal, the mark also erased Samresh Jung's existing Games record of 548.

Amanpreet, son of national-level shooter Sewak Singh, had already won seven gold medals in international meets. Hailing from Phillaur, Punjab, he honed his skills in his hometown even as a 12-year-old for what he says is his ultimate goal — an Olympic medal. "Yes, an Olympic medal is my goal. That's what every shooter aspires for," he said, as he got ready for practice for his next event, the 10m air pistol.

While most Indian shooters found the conditions at the Welisara Naval Range not conducive to logging big totals, Amanpreet meant business. He won the air pistol event and then led India to team golds in both the 50m pistol and air pistol competitions.

Chetan Anand & Jwala Gutta

Now husband and wife, they are among the top Indian badminton players.

Ranked No. 24 in the world, Chetan's participation lent the badminton competition some glitter, even if it meant that the finals of the individual events resembled the National Championship.

Chetan won the men's singles gold, defeating compatriot Nikhil Kanetkar. He then guided India to victory over Sri Lanka in the team final.

Jwala, more a doubles player now, started off by winning the mixed doubles title in the company of V. Diju. She then won the women's doubles gold with Shruthi Kurien and picked up her third gold in the team event where India defeated Sri Lanka in the final.

Lekha Kamath

The home media went to town about Mayumi Raheem, the talented Sri Lankan swimmer. However, it was Lekha Kamath who stole the thunder with a haul of six gold medals that included four individual golds.

For the 15-year-old schoolgirl from Vashi in Mumbai, taking part in the SAG and winning medals was a dream come true. Had it not been for the Swimming Federation of India's decision to give the juniors an exposure, Lekha perhaps would not have made it to Colombo.

Though Lekha's favourite event is the butterfly, she proved equally adept in freestyle too. She won both the 50m and 100m events in both styles, besides helping the relay team to victory.

It was a great splash on debut. Sharath Kamal

If there was a player who shone like a beacon for India in the table tennis event, it was this lanky youngster from Chennai. In the small hall of St. Joseph's College, a little away from the main Sugathadasa Stadium, it is not easy to play in front of a boisterous crowd rooting for the home team players.

But it made no difference to Sharath, the Commonwealth gold medallist and easily one of the best players in India today.

Even before the Indian team left for the SAG, Sharath said he aimed for four gold medals. And that he was able to achieve that spoke volumes of his stature. But where Sharath exhibited his class was in the team event final against Sri Lanka. After Sri Lanka had taken the lead, thanks to Soumyadeep Roy's collapse, Sharath strode in to stem the tide. He stunned the audience with his lethal forehand smashes and backhand jabs, as he steered India to victory. Sharath then helped himself to gold medals in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Sanjay Kumar

Unexpected circumstances brought him the opportunity and Sanjay Kumar grabbed it with both hands, as it were. To say that he was the man who was responsible for India winning the gold in the volleyball final will not be far from the truth.

In a jam-packed stadium with the noise reaching high decibel levels, India looked like fumbling against Sri Lanka, which had some fine individual talent such as Kalika and Sameera. While Kalika excelled in spiking, Sameera rattled the Indians with his fierce jump serves.

India needed a man who could counter the Lankan assault and the coach Augusto Sabatini brought in Sanjay from the bench. The tall and broad-shouldered Haryana player, fresh from a shoulder surgery, exhibited his prowess in pounding the ball from different angles. He then combined with the lanky Subba Rao for net blocks to blunt the Sri Lankan attack. Sanjay first caught the attention with his stupendous performances in the World Junior Championship in Visakhapatnam in 2003 and then in the World Youth Championship. Experts see a great future for this all-rounder who gave a glimpse of his talent in Colombo.