To Glasgow with hope

SURE SHOTS? Yogeshwar Dutt (left) and Sushil Kumar lead India's challenge in wrestling.-PTI SURE SHOTS? Yogeshwar Dutt (left) and Sushil Kumar lead India's challenge in wrestling.

Glasgow is abuzz with the confirmation of participation of the fastest human ever, Usain Bolt. In addition, the presence of leading lights such as Mo Farah, Shelly-Ann-Fraser-Pryce, Sally Pearson and Bradley Wiggins — to name a few — is expected to light up the Commonwealth Games, writes A. Vinod.

Glasgow is all decked up to host the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games, which promises some top class sporting action.

Already the event is abuzz with the confirmation of participation of the fastest human ever, Usain Bolt, who did not take part in the previous edition in New Delhi in 2010. In addition, the presence of leading lights such as Mo Farah (10,000m & 5,000m), Bradley Wiggins (cycling), Shelly-Ann-Fraser-Pryce (100m and 200m), Hannah Miley and Michael Jamieson (swimming) and Sally Pearson (100m hurdles), to name a few, is expected to light up the 12-day event (July 23 to August 3), which is again likely to be dominated by Australia.

However, the late withdrawals of leading men such as sprinter Yohan Blake and badminton player Lee Chong Wei due to injury would be a disappointment.

When compared with New Delhi, the event in Glasgow — which was awarded the Games in 2007 after winning a vote against Abuja (Nigeria) — is certain to be a lot more compact as it returns to Scotland for a third time. The country had hosted the multi-discipline event in 1970 and 1986, both in Edinburgh.

The New Delhi Commonwealth Games had 21 disciplines, with 272 gold medals up for grabs. In Glasgow, the disciplines have been reduced to 17, with 261 gold medals at stake. Archery and tennis are among the disciplines dropped while triathlon and judo have been included. The event, this time round, will witness para-athletes vying for a record 22 gold medals in five disciplines (athletics, swimming, cycling, lawn bowls and weightlifting).

The Commonwealth Games, which was held for the first time in 1930 in Hamilton (Canada) as the British Empire Games and has since grown in size and stature, has been a good platform for Indian athletes in recent times to showcase their talent. In Manchester in 2002, India had won 69 medals (30 gold, 22 silver and 12 bronze). The nation put up an equally creditable performance (49 medals: 22 gold, 17 silver and 10 bronze) in Melbourne in 2006.

At the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, India as the host made the most of the opportunity to record its best ever performance in the event, winning 101 medals (38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze). In the process, India also displaced England as No. 2 in the overall medals tally. It gave the Indian fans a reason to rejoice and helped forget the chaos and confusion that had prevailed prior to the start of the Games.

India’s solid performance, from Manchester to New Delhi, has undoubtedly been because of the consistency of its shooters. In 2010, the shooters had accounted for 14 of the 38 gold medals won by India. However, with the number of gold medals in shooting brought down from 44 to 19, India’s aspirations would be hit in Glasgow.

Yet, with a strong shooting contingent that includes the ever-dependable Gagan Narang (who, unfortunately, will not be defending his 10m air rifle title), Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Kumar, Manavjith Singh Sandhu, Mansher Singh and Heena Sidhu, India could hope to have a fair share of the medals though the gold count is a matter of conjecture.

Apart from shooting, India’s best bet in Glasgow will be badminton, especially after having won the bronze medal in the Uber Cup recently. Also bolstering India’s chances is the form shown by Saina Nehwal, who won the women’s singles title at the Australian Open Super Series recently. The Indian ace, who will be defending the title she won in New Delhi four years ago, is one of the favourites for the gold medal.

India would also hope to win a few medals in boxing The Indian challenge in the ring will be led by Vijender Singh, Shiv Thapa and Pinki Rani.

Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, who had won a silver and bronze respectively in the London Olympics, are bright medal prospects for India. Further, the nation also stands a chance of winning medals in squash where Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa will spearhead India’s challenge. K. Ravi Kumar, who had won the gold in New Delhi in the 69 kg category, will lead the Indian weightlifters.

In athletics, the showpiece event of the Games, India’s chances appear slim even though the nation had won a record 12 medals (2 gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze) in New Delhi. India will be hoping for a good performance from the Asian champion, Vikas Gowda, in the men’s discus throw, the women’s trio of Mayookha Johny (long jump), Tintu Luka (800m) and Seema Antil (discus throw) and the 4x400m relay team.

A medal from the Indian hockey team would be an unexpected bonus considering the team’s poor showing in the men’s World Cup in The Hague recently.

However, one thing is certain — India will return home from Glasgow with fewer medals than it had won in New Delhi four years ago.