CWG gold haul signals rising India

The 21st Commonwealth Games in Australia offered an exciting glimpse of the future of Indian sport. At the end of the competitions, the numbers were very impressive from the Indian perspective: 26 gold in a total of 66 medals, and a third spot on the table behind Australia and England, the powerhouses in the sporting fiesta of the erstwhile British colonies. It wasn’t a giant leap, but it showed progress on many fronts, threw light on the disquieting lacunae in others and held out hope in the form of a clutch of talented individuals who strove hard to push their boundaries. The Mary Koms and the Sushil Kumars delivered gold medals expected of them, standing up for the old order. Overshadowing their efforts was the surge of the youth – fearless, ambitious and extremely competitive. They didn’t spring out of the blue but the transition they made in the heat of the battle and the fortitude they displayed came as welcome surprises. In many disciplines, the Commonwealth Games are merely stepping stones towards higher, more competitive platforms, so it was heartening to see the young talent using it well to prove their merit and mettle.

The championship calibre was more pronounced in shooting, India’s happy hunting ground under the Commonwealth firmament. The likes of Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh and Anish Bhanwala, still in their teens, showed nerves of steel to battle it out against veterans of their sport. The progress made in table tennis, too, was noteworthy with the young Manika Batra standing out with her terrific displays. The medal successes in badminton came on expected lines, with the country having emerged as a force on the world stage. Wrestlers and weightlifters also brought home five gold medals each from fields that weren’t highly competitive, but in iron woman Mirabai Chanu, India had a performer who lifted the level to world standards.

From a global perspective, the rush of medals may not mean much at this moment, but the rise of the young brigade was indeed hard to miss. In that context, the most impressive of India’s gold medals came in a sport that is genuinely world-class at the Commonwealth level. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was already a world junior champion heading to Gold Coast and he showed his calibre with an effort that would have won him medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. While the success of Chopra and his team-mates will be celebrated in true Indian style in the coming days, it is important to stay grounded and not to lose focus of the hard road ahead. In the immediate vicinity is the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, which will offer sterner tests and show where we really stand amidst some of the giants of world sport.

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