Editorial Articles

Volume-4, 28 April-4 May, 2018

India Glitters at Gold Coast

Vidhanshu Kumar

"Sports are 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical," legendary baseball player Yogi Berra once quipped. Berra had hit the nail on its head and stoked fire to a raging debate: How much of sports is physical and how much of it is mental? Coaches, sports scientists and experts are drawing close to a conclusion that as the game becomes tougher and reaches the highest competitive level, achieving success becomes a more mental than physical effort.
What makes Kidambi Srikanth a better badminton player than most others? Or what makes Virat Kohli a better cricketer than most others? In terms of talent, only freak geniuses like Usain Bolt are so different from others. It is the mental capacity to work longer, never lose hope, play intelligently, push the limits etc. that separates a champion from the also-rans. Sports is about breaking barriers, more mental than physical.
It was one cold afternoon in Manchester when the Indian women hockey team broke a barrier. Facing England in the final of the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, Indian girls beat England for the first time in many decades to win the gold medal. A barrier was breached.  Manchester turned out to be India's best ever performance at CWG with 30 gold medals. The success also reflected, albeit on a smaller scale, at the corresponding Asian Games and the Olympics. Manchester brought belief that Indians could win at multi-discipline events.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast has also broken another barrier. In terms of medals it may not be the best, but it actually is India's best ever performance at Commonwealth Games. .
Gold Coast painted in tri-colour
First, let us have a look at India's better performances at CWG. Manchester (2002) was a watershed event for India as the country got 69 medals in total with 30 gold medals, 22 silver medals and 17 bronze medals.
The highest medals tally was achieved in 2010 when India hosted the Games at Delhi. The Indian contingent won 38 gold medals, 27 silver medals and 36 bronze medals taking the tally to 101 medals.
Compared to that in Gold Coast, Indian athletes won 66 medals with 26 Gold medals and 20 each silver and bronze medals.
One may argue that statistically this isn't the best then why this claim?
Mark Twain once quipped, "Most people use statistics like a drunken man uses a lamp post; more for support than illumination." Yes, numbers don't lie, but to get the real picture one has to go beyond mere figures.
India's story at Gold Coast was dipped in heavy metal. Why this performance matters more than previous good shows is because of the number of disciplines in which India won medals.
In Manchester, India got 30 gold medals in only 5 disciplines of shooting, weight-lifting, wrestling, boxing and hockey.
In contrast, India won in seven disciplines in Gold Coast-shooting, weight-lifting, wrestling, boxing, table-tennis, badminton and athletics.
Also some of the events in which India won medals in Manchester have been discontinued in world games now. For example, medals in pair events in shooting are not awarded any more. Similarly, in weightlifting a lot of medal categories have been abolished. India won 25 gold medals just in shooting and weightlifting in Manchester, bulk of those in categories that are discontinued ever since.
In Gold Coast, Indian sportspersons won medals at events by beating some of the world's best. Here is a look at some of the shining performers.
Mirabai Chanu
S. Mirabai Chanu displayed the most outstanding performance by an Indian at this Commonwealth Games.
Chanu improved her personal record in 48 kg. and made a Commonwealth Record.  Such was Chanu's domination in the event that she lifted 26 kgs more than her nearest rival. Chanu's performance was commendable because by the same effort she could have won at least a silver medal in the last Olympics games held at Rio. Chanu says that she is now focused for tougher challenges in the Asian Games and finally she wants to win a medal at Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Twenty-three year old Chanu belongs to Manipur.
Table Tennis
Traditionally Indian contingent has performed well in the events of shooting, weightlifting and wrestling. In Gold Coast too India won more than half the medals in these games. The medals tally reflected 16 medals in shooting (7 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze), 9 medals in wrestling ( 5 gold medals, 2 silver and 2 bronze), and 12 medals in shooting ( 7 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze medals).
But one new game that stood out for India was table tennis. Indian players won a record 8 medals in table tennis with 3 gold medals, 2 silver and 3 bronze. Ever since 1930 CWG, India has won a total of 12 medals until the last games, but in Gold Coast, India had 8 medals to show.
Manika Batra became the most successful Indian player at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast with 2 gold, one silver and one bronze medal in table tennis.
Just like badminton where Indian players have challenged powerhouses like China and Japan, table tennis too is seeing a quick Indian ascendency.
Young shooters - India's future is secured in shooting as India's young guns showed at Gold Coast.
First it was 16 year old Manu Bhaker who attracted attention with her gold medal winning effort. Bhaker pipped a more decorated shooter Heena Sidhu  in the 10 metre air pistol for the gold medal. By doing so, Bhaker also became India's youngest gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games.
But her record could last merely a week. This time it was fifteen year old Anish Bhanwala who stunned all with his record breaking performance. Anish won the gold medal in 25 metre rapid fire pistol event and became India's youngest gold medal winner at CWG.
India continued its rich haul in shooting with a total of 16 medals including 7 gold medals.
Other than the youngsters, experienced shooters like Heena Sidhu and Tejaswini also won gold medals. Heena made up for her loss to Bhaker by winning the gold 25 m event while Tejaswini also scored big by winning a gold and a silver medal.
Badminton- Not long ago Indian players were considered underdogs in the game. India had occasional world champions like Prakash Padukone, Gopichand or highly impressive Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu. But India was not looked upon as a team that would dominate games. That changed in Gold Coast. The Indian badminton contingent became the best team by winnings many as six medals.
Saina Nehwal came back to her gold medal winning ways by defeating P V Sindhu in the finals. Also for the first time Indians won gold in men's doubles as Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty came on top.
Kidambi Srikanth had to settle for a silver, but he was up against legendary Lee Chong Wei, one of the best shuttlers of all time.
The sixth medal was won by the duo of Ashwini Ponnapa and S. Reddy.
Indian shuttlers will face tougher challenge in the Asian Games as they will be up against the Chinese and Japanese players.
M.C. Mary Kom
M C Mary Kom defied age and won yet another gold medal to prove her critics wrong. Mary Kom added another feather to her illustrious cap when she became the first woman boxer from India to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. In what was her first Common- wealth Games and quite possibly her last, she made it one to remember as she put in a commanding performance to claim a unanimous 5-0 victory over Kristina O'Haara of Northern Ireland in the summit clash. The seasoned Mary Kom completely outplayed O'Hara, all of 22 years old, as she easily countered her longer reach.
Neeraj Chopra
In fact ever since the retirement of P.T. Usha, no athlete has come close to be a force at the world level. All that changed in 2016 when a young Neeraj Chopra created world record in javelin throw world championship at the junior level.
There was a huge expectation from Neeraj as world record in a track and field event by any Indian was a rarity. However Neeraj faced a lean patch after that as he moved into the seniors' competitions. People started to call him one day wonder. Neeraj Chopra chose a perfect setting in Gold Coast to set the record straight.
In a highly technical event of javelin throw, Chopra cleared 86.47 meters in the final to win gold medal in the event.
Amongst all the good performances there was some disappointment in hockey where India failed to get a podium finish. India lost to England in the lay-off match for bronze medal and finished a disappointing fourth. India had won silver medal in hockey in the last two events and this result has broken hearts of Indian fans.
The Gold Coast event has given huge boost to Indian hopes in future multi-discipline events. But the real challenge is in the Asian Games and finally at the Olympics. These are the games where the competition is much tougher. But the silver lining for India is that performance in Commonwealth Games can be the basis of hope for India's good performance in the upcoming. Asian Games and Olympics. Gold Coast has given India confidence to achieve greater heights in sports.
The Author is a senior Sports Commentator. E mail: vidhanshu.kumar@gmail.com