The 21st Commonwealth Games started yesterday with a vibrant and colourful opening ceremony. Taking place in Gold Coast, Australia, the Games will last 11 days, with events from 21 sports.
The Friendly Games’ take place every four years, and are contested by the 71 nations of the Commonwealth (used to be part of the British Empire). For some of the smaller countries taking part, this is the biggest multi-sport event that they get the opportunity to participate in. However, the level of competition is extremely high and there will be no shortage of excitement and action at the Games.
Historically, India has been very successful at the Commonwealth Games, standing 4th in the all-time medal table, with 438 medals (155 gold). This time round, we have 218 athletes taking part and many medal hopefuls.
We have 28 competitors in athletics and one to look out for is Neeraj Chopra, who caused a stir when he set the Javelin junior world record at the 2016 Junior Athletics World Championships with a mark of 86.48m. He placed 15th at the 2017 Athletics World Championships in London (Bolt’s last championships) and has a 2018 season’s best of 85.94m.
Badminton is a sport in which India shows a lot of promise. P.V. Sindhu is very well known across the nation and won a Silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She also won a Bronze at the last Commonwealth Games and in 2017, she won her third World Championship medal, a silver. She was the flag-bearer at the Opening ceremony and is certainly a favourite for a podium finish at these Games, currently ranked 3rd in the world. In Men’s Singles, hope will be high for Kidambi Srikanth, currently ranked 2nd in the world, and the only one of the top 5 from a commonwealth nation. Saina Nehwal is another badminton star who will have high hopes. Having won, in the past, bronze medals at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2017 World Championships, the 2010 Commonwealth champion will be looking to do well at Gold Coast 2018.
India have had past success at the CWG in our national sport, Hockey, and will be looking to emulate past success.The men’s team, currently ranked 6th in the world will look to match their Silvers in the last two editions of CWG. However, the journey will not be straightforward, and we will have to overcome the formidable challenges of Pakistan and England in the Group Stage.
Boxing is certainly one of India’s stronger sports, producing stars such as Vijender Singh and M.C. Mary Kom, the latter of whom will be competing in Gold Coast, looking to add a Commonwealth medal to her 2 Asian Games medals and Olympic medal. Some of our other boxers include the 2010 CWG Gold Medallist, Manoj Kumar, 2-time Asian Games medallist Vikas Krishnan, and Sarita Devi Laishram, who won medals at the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games.
Shooting is the only sport, other than Hockey, in which India has claimed Olympic Gold, and there are many medal hopefuls competing in Gold Coast. Jitu Rai will be looking to defend his 50m pistol title from 2014. The 34-year old veteran rifle shooter Gagan Narang, a London 2012 Bronze medallist, will be looking to add to his amazing tally of 10 CWG medals. Manavjit Singh Sandhu will be representing India at his 6th Commonwealth Games, 20 years after his first appearance in Kuala Lumpur. Heena Sidhu is also hoping to medal, and although her focus is on the World Championships later this year, the Pistol shooter will be looking to replicate her performance from Delhi, where she won 2 medals. However, one to watch out for is 16-year old Manu Baker, who beat Sidhu at last year’s National Games and created ripples when she became the youngest Indian to win an ISSF World Cup gold medal.
Squash players Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, the team who won Women’s doubles gold in Glasgow, will look to defend their title and also try and medal in the singles competition as well.
India also has hopes in Table Tennis, that contingent lead by Manika Batra, India’s highest ranked paddler.
Wrestling has always been one of India’s strongest sports and our first ever CWG medal, back in 1934, came in Wrestling. Our men’s medal hopes include Glasgow silver medallist Bajrang Punia and the famous London 2012 medallist, Sushil Kumar. The Phogat family’s contribution to Indian women’s wrestling was documented in the 2016 blockbuster, Dangal, which concluded with Geeta Kumari’s 2010 CWG Gold. Her younger sister, Babita, who won a silver in 2010 and a gold in 2014, will be competing in Gold Coast. The Dangal sisters’ cousin, Vinesh Phogat, also a Glasgow gold medallist, will be looking to medal. Her promising run at Rio 2016 came to an abrupt end in the Quarter Finals where she suffered a knee injury. Speaking of Rio 2016, one of India’s two medals came from Wrestling, won by Sakshi Malik, and she will look for similar success at Gold Coast.
Weightlifting has already brought us 2 medals today, on day 1 of the Games. P Gururaja won a Silver medal in the Men’s 56 kilogram category. In the women’s 48kg, 23-year old Mirabai Chanu dominated the field, winning India’s first gold of the Games, achieving a new Clean & Jerk personal best in the process. But, more than that, she won by a staggering margin of 26kg (more than half her weight) and she set a new CWG record with each of her six lifts, a truly marvellous achievement.
Highlighted here are but a few of India’s medal aspirants at Gold Coast 2018, and hopefully, the success we saw on Day 1 is a sign of good things to come in the remaining 10 days.