Indian sports on an upswing

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The one yardstick to understand if a country is doing well in a multi-sport event is to check if the athletes have improved on their personal best and if they have won against better ranked opponents. That’s what stands out in India’s performance at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Unlike in the past when one sport contributed a major chunk of the medals, the good part about

is that medals have come across sports and more athletes have entered medal rounds.

Even in swimming where India didn’t win a medal, Srihari Nataraj finished fifth, one of India’s better efforts in the event. In table tennis, it was commendable that India did not drop a single game all through the men’s team event.

Subramanium Raman, table tennis head coach, praised the mixed doubles pair of R Sathiyan and Manika Batra, touting them as medal prospects for Paris 2024. “They are now ranked number 6 and our aim is to get them to the top 4 before Paris. They have a real chance,” said Raman.

That’s what it is about, punching above your weight and doing things that have never been done before. Two medals in judo with a historic silver and a bronze medal in men’s singles in squash are further evidence. Weightlifting has decimated the field winning 10 medals out of possible 16.

In badminton too the results have been good. While the loss to Malaysia in the team event still hurt, it was good to see Lakshya Sen stepping up against reigning world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore. Lakshya had started poorly but once he came back and had a grip on the contest, he did not let his more fancied opponent stage a comeback. His delight at the end of the match and the way his teammates celebrated his victory made it evident what it meant to the team.

For celebrated athletes like Amit Panghal, Nikhat Zareen and the others in boxing, the CWG was an important stepping stone for tougher challenges in the future. For Nikhat, every competition now is a gold medal winning opportunity. “I have waited for a long time to wear the India colours. Now that I have my chance, I want to win each match and each medal I compete for,” she said.

Jasmine, in her first CWG, has been the surprise package. Growing up sparring with male partners in the absence of good female partners in her village and academy, Jasmine is a star to watch out for in the future.

For Panghal too, this CWG is a major opportunity. He went into Tokyo as a medal contender and had a rather unceremonious exit. He has so far looked well poised and knows he can’t take one more false step. “It is a very important competition for me and I will do my best for the country,” he said after reaching the semi-finals and assuring himself of a medal.

Lovely Choubey, Nayanmoni Saikia, Pinki and Rupa Tirkee are now household names for winning the historic gold and are expected to give a major fillip to the sport in India. The one sport where medals did not come as a surprise was wrestling.

Fortunately for India, most wrestlers who were expected to win have won. Be it Bajrang Punia or Deepak Punia, Indian wrestling is clearly poised to get better going into Paris.

Finally, one needs to mention athletics where medals are hard to come by at the CWG. In the absence of Neeraj Chopra, people were apprehensive of athletics to start with.

But with Tejaswin Shankar’s bronze and Murali Sreeshankar’s silver with a 8.08 meter jump in the final, Indian sport’s upwards trajectory is going smoothly. To paraphrase the 2022 CWG’s motto: “This is just the beginning.”

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