Summer of Sport

India has just concluded (finished) its third best-ever performances in the Commonwealth Games. Many of the medals came from sports such as shooting, weight lifting, wrestling and badminton. Why did India do well in these sports? Find out in this Special Report and along the way, learn more about these sports.

India@Commonwealth Games 2018

The 21t Commonwealth Games ended on April 15th at the city of Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. India ended the Games with 66 medals (26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze) and finished in third place overall behind Australia and England.

Although India has stood higher in the tally or total number of medals during two earlier editions of the Commonwealth Games-in 2002 in Manchester (England) where they won 30 gold medals and 2010 in New Delhi where India finished in second place- the haul at the 2018 Games is more significant. Unlike in Delhi, where teams had the home advantage and India had the benefit of picking three sports where it could shine (archery, tennis and Greco-roman wrestling), Indian teams at the 2018 Games had no such advantage. Back in 2002 in Manchester, the formula for giving medals was different, and had Gold Coast followed Manchester’s medal distribution pattern, India’s tally would have easily zoomed beyond 2002’s 30 golds.

The Indians at the closing ceremony of the Games
The Indians at the closing ceremony of the Games

 

The good news

The truly wonderful news about India’s performance at the Gold Coast is that it came from multiple sports-athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, table tennis, weightlifting, wrestling. And for the first time ever, there were more gold medals than silver or bronze. Let’s now look at some of the sports where India did well.

Shooting for the Stars 

Shooting delivered to India 7 of the 26 gold medals won at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 16 of the 66 medals won overall. It is a sport that India has done reasonably well since 2000. In 2004, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver medal in double trap shooting at the Olympics. In 2008, Abhinav Bindra won gold in shooting, becoming the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics.   Another shooter, Gagan Narang, won a bronze at the 2012 Olympics. Rathore and Bindra’s early medals inspired a generation of Indians who wished to make a mark in the sport.

Abhinav Bindra remains India’s only individual Olympic gold medalist.
Abhinav Bindra remains India’s only individual Olympic gold medalist.

Teenagers who (literally) shot to fame at Commonwealth Games 2018

Know your sport

Shooting as a sport typically involves using pistols, rifles or shotguns. Targets are placed at different distances for different shooting events.

Badminton High

India completely dominated badminton at the Commonwealth Games and in the absence of China which is not part of the Commonwealth, they were the top ranked team. They lived up to the ranking, winning gold in the women’s singles event (Saina Nehwal), silver in the men’s singles (Kidambi Srikanth) and gold in the mixed team event.

The success at the Commonwealth Games reflects India’s position in world badminton. Consider this: India now has three Top 20 players male players-Kidambi Srikanth (ranked No 1),  Prannoy HS (11) and Sai Praneeth (15). In the women’s Top 20 list, there is PV Sindhu at No 3 and Saina Nehwal at No 12.

A clear reason for India’s rise in the sport is national coach Pullela Gopichand whose sports academy at Hyderabad has consistently produced winners. The medals won by PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are attracting young Indians to the sport.

The Indians won the mixed team event too
The Indians won the mixed team event too

Know Your Sport

Badminton is a sport that requires the least set-up. Sure, it would be nice to have a proper court, but in the absence of one, you just need to find a clear patch of ground and a partner and start playing!

Wrestle away! 

Wrestling is a sport where India has been among the medals for a few years now. Sushil Kumar who won medals in both the 2012 (bronze) and 2016 (silver) Olympics is India’s only Olympian to win medals in two successive Olympic Games. Among the women, Sakshi Malik won a bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016. The wrestlers did not disappoint at the Commonwealth Games either, winning 12 Medals (5 Golds, 3 Silver, 4 Bronze).

Wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic sports and was one of the events at the ancient Olympics two thousand years ago. The ancient Indian form of wrestling called ‘Kushti’ is also the oldest sport in the world, practiced even today. There is a long tradition of wrestling in India and places like Delhi and Haryana are dotted with ‘akharas’ where young wrestlers are trained. Not surprisingly, most of India’s medal winning wrestlers come from these states.

Know your sport

There are two kinds of wrestling seen in Olympics and major competitions-Freestyle and Greco-Roman. The main difference is that in Greco Roman, wrestlers are forbidden from grabbing their opponent below the waist. Wrestlers are grouped into weight classes-for example, India’s Vinesh Phogat won gold in the women’s freestyle 50 kg event. This is to ensure that opponents are evenly matched.

 

Some true heavyweights here! 

Weightlifting is also a sport that India shone in at the Commonwealth Games where the team brought home 9 medals (5 golds, 2 silvers, 2 bronze). The stars of the Indian effort were girls from Manipur- Saikhom Mirabai Chanu and Sanjita Chanu, who both smashed tournament records to win gold for India. Born to not so wealthy families in India’s north-east, the girls struggled  even get their daily diet of milk and eggs so essential for sports like wrestling. But that didn’t stop them and they have risen to the top of the sport, not just in India but even in global events.

 

Know your sport

Like wrestling, weightlifters are also grouped into weight categories, depending on the weight they want to lift. During the event, athletes lift bars known as barbells, loaded with weights at each end. They are allowed three attempts at each weight and after each successful attempt, the weight is increased. The winner is the person who lifts the heaviest weight.

 

Saikhom Mirabai Chanu
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu