India finished a creditable 3rd in the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) at Gold Coast Australia with 26 Gold, 20 Silver and 20 bronze medals. Statistically it was India’s 3rd best performance ever. However since in earlier editions of CWG (i) the number of events were more, (ii) there were more medals at stake and (iii) CWG Delhi was at home, this for me is India’s best performance ever.
What was especially heartening in this Games is that there were some amazing performances by youngsters. These young stars will be beacon of hope for us in the 2020 Olympics.
Lets have a look at them, and also discuss some little-known trivia associated with them.
20 year Neeraj created history with his 86.47 throw in the Men’s javelin event to become India’s 1st ever gold medal winner in this event at the Commonwealth Games. Neeraj’s throw would have been good enough to get him a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and he must surely be an early contender for a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
What gladdened the heart was that Neeraj won the gold with his season’s best throw. His is only India’s 4th individual gold in athletics at the CWG, after legend Milkha Singh in1958, Krishna Poonia for Women’s discus in 2010 and Vikas Gowda for Men’s discus in 2014.
Milkha Singh’s was India’s 1st ever gold medal and Prime Minister Nehru asked him what he wanted as reward. Milkha says he could have asked for 200 acres of land in Punjab or 2-3 bungalows in Delhi but he asked for a holiday for the entire country which was granted by Pandit Nehru.
“I don’t set targets, i work on technique” reflects the confidence of this 16 year teen from Haryana. Manu, who earlier had gold medals at both the junior and senior world cup, broke the Games record to win the gold ahead of Heena Sidhu.
Interestingly Manu had earlier thought of boxing as a career.
How did she celebrate her gold medal ? With a game of table-tennis. All the best Manu. Proud of you.
Talk of Table tennis brings us to our 3rd young star, Manika Batra, India’s star of the tournament
Manika was India’s highest medal winner with as many as 4 medals including 2 golds, a silver and a bronze. She was the 1st ever Indian to win the ladies singles. In a one sided final she defeated 4 time defending champion Yu Mengyu of Singapore 4 Nil.
Manika’s 2nd gold was the women’s team gold which too was won by the ladies team for the 1st time ever. India defeated Singapore 3-1 in the final, with the highlights being Manika defeating world number 4 Tianwei Feng and also the highly experienced Yu Mengyu.
Ranked 58, she consistently defeated higher ranked players, with the highlight being two wins over the world No.4 in the same tournament.
Look at the tri-colour on her finger nails. Goose-bumps.
Anish Bhanwala who is just 15 had packed his CBSE books along with his pistol when he left for the CWG. Thankfully, CBSE re-scheduled his exams. Anish won the nations’s hearts by winning the Men’s 25 m rapid fire pistol.
The teen superstar had to leave his house in karnal at 13 for Faridabad as karnal does not have a shooting range. This was his 1st Commonwealth Games and he became India’s youngest ever gold medal winner.
Behind the success of Gaurav Solanki is the sacrifice of his family. When he was 15 and showed promise but the family had no money for his diet and training his father took the drastic decision of selling his plot of land to finance his son’s boxing career.
6 years later at just 21, Gaurav defeated Northern Ireland’s Brendan Irvine 4-1 in the men’s 52 kg final. This was his debut CWG. Gaurav surely is a star for the future.
Kidambi Srikanth during the course of the CWG became World Number 1 by displacing Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen. Sri won a silver in the men’s singles when Lee Chong Wei came back from 1 game down to win the next 2 and the gold. LCW as he is popularly known is one of the greatest player of all time and losing to him is definitely not a shame.
In fact, in the mixed team event, Sri had defeated LCW in straight games which was a key result in India’s 1st ever mixed team Gold.
Coach Gopichand who had not allowed Sri and the team to celebrate with a cake after Sri became No.1 called the team Gold as the biggest gain of the tournament.
17 year teen Satwiksairaj Rankireddy is a star of the present as well as the future. Satwik won a gold and a silver. His gold was in the team event when he and Ashwini Ponnappa won 21-14, 15-21, 21-15 against their Malaysian opponents to give the team a head start. He lost in the men’s doubles but this mixed doubles win was a key which helped the team immensely as Srikanth and Saina wrapped up their singles.
Satwik will definitely smash his way to major success in the future. With his incredibly powerful game he is a potential mega singles star of the future as well.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu broke six records in six lifts for a memorable gold in the women’s 48 kg weightlifting event. Mirabai had a silver in the last edition of the CWG and was a big hope at the Rio Olympics but could not come up to the mark. However in the 2018 Olympics she dazzled and as she is just 23 she will be one of our main hopes for the 2020 Olympics.
Mehuli Ghosh at 17 won a silver medal in the 10 metre air rifle final and while she just missed the gold by losing to Singapore’s Martina , she accepted that she had learnt her lessons and will come out stronger. Ironically she had shot a perfect 10.9 and celebrated prematurely thinking she had won the gold, but instead she had tied. In the shootout she lost out, as she shot a 9.9 while her Singapore rival with 10.3 clinched the gold.
We can only hope this narrow loss will steel her resolve.
Mohammed Anas is the last young star i have chosen, even though he did not win any medal at the CWG. The 400m runner came 4th and just missed the bronze. However his performance was extremely impressive as it was a national record breaking performance with Anas improving upon his own record. It was India’s 1st final entry in 60 years after the legendary Milkha Singh’s gold winning performance in 1958.
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