The Big Story: Be a sport

India ended the 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign on a high – with their third-best showing in the history of the Games in terms of total medals and also the number of golds. The obvious reaction from the Sports Ministry and the National Sports Federations will be to talk up our chances in the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia in August and the 2020 Olympics. But they would do well to adopt a different approach.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the success of every sportsperson who won a medal or improved on their performance Down Under. We definitely should. But we shouldn’t get carried away.

There were some exceptional performances from teenage shooters Manu Bhaker and Anish Bhanwala, who broke the Games record to win gold medals. Another teen, 16-year-old Mehuli Ghosh, bagged a silver. Table tennis player Manika Batra was probably the find of the Games as she beat the world no 4 twice on her way to a brilliant tournament. She helped India bag two historic golds, in the women’s team event and a singles gold. The Indian badminton team underlined its growing status with six medals, including the first mixed team gold, and the boxers came home with three gold medals for the first time.

Neeraj Chopra threw the javelin beyond 80m to win a gold medal in an event that had Rio Olympics silver medallist Julius Yego competing in it, while quarter-miler Mohammad Anas and 1,500-metre runner Jinson Johnson broke the Indian records even as up-and-coming runner Hima Das made it to the 400-metre final in her first major event.

These high points notwithstanding, it’s worth remembering that more than half of the 66 medals India won came from wrestling, shooting, weightlifting and table tennis. Though India has not won even a medal at the Asian Games in weightlifting and table tennis since the turn of the century, shooting has been our strongest sport across all multi-discipline event.

In fact, with the exception of weightlifting world champion in women’s 48 kg category Mirabai Chanu, the gold medal-winning performance of the lifters in Australia was almost 15 kgs-20 kgs less than the medal-winning performances at the last Asian Games and Asian Championship.

The story is not that dismal in wrestling but winning medals on the mat with the Japanese, Chinese and Iranian wrestlers at the Asian Games isn’t going to be easy. Even on the shooting range, the Chinese and the Korean have been dominating the medals tally at the Asian Games. It will take a special effort from all our shooters to even win half of the 16 medals they won at the Commonwealth Games.

In a larger sense, the Commonwealth Games are only a stepping stone. We should choose to build on the highs of Gold Coast to identify, train and fund our champions to become world beaters at every level. That would be the real success of these Games.

The Big Scroll

Read Scroll’s extensive coverage of the 2018 Commonwealth Games here.


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