Gold Coast is a metropolitan region to the south of Brisbane on the east coast of Australia. Apart from its long sandy beaches and elaborate system of waterways, the region is also famed for its theme parks. It is only a matter of days before the whole of Gold Coast becomes a wonderland for the sports fanatics as it hosts the 21st Commonwealth Games.
It will be the 5th time that the formerly known British Empire Games will be held in Australia, previous editions being 1938 [Sydney], 1962 [Perth], 1982 [Brisbane] and 2006 [Melbourne]. With a total of 71 nations participating in over 275 events during the course of 11 days [4-15 April], there is going to be a huge buzz, down under to get the Gold in the Coast. The Aussies have always been known for their sports culture, inspite of such a tiny population [around 2.4 crores]. Amidst all the arrivals to the town, Wednesday evening marked perhaps the most anticipated one, the Indian contingent.
325 members [221 athletes, 58 coaches, 17 doctors and physiotherapists, 7 managers and 22 other officials] associated with 18 sporting categories, arrived in the host city and were greeted with a warm reception from the India community, who have come from all parts of the country to cheer and can be expected to outnumber any other sets of supporters. An instance was the 2014 Glasgow games, where the Indian fans literally owned every event in which their players’ featured.
With just 6 days left for the action to begin, there is much that can be expected from the Indian players. As a matter of fact if we look on paper, this Indian contingent has the ability to put up the best ever show by the nation @Commonwealth Games. But hasn’t that been the case in the last two editions as well. A bundle of expectations have all gone down many a times, especially when it comes to standing at the centre of the podium. So what’s so different this time around, that makes us bargain for a little bit more.
In the summer of 2014 in Glasgow, the Indian men’s hockey team were all set to claim their position back at the top in world hockey with a gold. That party was spoiled by Australia in a rather tormenting fashion, with a 4-0 win in the final. Fast forward 4 years, here we are standing in their territory, looking to mount some pressure, but the question is how?
In the words of India’s most experienced forward SV Sunil, ” India shall go for nothing less than gold.”
” For those who have followed the sport since the golden days, the current side is a beam of hope to revive the supremacy days ” added Sunil. An added incentive to India would be the fact that the women’s team is also looking the strongest in perhaps over a decade.
On the wrestling mat, things are looking pretty fashionable for India as they have blended in with the perfect combo of experience and youth. The likes of former gold winners such as Sushil Kumar, Babita Kumari will be accompanied by Bajrang Punia, Rahul Balasaheb Aware, Mausam Khatri, Pooja Dhanda, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat.
Wrestling has always been the focal point of India’s success at Commonwealth Games, over the years. It has been the one sport where the name hasn’t really mattered, be it the first timers or the established superstars, all have given their 100% and made the fans back home exhale their breaths in joy.
Much to the contrast of Wrestling, where the qualification process for Gold Coast was extravagantly vocal and heated with a spree of arguments, the Indian Boxing Federation and the players have been preparing for the games largely behind the closed doors. A conscious decision on part of the Federation in order to support the young players, most of them making way into their first major tournament. While the men’s team comprises of young and promising talent such as Vikas Krishan and Manish Kaushik, the women’s team is all about the air of experience. Laishram Devi, MC Mary Kom, Pinki Rani will all be looking to secure the gold in their respective categories.
In the last two CWG, the Indian shooters have dominated the medals tally more than any other group of athletes. They have won the most medals in both Delhi  and Glasgow . Even in the current crop of 27 shooters, 9 have previously bagged medals in the Commonwealth Games. The likes of Gagan Narang, Jitu Rai, Sanjeev Rajput, Manavjit Sandhu, Apurvi Chandela, Heena Sidhu and Shreyasi Singh to name a few, will be central to India’s success in shooting. There is no doubt that Indian shooters have taken the game to an entirely different level over the last 10 years. However, veteran Anjali Bhagwat’s words highlight the new challenge that we face at Gold Coast.
“Given the way shooters from other countries such as Singapore, England and the hosts Australia have improved, i suggest that we sincerly aim for quality. Medals will always come if we maintain the quality, and though we have in the past dominated in the CWG, the situation has changed ” said Bhagwat who had won four medals in the 2002 CWG.
If betting was legal in India, Badminton is the one place where most would have placed all their chips. The trio of Kidambi Srikanth, Saina Nehwal and the Indian flagbearer P.V Sindhu has been monumental this season. They have raised the bar so high that anything less than a gold for all three of them would be a disappointment. To accompany them, one can place safe wages on H.S Prannoy, Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy, who will all be featuring in the doubles’ event. Such a promising spree of stars; India really can break their all time best tally in the Commonwealth Games.
Apart from these spotlight events, there are many surprise hampers for the Indian fans this time around. Archery is one of the many. India for the first time is major favorites to bag a gold in the event, given their impressive stint during the World Championships, previous year. The Women’s compound looks especially promising with Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das and Jyoti Surekha amongst 14 others in both the categories.
A few disappointing gestures were made when 2016 Rio Olympics’ poster girl Dipa Karmakar decided to pull out due to an injury. But India has never been a better land of opportunity for Gymnasts as it is now. In came 22-year old, Aruna Budda Reddy. Featuring at the World Cup, Aruna narrowly missed out on silver with a difference of .040 points. It was India’s first ever medal at the World Cup, which surely sparks the hope for a stellar performance down under.
All said and considered, there can’t be a better chance for India to get rid of their nightmares at the big stage. So as some 200 odd athletes get warmed up to represent their nation, what can we as 1.3 billion people do. Well turn on your television sets, switch to Sony Sports network and watch how one of the biggest cricket fans [Sudhir Kumar] in the world has turned into a star in order to promote those who give no less than the Virats, the Dhonis and the Rohits. Those who give their sweat and blood throughout the span of 4 years, only to have a chance in these 11 days, just so that they can be accompanied by their fellow countrymen to witness their national flag, rise above others’