Millennium Post

Ending on a satisfactory note

Ending on a satisfactory note

Every sporting mega event brings with it a mix of hope and despair, success and failure, lost opportunities and inspiration to improve further. So did the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, 2022. Still, each event is unique in terms of contributing its part to the progress of sporting culture in its own unique way. Right from the beginning, Birmingham — brimming with diversities — carried a sense of inclusiveness which ended up in overall satisfaction for all athletes including those from India. India, with 22 gold medals, managed to take the overall medal tally to 61 — finishing fourth after Australia (67 gold medals), England (57) and Canada (26). Even in the absence of medal-rich shooting, India managed to reach a comparable level with previous bests — except for the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games when the country's medal tally had crossed the three-figure mark. Similar has been the story in terms of gold medals, with Birmingham tally trailing only behind New Delhi (2010), Manchester (2002) and Gold Coast (2018). For India, what makes Birmingham stand out is the shining outcome in athletics — rightly called the mother of all sports. India's athletics story — be it in Commonwealth Games, Olympics or any other sporting mega event — has been largely dismal to date. Indian athletes, by winning eight medals, including one gold, at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, have shown that times are changing and there is hope. Despite the lack of required levels of state assistance and funding, what the athletes have achieved is beyond applause. This is also an urgent call to the governments and sporting institutions that Indian athletes are now ready to rock the world stage with a fair bit of buttressing. The gaps need to be bridged sooner than later. Conduction of proper training sessions, including those abroad, has been a longstanding issue. A single athletics gold by Neeraj Chopra in Tokyo Olympics had thrown the entire nation into jubilation which has still not faded. Given the relentless efforts our athletes have been putting over decades, India deserves more of such jubilation and pride. If athletics was a bright spot for India in Birmingham, the Indian men's hockey team, despite winning a silver medal, ended up on a slightly unsatisfactory note. Indian hockey coach Graham Reid and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh openly expressed their disappointment at the crushing defeat they faced against Australia in the finals. The highly professional Australians executed their plans to perfection while the Indian team's plans were being shattered to pieces. In winning the match 7-0, they didn't let the Indian team set its foot in the game at any point. Notably, the Australians had defeated India in a similar fashion in big CWG games on previous occasions as well — 8-0 in 2010 Commonwealth Games, and 4-0 in Glasgow Commonwealth Games. With the Hockey World Cup just four months away, there is need for deep retrospection to identify the limiting factors and boost the morale of the players who need nothing to prove on the question of capability. Expressing his disappointment, Reid noted that "one of the tough parts of silver is that you lose gold and when you win bronze, you win it." However, more than the color of the medal, it is the opportunity to improve further that should concern us. The Indian women's cricket team also had to contend with a silver medal as they lost to Australia in the final. Regardless of the controversy around inclusion of Covid-positive McGrath in the Australian team, Indian women did put on great performances all throughout the tournament. Their silver in the maiden CWG T20 event is a thing to rejoice. No talk of CWG 2022 can be complete without the mention of historic Lawn Bowl Gold won by Indian Women's Fours. India's CWG performance in Birmingham was steered by wrestling (six gold, one Silver and five bronze); table tennis (four gold, one silver and two bronze); and weightlifting (three gold, three silver and four bronze). India also won three gold medals each in boxing and badminton. It was good to see that most of the well-established stars stood up to the expectations. It is even better to see new stars emerging — with skill, confidence and composure. Sporting is a living symbol of human progress and there are no stops along this path. India must now ready itself, without delay, for bigger challenges that lie ahead in the coming years. The future seems to be lit brightly by the efforts of Indian athletes; governments and institutions must contribute their part as well.

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