CWG 2018: The advent of India's generation next

cwg-2018-pti Flagbearer MC Mary Kom leads the Indian contingent during the closing ceremony of Commonwealth Games 2018, Gold Coast, Australia | PTI

The Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast Australia was undoubtedly a happy hunting ground for India. A total of 66 medals across 9 sports out of 16, which included 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze, lifted the spirit of a nation of otherwise slumbering sporting enthusiasts. The CWG 2018 medal tally, by the way, was two medals more than the previous edition 0f the Games in Glasgow in 2014 and the second best show by India in CWG outside India after the Manchester Games in 2002. The home performance in 2010 edition, where India won 101 medals, is the country's finest ever performance thus far in CWG games.

This is the year of Asian Games also and the CWG is always a precursor to what lies ahead for the nation in the continental games – much bigger and more competitive. India's mettle will truly be tested in Asian Games where China, Japan, Korea, Central Asian and Middle Eastern nations will also pose stiff challenges in certain specific sports like badminton, table tennis, shooting and wrestling to name a few. However, there is also the fact that the number of sports for which the countries will be vying for a medal will be far more challenging.

Unlike last time, this time there are almost 4 months for an athlete to rest, recover and peak at the continental games.

The biggest gain of the CWG was the advent of the gennext. Young athletes were given a chance to experience and prove themselves in multi event competitions and in quite a few competitions they came out with flying colours. The pressure of a “Games” is very different from the pressure of an international meet, bilateral competition or a world cup. In shooting, for example, the likes of pistol shooter Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala or rifle shooter Mehuli Ghosh, announced their arrival with a bang as did Om Mitharwal in men's 10m air pistol event where he won a bronze. Also, they had seniors and multiple Games veterans like Gagan Narang, Tejaswini Sawant and Sanjeev Rajput for guidance. These young guns will go on to serve Indian shooting at the highest level for the next decade atleast. But men's shotgun remains a concern with only Ankur Mittal returning with a bronze in the men's trap. Veteran trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu failed to qualify as did Kynan Chennai, current Asian shooting bronze medalist.

Most importantly, it is a wake up call for all the senior pros. that they no longer can take their places in the national team for granted, as these youngsters are snapping at their heels and how.

There were many historic first for India at the CWG. The hard fought gold by Shreyasi Singh in Women's Double Trap, the gold medal winning feats of Manika Batra in women's individual category and the gold in men's javelin throw by Neeraj Chopra are fine examples of India breaking the glass ceiling. Before Batra, no Indian woman TT player had ever won a gold in CWG history. Batra was also the most successful athlete at the CWG winning four medals in all the events she competed in.

Batra also spearheaded the Indian women's TT team gold medal victory beating powerhouse Singapore in the finals.

Another first for India was the gold in the badminton team event. India has never won that even though individual badminton championships have been won. The key to this was winning the doubles event and Ashwini Ponappa played a key role in ensuring crucial victories. The rise of men's doubles team of Satvik Sairaj Ranki Reddy and Chiorag Shetty too has been a big plus. With the Thomas and Uber Cups due as well as the Asian Championships, this should give a boost to India in team events in badminton.

Mirabai Chanu won the gold in the women's 48 kg weight category in CWG 2018. She was way ahead of her closest competitior there – lifting 26 kg more. The World champion is truly in contention for a medal at the Olympics 2020 as well as Asian Games, if she continues to perform consistently.

Neeraj Chopra won the gold in javelin throw with a throw of 86. 47m. It is a historic medal for India as he is the first Javelin thrower to win a gold for India in CWG. However, he missed his personal best by a centimetre. The current Asian record is held by Chinese Taipei's Chao-Tsun-Cheng at 91.26m. The CWG though was a depleted field for India's brightest, as the Olympic and world silver medal winner Julius Yego of Kenya failed to qualify for the finals and Rio Olympics bronze medalist Keshorn Walcott skipped the CWG.

In wrestling however, Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sakshi Malik disappointed with her bronze medal performance. Vinesh Phogat who missed out at Rio due to an injury during her campaign got a bronze while experienced Babita Phogat had to settle for a silver.

While the baton appears to have been passed to the next in line in some sports, it is also clear that some seasoned campaigners cannot be ignored yet. MC Marykom is one of them – she was the only Indian woman boxer to win a gold at the CWG. Double Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar too won a gold in the men's 74 kg freestyle category. This was, to be brutally honest – expected. However, it remains to be seen whether Kumar will participate in the more challenging Asian Games or not.

Former world number one, Saina Nehwal served vintage stuff at Gold Coast. She played a key role in ensuring the Team won its first CWG gold medal. She then stamped her class in the finals of the women's individual singles competition beating compatriot PV Sindhu in an all Indian affair.

Seema Punia asserted her class in women's discus throw winning a silver at Gold Coast. All three medals in athletics came from the “throws” events, India got none in the field events. This should be a worry for the Athletics federation – although the following three athletes give hope. Jinson Johnson appeared the brightest spark on the tracks, breaking 23-year-old national record while finishing fifth in the men's 1500m. Muhammed Anas missed the 400m bronze narrowly finishing 4th and 18-year-old Hima Das pleasantly surprised with her qualification for the final of the women's 400m clocking her personal best of 51.52 to finish sixth.