High on hope, India look to recreate Tokyo-like buzz in Birmingham

Their appetite whetted by their best-ever performance in Olympics in last year’s Tokyo Games and the subsequent Paralympics, a 215-strong Indian contingent is headed to Birmingham for the 22nd Commonwealth Games to be held from July 28 to August 4.

Led by Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Deepak Punia, two-time Olympic medallist shuttler P.V Sindhu and world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen, the squad is hoping for a rich haul of medals that will maintain the momentum of the country’s recent resurgence in international sports.

Other prominent names in the Indian party of 322 comprising 215 athletes and 107 coaches and support staff include Olympic medallist wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Tokyo silver medallist weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, table tennis stars Sharat Kamal, Manika Batra and G Sathiyan, and wrestler Vinesh Phogat and Olympic bronze medallist boxer Lovlina Borgohain.

Having won a bronze medal at the Olympics after a gap of four decades, the men’s hockey team is looking to grab their maiden gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, while the women’s team will be hoping to prove that the semifinal appearance at the Olympics was no flash in the pan.

India won seven medals, including one gold and two silver and four bronze, at Tokyo Olympics while at the Paralympics, the country claimed a record high of 19 medals, including five gold.

Both these performances were India’s best-ever in these games in recent times and since these events in 2021, Indian sportspersons have done well in most of the international events in which they took part.

At the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, India will compete in 15 sporting disciplines as well as four para-sports disciplines. Some of the disciplines where India look to perform well include traditionally strong events like boxing, badminton, hockey, weightlifting, women’s cricket (making its debut at the CWG) and wrestling.

The squad will look to improve upon its 2018 Gold Coast CWG performance, where it finished third behind traditional powerhouses in Australia and England.

India had bagged 66 medals, including 26 gold and 20 silver and bronze apiece in Gold Coast. Their all-time best performance in the Commonwealth Games came in the 2010 edition of the Games held in Delhi, when India bagged 101 medals, including 38 gold and 27 silver. Overall, India have won 181 gold, 173 silver and 148 bronze medals for a total of 502 medals.

Though the target is to improve or match the Gold Coast performance and achieve the third spot in the final medals tally, it may prove difficult in the absence of the shooting events in Birmingham.

Shooting has contributed 63 gold, 44 silver and 28 bronze medals to India’s overall medal count in the Games since 1982, when India started participating in that sport in CWG. In the 2018 Games in Gold Coast, shooters captured 16 of the 66 medals India won, including seven out of the 26 gold medals.

With India improving their performance in other sports and the entry of some Para-sports disciplines like athletics, table tennis and powerlifting, the country is expecting medals from the likes of Tokyo Paralympics silver medallist Bhavina Patel, and other para-athletes like Devender Kumar, powerlifter Sakina Khatun and Manpreet Kaur.

With women’s T20 cricket set to make its Commonwealth Games debut, India would also be hoping for a medal from the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side though with World Champion England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the fray, the competition will be very tough.

Overall, considering the recent improvement in their performance, the Indian contingent goes into the Birmingham Games with high hopes. With the government through TOPS and Mission Olympic Cell providing the sportspersons ample resources, including foreign training stints and competitions to almost all CWG-bound sportspersons, the Indian contingent is well-prepared for the competitions.

It’s time for them to execute their plans and fulfil their promises.

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