India came up with a fine performance in the recent Commonwealth Game at Gold Coast. The Indian contingent ended up third behind hosts Australia and England in the medals table. India bagged three medals in athletics with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, discus throwers Seema Punia and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon earning a place on the podium.
I was delighted to see Neeraj winning the gold in his very first outing at the Games. As someone who has closely followed Neeraj's career ever since his gold-medal winning effort at the World Youth Championships in 2013, I was confident of him winning a medal. But I must admit I did not expect him to win the gold medal in a strong field. Neeraj yet again proved that he is a world-class athlete and is the one to watch out for in future events as well. The one big change in Neeraj's performance from his showing at the last World Championships in London was his confidence and maturity. The 20-year-old was not overawed by the occasion and did the country proud.
Seema does it again
As for Seema, she has been India's most consistent performer throughout the last one decade in major events. The very fact that this was her fourth successive medal at the Games is a testimony to her class and longevity. The amazing thing about Seema is her ability to get her act right on the big stage. She may be struggling with her form and fitness prior to the competition, but on the D-day you can count on her.
Navjeet's medal was a surprise for me and the Indians performing a 2-3 in an event in which the country has been winning a medal ever since Neelam Jaswant Singh clinched a silver at the 2002 Manchester Games continued our legacy in the discipline.
Apart from these three medallists, Keralites Muhammed Anas and Jinson Johnson and quarter-miler Hima Das caught the eye. Anas was unlucky to miss out on a bronze in 400m, while Jinson finished a creditable fifth in 1,500m in a field which included current world champion Elijah Manangoi of Kenya and his compatriot Timothy Cheruiyot. It was heartening that both Anas and Jinson broke the national records too. I was pleasantly surprised by Hima's efforts in both 400m and 4x400m realy events. After watching her individual race, I expected her teammates to put in an inspired run in relay, but that was not to be the case.
One big disappointment was the performance of both V Neena and Nayana James in my favourite event - long jump. Sadly both the jumpers could not even match their performances in qualifiers and could end up only 10th and 12th respectively in the final.
The controversy over race walker K T Irfan and triple jumper Rakesh Babu being sent home after needles were found in their room was something which the Indian contingent could have well done without. When a reversal occurs, it surely brings disrepute to the whole country and affects the morale of other athletes too.
Despite these minor setbacks, one can feel proud of our overall showing at Gold Coast. It was great to see Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu battling it out in the women's badminton singles gold medal match. Irrespective of the result, India were assured of both gold and silver and as a former sportsperson it brought great joy to me.
I expect India to pick up more medals in athletics in the coming Asian Games. The competition will be less compared to the field at the Commonwealth Games and I am hopeful of our athletes bringing more laurels to the country.
(The author is a former World Championships bronze medal winner in long jump)