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Commonwealth Games: 4 Indians who could set the stage ablaze

July 23, 2014 15:09 IST

Commonwealth Games: 4 Indians who could set the stage ablaze

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Dhruv Munjal

The Commonwealth Games have been a happy hunting ground for Indian athletes, who shine in the absence of world-class competition. Some young Indians can again relish the opportunity to go for gold in Glasgow, says Dhruv Munjal. 

Four years ago, when the Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi, Indians took great pride in the fact that after the Asian Games in 1982 the country was hosting a major international sporting event again.

The run-up to the Games was chaotic, with charges of corruption, tardy rate of work on sports facilities and organisational disarray. However, when the real event kicked off, Indian athletes sparkled, winning 101 medals, including 38 golds.

Two years later, at the Olympics Games in London, athletes from India could not replicate that success, settling for just six podium finishes.

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Image: Bharat Kumar Chetri of India fails to save in the penalty shoot-out
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images

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'Comparing CWG with the Olympics would not be a fair assessment'Games 2014: Glasgow's golden lure

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Dhruv Munjal

Now as the Indian contingent travels to Scotland for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, starting on July 23, many are justifiably wondering if one should take an athlete’s performance at this event seriously.

Do the medals won by Indian athletes in these games really represent world-class performances?

"Comparing the Commonwealth Games with the Olympics would not be a fair assessment," says Viren Rasquinha, former Indian hockey captain and CEO of Olympic Gold Quest, a private initiative to nurture champions.

"The difference in class is all too apparent. But the athletes can use these Games as a stepping stone for other major tournaments.”

In other words, the games are what could be termed familiarisation trips for potential champs. Beyond providing exposure to athletes in an international arena, the absence of top stars at the Commonwealth Games erodes the competitive value of participation.

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Image: A general view of George Square ahead of 20th Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014
Photographs: Francois Nel/Getty Images

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Biggest track and field stars chose to skip Delhi CWG

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Dhruv Munjal

In 2010 in New Delhi, the biggest track and field stars chose to skip the event. They included Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and 800m world record holder David Rudisha of Kenya. 

In fact, all 10 of that year’s fastest 100m runners, including defending champion Asafa Powell, gave the games a miss.

Similarly, British cyclists Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton refused to travel to New Delhi stating other priorities and citing the odd timing of the Games.

However, Rasquinha doesn’t doubt the level of competition in this sporting event that brings athletes from all former colonies of the British empire.

“In events like swimming and boxing, the games throw up a world-class playing field. The competition is intense,” says Rasquinha.

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Image: Usain Bolt
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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Shooters expected to do well

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Dhruv Munjal

Akhil Kumar, who won a gold in boxing at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, feels that the event has to be taken seriously.

“For an athlete, every tournament is important. Every time you step out on the field or in the ring, you want to win the gold medal. The Commonwealth Games are no different. They continue to be significant,” says the former Olympian.

For Indian shooters like Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar, who already have Olympic medals under their belt, the Glasgow Games come as an opportunity to set new personal bests and prepare for bigger challenges ahead. “The Indian shooters dominated in Delhi. We can expect the same in Glasgow. They will be competing against themselves,” says Rasquinha.

India can look forward to another good outing in Glasgow.

We list four Indian athletes who might set the stage ablaze in Scotland.

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Image: Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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Akkunji will spearhead India's track challenge

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Dhruv Munjal

Ashwini Akkunji (26)

Athletics

A double Asian games gold medalist, and the 400m hurdles' defending champion from four years ago, Ashwini Akkunji will spearhead India’s track challenge in Glasgow.

Along with Tintu Luka, Akkunji is one of the few Indian athletes expected to win a medal at the Games.

The horrors of a doping scandal well behind her now, the Karnataka girl will also look to defend India’s crown in the 4x400 women’s relay.

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Image: Ashwini Chidananda Akkunji
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters

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Aiming for gold

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Dhruv Munjal

Amit Kumar (20)

Wrestling

The youngest member of India’s wrestling contingent, Kumar won a silver medal at the 2013 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest in the 55-kg freestyle category.

A disciple of former wrestler Satpal Singh, the grappler from Haryana is destined to shine in Glasgow. “Our current focus is only on the Commonwealth Games.

"But we’re also looking ahead to the Asian Games in Incheon later this year, and the Rio Olympics in 2016. Amit is young and has a lot to learn, but as far as Glasgow is concerned, nothing but gold will do,” says Vinod Kumar, India’s chief freestyle wrestling coach.

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Image: Amit Kumar
Photographs: Harry How/Getty Images

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Rubbing shoulders with the best in the world

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Dhruv Munjal

Sandeep Sejwal (25)

Swimming

The first Indian to qualify for the Olympics in the breaststroke event, Sandeep Sejwal will have a chance to rub shoulders with the best in the world when he goes up against swimmers from Australia and England.

Sejwal holds the National record in the 50m, 100m and the 200m breaststroke.

An Arjuna awardee, he will be looking to clinch a historic swimming medal for India when he takes to the pool in Glasgow.

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Image: Sandeep Sejwal
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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Devendro will look to carry on the rich traditions of Indian boxing

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Dhruv Munjal

Devendro Singh (22)

Boxing

A specialist in the light flyweight category, the Manipuri boxer is a bright medal prospect at the Glasgow Games.

The 22-year has seen a meteoric rise in the last two years. After losing in the quarter finals of the London Olympics in a hard fought encounter to Ireland’s Paddy Barnes, he clinched a silver at the 2013 Asian Confederation Boxing Championships.

“His preparation has been great. Both of us trained together in Patiala,” says Olympian Akhil Kumar. “He looks in excellent shape.”

Currently ranked third in the world, Devendro will look to carry on the rich traditions of Indian boxing. “He is one of our big hopes for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janiero,” adds Kumar.


Image: Devendro Singh
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

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