India will be expecting a lion’s share of medals from shooters, boxers, wrestlers and shuttlers at the 2014 Commonwealth Games starting here Wednesday but it would be difficult to match the record medal haul of 101 in the last edition at home.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games was marred with allegations of corruption and missed deadlines but the stupendous success of the Indian athletes and the excellent delivery of the Games made up for all the controversies.
The Indians are riding high on their historic success at the 2012 London Olympics, where they won a record six medals, including two silver. But sans home advantage it would be difficult to replicate the success of 2010 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
This time around India have a sizeable contingent of 224 athletes and their main medal hopes will be from shooting, boxers, wrestlers, badminton and hockey.
In the last two Games, shooters have won the major chunk of medals for India. They won 27 medals including 16 golds in Melbourne and 30 medals, including 14 gold medals in Delhi in 2010.
The shooting team comprises an Olympic champion in Abhinav Bindra and two Olympic medallists in Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar, who will also be India’s flagbearer in Wednesday’s opening ceremony.
Gagan, who won four gold medals in the 2010 Games, however, will not be seen in action in his pet 10m air rifle event, where he won the bronze in the Olympics in 2012. He will be taking part in the 50m 3-position rifle and 50-m prone events.
In badminton, with defending champion Saina Nehwal skipping the event, India will be pinning their hopes on P.V. Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap and the pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa to repeat their success in badminton.
Despite top seed Saina’s absence from women’s singles, India could still end up victorious in the category, thanks to second seed Sindhu.
This time, Sindhu, ranked four places below Saina at No.11, may breathe a little easier as she contemplates her path to glory.
However, 2010 edition’s bronze medallist Kashyap, who is seeded second, will be eager to break Malaysia’s stranglehold, who have won every gold in the category since 1990.
Expectations are also from the women’s doubles defending champions Ashwini and Jwala, who surprised all to clinch the gold four years ago, India’s first yellow metal in the discipline since 1982.
In the last couple of years, Indian wrestlers have also become a force to reckon with ever since Sushil Kumar won his second Olympic medal, a historic silver, and his buddy Yogeshwar Dutt the bronze in London.
The sport was on the verge of being excluded from the Olympics and the Indian wrestlers both Sushil and Yogeshwar also had to grapple wiith their new weight categories. The Commonwealth Games are the first major events when both Sushil and Yogeshwar will be fighting it out in new weight categories.
The onus is also on the boxers, especially on the male boxers, after their disappointing show in London. The saving grace was M.C. Mary Kom’s bronze medal with the introduction of women’s boxing.
India also had a great outing in the track and field in 2010 with discus thrower Krishna Poonia winning the first gold medal in athletics for India in 52 years since Milkha Singh’s triumph at the 1958 Cardiff Games. This time also the focus will be on Krishna and fellow discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who finished an impressive eighth in the London Games.
Last but not the least, the men’s hockey team will be looking to salvage some pride after their disappointing show at the World Cup. The men’s squad settled for the silver in Delhi but also had to endure the ignominy of a 0-8 loss against Australia in the final.