THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:The day the attention shifted to the graver business of winning medals, the hangover of the opening ceremony still lingered. The broadcast media frenziedly contrasted the exorbitant expenditure splurged for the ceremony to the amount allocated for building or refurbishing stadiums.
They were not entirely without a point—while the Greenfield Stadium cost `48-odd lakh, the opening ceremony alone accounted for more than Rs 2 crore. Social-networking sites, meanwhile, lapped up the debates surrounding the musical troupe Lalisom, whose musical extravaganza catered more to the eyes than the ears.
But afar from the volley of controversies that failed to subside, and that will be raging still in days to come, the athletes began the pursuit of excellence in right earnest. The gold rush began, invariably, with a Manipuri lifter (Sanjita Chanu Khumukcham) snatching the first gold. Manipur, runners-up in the Jharkhand Games, emphasised their claim as frontrunners for the overall championship.
Among Manipur’s rivals are Haryana and Services, and the former promptly staked their claim with a brace of gold medals. First, Preeti nabbed the yellow metal with an effort of 176 (101 in clean and jerk and 75 in snatch) in the 53kg category. Freestyle swimmer Shivani Kataria fetched their second, when she timed 2:7.46 to emerge winner in 200m freestyle. Touted one of the most promising swimmers in the country, the 17-year-old enhanced her reputation with a clinical effort, keeping her lead from start-to-end.
Swimming also saw the hosts clinch their first gold, as Sajan Prakash, the 1500m-national record-holder, clocked 55.03 seconds in 100m butterfly. He also whittled out silver in 200m freestyle. The 20-year-old from Idukki, son of former middle-distance runner Shantymol, had disappointed in the Commonwealth Games. But with Rio in mind, he has returned motivated and determined. He also anchored them to 4x100m freestyle relay gold. With six medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze), Kerala have begun on a promising note.
Another head-turner was veteran swimmer Richa Mishra, who this time was competing for Madhya Pradesh. Having returned from a two-year dope ban last year, she reinforced that she is still the best in 100m butterfly. However, she could prise out just a fifth spot in the 200m. Aaron D’Souza brought their second gold, in men’s 200m final.
Apart from the athletes, the showstopper was the sitting MP of the constituency, Shashi Tharoor, who dabbled with a tennis racquet in the morning before rushing to the squash courts to congratulate the Telangana team for their first win. Getting sporty, Mr Tharoor.