GOLD COAST: The posters are peeled from the walls, the festoons and placards too are pulled down at most venues. When the sun rises on Monday, it will be just another day. The rest of the Commonwealth Games will remain as memories. Some will be forgotten, others will be etched in history. For India, this Games can be classified in the latter category.
“Oh, you are from India, your athletes have done very well in weightlifting, wrestling, shooting, badminton and boxing,” quipped a volunteer here on Sunday. Yes, indeed. What is heartening is that they not only dominated but also bettered their Glasgow effort. Even in fringe sports like table tennis, India quietly sneaked in with a handful of medals — an indication that we are deviating from the mundane.
There has been a change in the attitude of the athletes. Most of the medallists don’t narrate tales of distress and poverty. Nor do they hide behind flimsy excuses for failure. Though it took time, a new trend has emerged. This breed of athletes has pedigree and the desire to succeed. There is a sense of belief. Cushioned on heroic tales of the past, this generation has the platform from where they can aim for the sky. Some of the former players are now coaching. The older generation is slowly making way for the new. Most of the athletes are in their early 20s.
Take the case of table tennis player Manika Batra, the spark of the Games. She lives in Delhi and is from a typical middle-class family who can afford equipment and training. Unlike athletes of the past, she is not complaining of lack of training. “The federation and the sports ministry have provided whatever we needed,” she said.
Ditto the case with K Srikanth — a debutant but a star in his own rights. He is focussed only on his game and not on distractions. They are mentally strong and knows when to switch on and off. Though he lost to badminton legend Lee Chong Wei, Srikanth did not go down easily.
A streak of unforced errors led to his downfall. He too did not complain about lack of facilities. Coming from a well-to-do family, there’s no sob story to his stardom.
If table tennis touched the zenith, so did weightlifting and boxing. There is no Shiva Thapa or Devendro Singh. No BI Fernandes and Gurbax Singh Sandhu. Only Manoj Kumar and Vikas Krishan are from the bygone generation. Yet, they performed exceptionally in the ring. Santiago Nieva was brought in during crisis last year, now he has started delivering. Gaurav Solanki and Manish Kaushik have begun a new era.
Earlier, athletes used to qualify with envious records and during the Games they would fritter. Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu created a Games record on way to gold. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra touched his season’s best. In fact, Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik was the greatest disappointment.
Teenagers Anish and Manu Bhakar’s gold in shooting give us hope. They are young and need direction. The Tokyo Olympics is two years away and if we harness these talents well, there is hope.