Commonwealth Games 2022: Show on track and field instills belief and confidence

For India, this had not been a very good hunting ground. In the last two editions, India won three medals each, with one gold coming in 2018. The best show was at the Delhi Games.

Published: 10th August 2022 12:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th August 2022 12:35 AM   |  A+A-

Avinash Mukund Sable of India competes in the men's 3000 meters steeplechase final during the athletics in the Alexander Stadium at the Commonwealth Games. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: "Now I have the belief and confidence to beat anybody, whether he is Kenyan or not," those were the word of Avinash Sable after winning the silver in 3000m steeplechase ahead of two Kenyans. One was a former Olympic and world champion and the other up and coming, next-Gen runner.

Only Abraham Kibiwot raced ahead of him and won .05 seconds ahead with timing of 8:11.15s. A few more steps, a couple of more lunges, the story would have been different for Sable. Same with M Sreeshankar. He was tied at 8.08m with the gold medallist but won silver on countback.

Athletics is one of the premier events of the Commonwealth Games.

Olympic medallists, world champions and would-be champions make up a heady mix where world records are threatened and tumbled.

For India, this had not been a very good hunting ground. In the last two editions, India won three medals each, with one gold coming in 2018. The best show was at the Delhi Games where India won 12 medals.

In Birmingham, the tally stood at eight with one gold, four silver and three bronze, that too without Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra.

Belief and confidence of Sable are the two words that would keep echoing through Indian athletics for the next few years. In terms of performance and achievement, this could be epochal. Because they are achieved by athletes who have been knocking on the doors of greatness on the world stage. Sable and long jumper Sreeshankar stood out. Javelin thrower Annu Rani, triple jumper gold and silver medallists Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker, the race walkers, high jumper Tejaswin Shankar too were impressive. What's more heartening is that India can now rely on a discipline that has multiple medals on offer in one event.

Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla had said during a few interactions that all this was possible because of long-term planning.

"It was not a result of training in the last few days but it took years," he had said. AFI was under a lot of pressure after a not too impressive world championship where only Neeraj won gold.

However, AFI felt that far from being disappointed, we must take heart that six athletes reached the final.

The medal tally may be the highest outside India but Chairman Planning Committee Lalit Bhanot felt "we could have won a few more".

The AFI had written a conservative estimate of five to seven medals to the Sports Authority of India but Bhanot said India should have got in double figures.

Yes, Neeraj was not there but in throws, they were expecting more.  

"We knew the potential of our athletes," said Bhanot. "Medals came in our identified events like jumps, throws and race walk. We have depth and we know some of our athletes are world-level. They need good training and exposure."

Bhanot always believed Sable could run 8-minute steeplechase.

"I told him that he can run an 8-minute race but he needed exposure and confidence and that would happen only when he trains abroad," he said.

Even Sable admitted how he feared going abroad for training. He thought getting a proper diet would be difficult so would be adjusting to situations.

"He was always reluctant to go abroad," said Bhanot.

"We wanted to send him abroad after the Asian Games in 2018 for one year along with a foreign coach. But he did not want to go. Last year too we wanted to send him to Uganda but he did not go. So this time we did not give him an option and sent him to Colorado Springs where he can train with top athletes from across the world." For middle and long-distance team's training in Colorado Springs from April 15 to July 24 this year, the Sports Authority of India sanctioned about Rs 1.40 crore. For training in Chula Vista before the world championships and later CWG, the SAI had spent Rs 1.58 crore for 25 athletes.

Bhanot said Sreeshankar would do better with more exposure trips and competitions.

"He is a world-class athlete. All he needs is good training and bigger competitions. He is more consistent now and with more competition, he will improve."

However, one area the AFI is not happy is the way relay teams (4x100m women and 4x400m women) performed. For training of the 400m relay team in Antalya, Turkey from April to June, SAI had sanctioned Rs 1.18 crore (Lok Sabha answer).

The 4x100m and the 4x400m relay teams have been disappointing for a while. The women's team has collapsed with one of them testing positive for doping as well.  

"It was disappointing," he said.

"We have potential in relay 4x400m men and women and we would like to continue with our programme. We will start identifying more talent."

With the Commonwealth Games over, the focus now would be on Asian Games next year and the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The number of medals may not be very big in Birmingham but enough to inspire generations to come.


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