Ugra: Why Gold Coast is India's best CWG ever
Want to know what was special about Gold Coast? It was India's best Commonwealth Games, and there are a few good reasons why.
Of India's 66 medals, there are as many as 26 golds. More than their silvers, more than their bronzes. It is not a proportion that Indians are used to in the multi-discipline games that matter. Nor is India's third-place finish on the CWG medals table the first time they have ever finished that high outside the 2010 Delhi Games. Let's not get ahead of ourselves and dream of world domination, though, as the Asian Games up in August will be a far tougher event.
But if we number crunch, then these 26 golds fit in at No.3 in India's overall CWG count: there's the heady 39 from Delhi 2010 and 30 from Manchester 2002. So, was Gold Coast India's third-best CWG ever?
Actually, it was arguably its best. Take a closer look into Manchester's 30 and Delhi's 39. Manchester's 30 came from five sports: boxing, hockey, shooting, weightlifting and wrestling. Delhi's golds had a wider spread of nine: archery, athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, table tennis, tennis, weightlifting and wrestling. Gold Coast 2018 covered seven: athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, table tennis, weightlifting, wrestling.
Look closer at the 30 golds from Manchester. There were 14 from shooting and 11 in weightlifting, in a manner that medals are no longer awarded in international competition. Weightlifting has trimmed the number of medals it handed out in Manchester: nine in every weight category - snatch/ clean & jerk/ overall.
Shooting doesn't hold the pairs events any more. Of India's 14 shooting golds in Manchester, they won eight in the pairs and six in individual. Of the 11 weightlifting golds in the same game, India won four overall medals, and seven in the other smaller categories - either for snatch or clean & jerk. Every gold medallist from Manchester earned their medals fair and square and deserved every accolade and reward that followed. Had Gold Coast followed Manchester's medal distribution pattern, India's tally would have easily zoomed beyond 2002's 30 golds.
Yet, how does the Gold Coast count go beyond Delhi? Simple. Because India's performances came without home advantage or the inclusion of sports that suited them. Like archery, tennis and Greco-roman wrestling in Delhi 2010, Gold Coast 2018 picked beach volleyball, diving and mountain biking.
The Gold Coast Games has served notice that our athletes are pushing, striving and moving forward. The 20 silvers tell us how close they came. Personal bests in tough track and field events are signs of what abilities lie among them.
In the names and faces of shooters Manu Bhaker and Anish Bhanwala, table tennis players Manika Batra and G Sathiyan, athletes Neeraj Chopra and Hima Das, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, wrestler Bajrang Punia and boxer Gaurav Solanki, lie the heart and soul of India's athletic aspiration for the Games cycle of the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
India's best ever Commonwealth Games has the power to become the launch pad to what they must be dreaming are the larger achievements ahead of them.
At a time like this, on a day like today, for Indian sport, it should be seat belts on, everyone.