India aim top three finish in Glasgow Commonwealth Games
Glasgow: The unprecedented success achieved in the last edition would be hard to replicate this time after the dropping of a few disciplines but upbeat after getting back in the Olympic fold, a 215-strong Indian contingent would nonetheless seek a top-five finish in the 20th Commonwealth Games which begin here on Wednesday.
India finished second behind Australia with a record 101 medal haul in New Delhi in a Games marred by corruption scandals and construction delays but praised for the stunning success in terms of delivery of the event and performance by the athletes.
The Delhi CWG triggered an ascent in sports achievements with another record-breaking show in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou where India won 65 medals. Two years later, the country won six medals in London, almost half of the individual medals won in the entire Olympic history.
But in Glasgow, the most realistic target for India would be a third-place finish with the top spot expected to go either to Australia or England.
The Games will see 4,500 athletes from 71 nations of the erstwhile British empire compete for the top honours with superstar sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica and middle and long distance king Mo Farah of England expected to set the Hampden Park Stadium ablaze.
A total of 261 medal events across 18 sports will be contested across 11 days in the third-biggest multi-sporting event after Olympics and Asian Games. The Games will also include the highest ever number of para-sport events with 22 gold medals up for grabs across five sports.
India, which has sent 215 athletes in 14 sports, its largest ever after 2010 Delhi CWG, will be hit hard by the scrapping of archery and tennis from Glasgow Games and the reduction in the number of medal events in shooting and wrestling.
The country had won a combined 12 medals from archery and tennis in 2010 while bagging 14 medals from the 18 events dropped this time from shooting. Greco-Roman category in wrestling, from which India won eight medals in 2010, has also been done away with in Glasgow.
With several of the shooters, who had given 30 medals in 2010, also not in peak form, India`s medal tally is expected to reduce drastically from the 101 (38, 27, 36) in 2010 and anything above 60 can be considered an achievement.
Finishing second in Glasgow ahead of England, whose athletes are competing under near home-like conditions, is unlikely for India.
The country had finished second in 2010 after winning one gold more than England which though had bagged 31 more medals.
England will also be hurt less than India on account of scrapping of archery and tennis and pruning down of the number of events in shooting and wrestling. Moreover, they did not send many of their top athletes in 2010 because of the 2012 London Olympics.
India and Canada, which has sent a 265-strong team to Glasgow, it`s largest ever for a non-home Commonwealth Games, are expected to fight it out for the third place.
Canada will not be hit hard by scrapping of disciplines as they won just three medals in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2010 while they had a small presence in shooting.
Scotland, which is hosting its biggest ever sporting event and third CWG on its soil, is also expected to do well in front of their home crowd who are also set to watch the likes of Bolt, Farah, women`s 100m Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and English cycling champion Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner, in action.
The fight for the top spot will, however, be intense with England likely to challenge Australia`s reign at the top of medal table since 1990. Both Australia and England will each be represented by over 400 athletes.
Australia topped the medal count at 2010 Delhi Games with 177 medals (74, 55, 48) against England`s 142 (37, 59, 46) but two years later, Britain won the battle that really counted, clinching 29 gold medals in London Olympics while Australia managed seven, sparking fierce recriminations Down Under.
India, which has more than half of the total two billion population of the Commonwealth countries, has returned with nearly 30 medal winners of the last Games with the likes of Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, Krishna Poonia, Ashish Kumar, Achanta Sharath Kamal set to prove their mettle once again.