With the backing of government schemes, more infrastructure, better coaching and facilities, raw talent from different nooks and corners of the country have been discovered and honed and that has in turn reflected in the performance of the nation on the world stage.
Be it at the Olympics, the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games or any other major multi-sporting stage, Indian athletes are raising the bar with every passing competition and bringing never-seen-before glory and joy to the country.
After a rocking performance at the COVID-delayed Olympics in 2021 (India’s best ever), the focus is now on the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where over 200 fired-up Indian athletes will be gunning for podium finishes.
India’s history at the Commonwealth Games
With a total of 66 medals, the 2018 edition in the Gold Coast was India’s third-best performance ever and this time with a supremely talented bunch of athletes, the chances of re-writing the history books across various disciplines are very much on the cards, though with sporting disciplines missing this time the overall medal count is likely to suffer. Nevertheless, the Indian contingent has a very good mix of youth and experience. While there are quite a few CWG first-timers, many in the fray this time in Birmingham are those who are tried and tested performers on the CWG stage.
TimesofIndia.com here takes a look at the Indian medal winners from the 2018 edition who are in the fray this time as well in CWG 2022 and are big medal contenders:
In the 2018 edition of the Commonwealth Games, wrestling helped India bag a total of 12 medals that included 5 golds, 3 silvers and 4 bronze medals and turned out to be the most successful sport after shooting for the country. The 2022 edition will see a total of 12 Indian wrestlers in various categories which includes quite a few medal winning wrestlers from the last CWG edition in 2018.
The 28-year-old freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia has been consistently taking Indian wrestling to newer heights. The Olympics bronze medallist clinched the gold medal in the men’s 65kg freestyle category in the previous edition in 2018. This year as well, Bajrang will be competing in the same category and an encore is expected.
(Photo credit: @wrestling Twitter)
In the women’s 68kg weight category, Divya Kakran won the bronze medal in the Gold Coast. The 23-year-old young gun from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh will once again be a medal prospect in the same weight category and will be desperately looking for an upgrade.
A gold at the 2014 edition, followed by another gold in 2018 – star India women’s wrestler Vinesh Phogat will be eying for a hat-trick when she steps on the mat at the Birmingham Games. The pride of India will be featuring in the 53kg weight category and with the reputation and skills the 27-year-old has on the mat, she will definitely pose a tough challenge for her opponents.
A silver and a bronze in the 2014 and 2018 editions, a proven performer at the biggest of stages, Sakshi Malik will be eagerly looking forward to a hat-trick of podium finishes when she takes the mat in the upcoming Games. Competing in the 62kg weight category, the Olympic bronze medallist will also be looking to fill that vacant CWG gold medal spot in her cabinet and make India proud again.
Both the male and female badminton players have brought a lot of glory to the country in the past decade or so. And unbelievable performances at the grandest of stages has been the hallmark of the Indian shuttlers.
With a total of 6 medals in the Gold Coast Games in 2018 — 2 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals, India badminton players excelled in the last edition. This year a 10-player squad will be representing India and performances similar or even better than the previous edition are expected.
The big responsibility will lie on the shoulders of the tried and tested performers like Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu and other pairs who excelled in the last edition and will represent India yet again.
Aged 25, Kidambi Srikanth finished on the Commonwealth Games podium when he grabbed a silver medal in the last edition in Australia. A much more experienced and technically advanced Srikanth, this time will be leading the men’s team in the Birmingham Games after the high of leading India to a historic maiden Thomas Cup title win earlier this year.
While an upgrade to gold in the singles category is a high possibility for Srikanth, he will also look to contribute in a big way in the doubles and the team events.
The flag-bearer of Indian women’s badminton in the last few years, PV Sindhu has been synonymous with success in recent times. A proven performer at the multi-sporting events, Sindhu will be going for a third consecutive podium finish this time at the Games.
With a CWG bronze (2014) and a sliver (2018) already in the kitty, Sindhu will go for the ultimate success this time in Birmingham. And just like Srikanth, Sindhu will also look to contribute in the doubles and the team events and help in India’s rise up the medal tally. Sindhu recently won her third title of the season, clinching the Singapore Open crown.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty
(Photo credit: BAI)
The journey and rise of the pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty in men’s doubles has been remarkable.
The pair who grabbed a silver in the previous edition in 2018 are hot favourites again and will be definitely eying a medal upgrade this time in Birmingham.
In the sport of boxing, India had one of its most successful outings in the 2018 Games with a total of 9 medals that had 3 gold, silver and bronze medals respectively. A stronger, feistier and experienced 12-member boxing team will be in action in the upcoming Games led by the liks of Amit Panghal, World Champion Nikhat Zareen and Olympic bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain among others.
From the previous edition in 2018, Panghal and Mohammad Hussamuddin are in the fray yet again and will be looking to cash in on their past experience to help boost India’s overall medal’s tally.
(Photo credit: BFI)
A silver medallist at the Worlds in 2019, star India boxer Amit Panghal was also a silver medallist in the 2018 Gold Coast CWG, where he settled for a second-place finish in the Light Flyweight category.
Amit, this time is competing in the 51kg category and will be up against a tougher challenge. But with the experience and skills the 26-year-old possesses, a podium finish repeat and even an upgrade in the medal color will be something India will be expecting from Panghal.
(Photo credit: Olympics)
Telangana-born Mohammad Hussamuddin had a bronze medal finish at the 2018 Games, where he competed in the Bantamweight category. And just like his team member Amit Panghal, Hussamuddin has gone a weight category higher this time and will be competing in the men’s 57kg category. An upgrade in the medal colour is also a very likely possibility from the 28-year-old.
Table tennis has been consistently delivering medals for India in recent times. Be it individual players or team performances, the rise of the sport in the country has been something to admire.
In the 2018 Games in the Gold Coast, Australia, TT gave India a total of 8 medals that included 3 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals. An 8-member team will this time look to go out full throttle at the Birmingham Games in different categories in an attempt to replicate or even better their last performance.
Veteran of the game Achanta Sharath Kamal recently turned 40 but age is just a number for him when it comes to representing India. With a whopping 8 medals over the years in 4 Commonwealth Games, Sharath has been phenomenal in his service to the country.
While he bagged bronze medals in the men’s singles and mixed doubles events in the last edition in 2018, he will once again lead the team in the upcoming Birmingham edition and will once again be a multiple medal-winning prospect. Along with the singles event, his contribution in the men’s double and mixed doubles will also be something to watch out for.
Ace paddler Manika Batra collected medals for fun in the 2018 Gold Coast Games, bagging a total of 4 medals — golds in women’s singles and women’s team events, silver in women’s doubles and bronze in mixed doubles events. The 27-year-old will once again be a top medal hope for India across multiple events as yet another strong performance is expected from the TT sensation.
At the Commonwealth Games, India has been consistently doing well in squash. The pair of Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal Karthik were silver medallists in the Gold Coast Games and in the upcoming edition as well the duo will be a top medal prospect.
Dipika and Saurav Ghosal also grabbed a silver in the mixed doubles event and the same pair will once again team up and fight it out for an upgrade.
A total of 9 highly-talented athletes make up the India squash team and they will be eyeing to boost their medal haul which stood at two in the 2018 Games.
Mirabai Chanu’s silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics did wonders for the sport of weightlifting in the country. Not only did it bring long-awaited popularity to the sport, but also propelled it to becoming one of the bg medal winning prospects for India in multi-discipline events.
Led by Mirabai, a strong 15-member weightlifting team will be eying a high number of podium finishes at the Games this time. While the weightlifting medal tally reached 9 in the last edition – 5 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronze medals, an upgrade and a hike in the number of medals will be something India’s weightlifters will be focusing on.
A true inspiration, Mirabai Chanu will be among the top contenders for a gold medal at this year’s Games. With a silver in the Glasgow CWG edition in 2014, followed by a gold in 2018 already under her belt, the 27-year-old will be eying a hat-trick when she takes centrestage in the 49kg category.
Karnataka-born Gururaja Poojary settled for a silver in the Gold Coast edition of the Games. His second place finish came in the 56kg weight category. But this time, Gururaja will be looking for a color upgrade. Competing in the 61kg category, the 29-year-old too will be a big medal hope in the competition.
Just like Mirabai Chanu, Vikas Thakur will be going for a hat-trick of medals at the Commonwealth Games. With a silver in 2014 in the 85kg category, followed by a bronze in 2018 in the 94 kg category, Vikas this time again will be upgrading his weight class to 96kg in the men’s event and pushing for his third consecutive medal at the Games.
Varanasi-born Punam Yadav will be another Indian female weightlifter who will be targeting her third straight podium finish at the Games. A bronze in the 2014 edition was followed by a gold upgrade in 2018. This time the 27-year-old will be competing in the 76kg category and hoping to put in her best for a third consecutive medal.
The dull days of Indian athletics seem to be nearing their end. In a span of a couple of years, athletics in India has seen a serious overhaul and rise, thanks to a few disciplines. The 2018 CWG edition saw a lowly contribution of 3 medals from the athletics team, but this time more are expected from the 37-member athletics squad.
Seema Antil and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon
One of the most experienced female athletes in the Indian contingent, discus thrower Seema Punia Antil has landed on the podium at the Commonwealth Games four consecutive times — silver medals in 2006, 2014 and 2018 and a bronze in 2010. But the 38-year-old has fallen short of the glittering gold. Probably featuring for the last time at the Games, Seema will be itching to sign off at the top of the standings in her event.
Women’s discus thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon too settled for a bronze in the Gold Coast edition. With the experience of performing on the big stages, the 27-year-old, featuring in her second Games, will be one of India’s medal hopes with the possibility of an upgrade at the podium.