Four years ago, shuttler Saina Nehwal won India’s final gold medal at the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in a nail-biting match that lasted close to an hour. This allowed India to cross the century-mark in the medals tally and helped the hosts go past England to clinch the second spot on the table to record their best-ever finish.
As the Glasgow Games drew to a close on Sunday, it was perhaps coincidental that the last gold medal India won was once again in badminton, this time by Parupalli Kashyap. Though his achievement is as significant, it did not have the same impact on India’s position on the medals table as Saina’s did.
Kashyap’s was India’s 15th gold and 64th medal overall, a tally which saw India finish fifth at the Games. Four years ago, India’s medal tally was 101, with 38 of them gold.
While performances were disappointing in some disciplines, especially athletics and boxing, the sharp dip in the medals tally is not a reflection of a collective dip in the performance of the country’s athletes or the lack of home advantage this time around.
Apart from sending a significantly smaller contingent (215 athletes as compared to 619 in Delhi), several sports in which India won medals in Delhi were scrapped for the Glasgow Games, while the medal events in some were drastically reduced.
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A host country has to include a minimum of 10 core sports identified by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) but can cull from an additional list of seven, which includes archery, a few events in shooting, tennis and wrestling.
The medal events from shooting were reduced from 44 in Delhi to 19 this time round after the team events were removed from Glasgow Games.
India won 13 medals less at Glasgow as compared to the 30 it won in shooting four years ago.
The Glasgow 2014 organising committee replaced archery and tennis — in which India won 12 medals, including four gold medals, four years ago — with triathlon and judo. The martial art returned four medals for India — two silver and two bronze — while triathlon did not fetch a single medal.
Other disciplines scrapped from the 2010 Games schedule included the walking events in athletics, in which India had won bronze medals, and Greco-Roman wrestling.
Seven of the country’s 19 medals in wrestling came in the Greco-Roman category in 2010. In spite of the reduced events, India managed to win 13 medals in freestyle — one better than the 12 it won in the last edition.
In boxing and athletics, India’s athletes were disappointing.
India failed to win a gold medal bout in boxing at Glasgow after winning three titles in Delhi. The medal count in the sport fell from seven to five.
A world-class field in athletics resulted in Indians losing out on the medals — down to three from 12. In Delhi, none of the top-10 ranked men’s 100m sprinters in the Commonwealth participated, while only one woman from the elite club ran at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Discus thrower Vikas Gowda was the only saving grace in athletics, winning a gold medal despite the high level of competition in his event.