A total of 215 athletes will represent India in 15 disciplines at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), which begin on Thursday in Birmingham. The Indian contingent is represented by almost every state and Union Territory, among which Haryana with 39 athletes has the highest representation — much like at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Haryana is followed by Punjab (26), Tamil Nadu (17), and Delhi and Maharashtra (14 each).
Who’s from Haryana
Over the years, Haryana has produced some of India’s top athletes across events such as boxing, track & field, wrestling, and cycling. In the current contingent, the state is well represented by both men and women. According to the list of athletes compiled by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), 19 of the 39 athletes from Haryana are women.
The women’s hockey team, which narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal last year, has contributed a lot to that. Eight women in the squad of 18 are from Haryana. The state also has several boxers and wrestlers, many of whom, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Jaismine Lamboriya, are seen as strong contenders for a medal.
Geography of sport
India’s medal prospects come in a wide range of sports, each of which enjoys popularity in a different region. Contact sports such as judo, wrestling, and boxing have heavy representation from the northern states of Delhi and Haryana. Racquet sports such as badminton, squash and table tennis, in which India has had recent success, are well represented in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Kerala.
The country’s wrestling contingent is expected to bring in plenty of medals, and each of the 12 wrestlers come from either Haryana or Delhi, the list released by SAI shows. Six of India’s 12 boxers, too, are from Haryana. On the other hand, badminton stars P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth come from Telangana, and at least seven squash players and five table tennis players come from Tamil Nadu.
Assam has just the 15th highest population in India, and a fraction of the resources boasted by states such as Haryana and Tamil Nadu. Yet the state is sending as many as seven athletes to Birmingham. Of these, three are from the Lawn Bowls contingent, and all the other four are seen as medal contenders.
Boxer Lovlina Borgohain, fresh off a bronze in Tokyo, is one of the big favourites for a medal, and so is 59-kg weightlifter Popy Hazarika, while Shiva Thapa could be a dark horse in boxing. Hima Das, meanwhile, may not have many big recent international results under her belt, but she is the 400m national record holder and one of India’s biggest track stars.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands, with an estimated population of just over 4 lakh, has done remarkably well in cycling, featuring India’s best ever performance at the Asian Track Championships in New Delhi last month. The Union Territory may have a medal hopeful in Esow Alben, the first Indian cyclist to reach the top 10 of the world rankings. However, he will have to punch several notches above his weight to finish on the podium.
Esow finished fifth in the keirin event and eighth in the sprint event in Delhi last month. He has a teammate from Andaman & Nicobar in David Beckham — a cyclist, not the footballer.