An advantage of winning big in your teens in sport is that you give yourself enough time to succeed, fail, injure, heal, win again, defend reputation and end up a champion in the process. There’s no dearth of young champions in sport — it teems with the teen spirit. But the just concluded Commonwealth Games has given India the first chapters of many inspirational stories. There’s Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala, Mehuli Ghosh, Deepak Lather, Divya Kakran, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy beyond the two biggest bonafide successes of Manika Batra and Neeraj Chopra, who are entering their heady early 20s and have shown the guts to shrug off the pressure and deliver. India would do well to not harp on their age, and point them towards the cut-throat fields of competition, easing them into sporting adulthood.
The CWG had some stellar comebacks — Vinesh Phogat whose snapped bone reverberated tragically at the Rio hall, Vikas Krishan who after the pounding he got at the last Olympics has found his footing in 75 kg, Mirabai Chanu who is rebuilding her shattered confidence block by block after a disappointing Rio and Saina Nehwal who had cracked her knee at the last Olympics but has hung in there to bring home India’s last gold, just like in Delhi a full eight years ago. Jitu Rai seemed to have found his range again in an event that matters at the Olympics — the 10m air pistol, while Mary Kom ticked the only untouched box — a gold at the Commonwealth, showing the discipline to return to the ring, and claim a division that’s been rightly hers for a decade and more.
Thankfully, the CWG isn’t the pinnacle of any of these careers. Luckily for India, now there are new champions to follow, CWG 18 has added variety to the sporting view. In days to come, look for the javelin event at the Diamond League of Athletics and take pains to follow Batra on the world TT circuit. Gold Coast has been the prologue to many a racy page-turner in sporting careers.