CWG: India bests England to second place, ends Games with many firsts

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

New Delhi: India Thursday brought the curtains down on the Commonwealth Games with many firsts – hosted it for the first time, won the highest number of gold at 38, took the second spot in the medal table for the first time in Games history shunting sporting power England to third place and women sportspersons stole the thunder with top honour in several events.

Support TwoCircles

At the end of 11 days of fierce competitions, Indians set new Games records, stunned top seeds and gold favourites and excelled in disciplines like athletics, where they were mere also-rans for decades.

As evening set on the Indian capital Thursday and thousands packed the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the heart of the host city for the closing ceremony, the Indian medal tally read an impressive 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze for a total of 101.

Though pushed to the third slot in the overall medal table England was not far behind India in gold count at 37. Its total was way ahead of India at 142 as it had won 59 silver and 46 bronze.

Australia continued their domination of the Commonwealth Games with 74 gold, 55 silver and 48 bronze for a total of 177 medals.

The Games – which began after weeks of palpable tension over delay in completing the facilities in time and was haunted by a barrage of negative media publicity worldwide that led to many leading international athletes to cry away – will long be remembered for the splendid showing by women shooters, wreslters, paddlers, archers, weightlifters and badminton players.

Krishna Poonia, a name familiar perhaps only to diehard sports lovers, sent India ecstatic with her gold winning discus throw. Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil followed her with a silver and bronze for a stunning 1-2-3 finish for the first time by Indian women in the Games.

A.C. Ashwini, Manjeet Kaur, Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose ran race of their life to lift the gold in the 4×400 metre women’s relay.

More historic firsts by Indian women came in badminton – Saina Nehwal getting the gold in singles and Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa in doubles.

Shooters Anisa Sayyed, Rahi Sarnobat, Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj are the new stars from the 19th edition of the Games that began 80 years ago as British Empire Games, became British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, British Commonwealth Games in 1970 and just Commonwealth Games in 1978.

Women wrestlers who etched their names in the Games records are Alka Tomar and Anita and Geeta Devi. In archery it was the trio of Dola Banerjee, Dipika Kumri, Bombayala Devi and Renu Bala Chanu in weightlifing.

The Indian men winning gold included the familiar marksmen Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra, Somdev Devvarman in tennis singles, Manoj Kumar, Paramajeet Samota and Suranjoy Mayengbam Singh in boxing.

Hours before the end of the Games, India and England were in close race for the second spot on the medals table as both had 37 gold. And the key to the second spot lay with the Indian women as two golds were up for grabs badminton – one in singles and the other in doubles.

They did not fail.

First the doubles’ pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa and later Saina Nehwal in singles rose to the challenge to firmly place India in second place – an achievement that would have been dismissed as a chimera before the Games.

There was a note of disappointment too for the hosts. The Indian men’s hockey team was routed by world champions Australia in the finals at midday. Though there was not much expectation of India winning the gold in the hockey, the margin of the loss was overwhelming. The men conceded eight goals without scoring any – and failed to get inspired by the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh among the spectators at the packed Major Dhyan Chand Stadium.