The Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham is a huge success for India and athletics is one of the disciplines that gives fans an opportunity to celebrate record-breaking moments. As expected, India had a medal whirlwind at the CWG in boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, badminton and table tennis. However, one discipline that helped bring the country medals was athletics.
At Gold Coast 2018, India could only manage three medals in this event. But this time, Indian athletes have set a new benchmark, bagging eight medals, including one gold, four silver and three bronze, good for next year's Asian Games and the 2024 Paris Olympics. The performances in track and field by youngsters like steeplechaser Avinash Sable, triple jumpers
Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker, walkers Priyanka Goswami and Sandeep Kumar, javelin thrower Annu Rani, long jumper Murali Sreeshankar and high jumper Tejaswin Shankar were heartening which stole the show. The undoubted star for India in track and field in Birmingham was
Avinash Sable, who challenged the Kenyan hegemony in the 3000m steeplechase, finishing second, losing the gold medal by 500th of a second. Abraham Kibiwot, the gold medallist, presented a brave front but it was sure he had his heart in his mouth for a few seconds as Sable made a late charge to the finish line, virtually hanging onto the Kenyan runner's shoulder as he crossed the finishing line.
It was tactically a brilliant race as Sable broke to the front early and forced the Kenyans to speed up and exert energy early so as to keep ahead and thus, they could not produce a strong finishing kick. Sable found some hidden reserves somewhere in his body and produced a deadline finishing kick. His time of 8:11.20 was a new personal best and national record, while Kibiwot took gold in 8:11.15 and compatriot Amos Serem took bronze in 8:16.83.
Eldhose Paul, who went 1-2 in the triple jump, was another big win in athletics for India, who could yet match a medal in Paris. He jumped, jumped and jumped into the history books as India's first triple jump gold medalist.
Before that, the silver won by Mohinderpal Singh Gill in 1974 was India's best finish in triple jump. Paul had a best performance of 17.03 meters for the gold, while his compatriot Abdulla Aboobacker clocked 17.02 for the silver.
India's Praveen Chithravel finished fourth, narrowly missing the bronze medal. "I am happy that the national anthem was playing and the first two athletes were from India. I felt proud. We were already preparing for CWG and Asian Games.
The World Championships gave us an experience that benefitted us. Neeraj Chopra's gold (in Tokyo 2020 Olympics) changed our mentality,'' Paul said after returning from Birmingham. In men's long jump, Murali Sreeshankar won the first-ever silver medal for India in the event. His jump of 8.08 metres was equal to that of gold winner Laquan Nairn, but Sreeshankar had to settle for silver as Nairn had made the jump in his second attempt while the Indian nailed it in his fifth.
Sandeep Kumar, who won bronze in men's 10km race walk, did it with a personal best timing, while Priyanka Goswami took the silver in the women's event, shattering the national record with a personal best timing of 43:38.83. By clinching the bronze, Annu Rani won a first-ever medal for India in women's javelin throw at CWG. Tejaswin Shankar's bronze in the men's high jump was another big performance for Indian athletes at the marquee event. About a year ago, Neeraj Chopra's gold at the Tokyo Olympics gave a new lease of life to Indian athletes. It changed the mindset of Indian sportspersons and gave them a new identity at the global level. Going by India's convincing performance in CWG 2022, it can be said that success in Birmingham could be the beginning of a new era in athletics for India.
There are many big events, including next year's Asian Games, where India can perform well and assert itself as a future athletics powerhouse. A top performance at these events will also be a big boost to their confidence for the anticipated 2024 Paris Olympics.
However, Indian athletes have to be careful about their health and fitness, which has hampered the country's progress for a long time. He also has to take care of the doping issue. All in all, progress has begun and will hopefully lead to greater achievements in the near future.