The Commonwealth Games 2018 at Gold Coast, Australia, finally kicked off last night in a stunning opening ceremony. India’s star shuttler PV Sindhu led the Indian contingent, which also included fellow badminton stars HS Pranoy and Kidambi Srikanth, at the 21st edition of the Games.
With a massive 222-member contingent, India will aim to showcase its status as a rising sports power with an expected rich medal haul.
In a first, the Indian women athletes were seen donning blue blazers and trousers instead of sarees, their usual choice at international events. The ceremony at the Carrara Stadium featured artistic performances, speeches and processions of athletes from each participating country.
The ceremony was led by Scotland’s track and field star Eilidh Doyle, an Olympic and world championship medalist from Scotland, the hosts of the 2014 Games. But the real star of the festivities was Migaloo, a giant inflatable white whale that floated above spectators and performers alike as red confetti was showered on the stadium.
India had collected 64 medals (15 gold, 30 silver, 19 bronze) in the previous CWG held in Glasgow and the country will expect to better that performance at Gold Coast. Getting 101 medals in the New Delhi remains a tipping point for India in the CWG but since that took place at home, that mark will be lofty for the Indian contingent.
In Gold Coast, India has a 27-member shooting team that includes Jitu Rai (50m pistol), Ravi Kumar (10m air rifle), Olympic 2012 medallist Gagan Narang (50m rifle prone), Anish Bhanwala (25m rapid fire pistol), Heena Sidhu, Manu Bhaker (both 10m air pistol), Mehuli Ghosh, Apurvi Chandela (both 10m air rifle), Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant (both 50m rifle 3positions) and Shreyasi Singh (double trap).
In weightlifting, high expectations are from reigning world champion S. Mirabai Chanu (-48kg) and Satish Shivalingam (-77kg). Apart from the duo, medal hopefuls are K. Sanchita Chanu (-53kg), Deepak Lather (-69kg), Saraswati Rout (-58kg), Punam Yadav (-69kg).
The wrestlers are spearheaded by two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar (-74kg) and 2016 Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik (-62kg). India has a powerful wrestling team and other key grapplers include Bajrang Punia (-65kg), Rahul Aware (-57kg), Mausam Khatri (-97kg), Babita Kumari (-53kg), Pooja Dhanda (-57kg) and Vinesh Phogat (-50kg).
Among the boxers, Manoj Kumar (69kg), Vikas Krishan (75kg), Satish Kumar (+91kg), Gaurav Solanki (52kg), five-time world champion M.C. Mary Kom (48kg), Pinki Rani (51kg), L. Sarita Devi (60kg) and Lovlina Borgoahin (69kg). For Mary Kom and Sarita, this will be their last CWG campaign and they will look to end it on a high.
In athletics, among the 28 competitors, star javelin thrower and Asian champion Neeraj Chopra and 2014 Games’ silver medal-winning discus thrower Seema Punia have proved to be counted as confident medal hopefuls. India also has high hopes from the badminton team, which includes Olympic medallists Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu. In the men’s singles, Srikanth and Prannoy are also medal prospects.
India’s men’s hockey team won two silver medals in the past two CWGs, losing to Australia in the finals, and this time, the reigning Asian champions will aim to bag the yellow metal. The women’s team which competed in the 2010 and 2014 without medals, will have a strong chance to finish on the podium.
In squash, expectations will be high from Joshana Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal Karthik, Saurav Ghosal and Harinder Pal Sandhu. Dipika and Joshana will look to defend their doubles title. In table tennis, Achanta Sharath Kamala will lead the Indian campaign. Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty, G. Sathiyan, Manika Batra, Mouma Das and Pooja Sahasreebudhe will compete in the singles, doubles and the team events.