Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018: Who we'll be watching

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 are just around the corner (from April 4-15), and team India is all set to make its way Down Under. Here’s a quick lowdown on some of the players of the 325-member contingent from India.

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The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 are just around the corner (from April 4-15), and team India is all set to make its way Down Under. Here’s a quick lowdown on some of the players of the 325-member contingent from India.
While athletics and shooting have the most number of participants (31 and 27, respectively), weightlifting has 16 and wrestling has 12 players.
P V Sindhu

PV Sindhu Credit: PTI

Star shuttler PV Sindhu who has skyrocketed in popularity all thanks to her spectacular feats in the recent times, will be the official flagbearer of the Indian contingent this year. Back in 2014, pistol shooter Vijay Kumar had the honour.
Sindhu, an Olympic silver medallist at Rio in 2016, also won a bronze in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Currently, the badminton player is at World Number 3, and is a top contender, especially as top competitors Japan and China aren’t a part of the Games.
Manavjit Singh Sandhu (Trap Shooting)
To call Manavjit Singh Sandhu a Commonwealth Games veteran would be an understatement. The 41-year-old has since 1998 proven time and again a boon for the Indian contingent. A former World Number 1 in trap shooting, Sandhu has won three Olympic medals, three team golds and two individual golds at past Commonwealth Games from 1998 to 2014.
It’s this winning streak at the past Games that made it sailing into the Gold Coast team a breeze for the shooter. In a nutshell, he’s worth his weight in gold.
Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling)
Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat comes from a family of winners. The daughter of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat’s (on whose life the Amir Khan starrer Dangal is based) brother Rajpal, and cousin of international medalists Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari, Vinesh is no stranger to the Commonwealth Games. The 23-year-old, who represented India in the women’s freestyle 48 kg category at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, won the gold medal.
She has also made her mark in numerous other championships, such as the 2013 Asian Wrestling Championships (bronze), 2013 Commonwealth Wrestling Championships (silver), 2014 Asian Games (bronze) and the 2015 Asian Championships in Doha (silver). In 2017, Phogat claimed gold at the National Wrestling Championships.
Her fans in India have high hopes from Phogat, hoping she can recreate the magic of the 2014 Games in Australia this year.
Sathiyan Gnansekaran (Table Tennis)
Sathiyan Gnansekaran

This 25-year-old table tennis player is in the spotlight for his spectacular rise as one of India’s finest. Gnansekaran shot to fame in 2017 when he scooped up medals at the International Table Tennis Federation. In fact, he’s only the second Indian paddler to win a singles event in 2016, defeating local player Nuytinck Cedric 4-0 in the Belgium Open. He also won gold in the ITTF Challenge – Spanish Open in 2017 in the men’s singles category.
India has hopes pinned on this year’s table tennis team, especially since the top players of the sport from China and Europe won’t be taking part in this year’s CWG.
Gnansekaran is world number 49 at the moment and this will be his first Commonwealth Games.
Neeraj Chopra (Javelin throw)
Neeraj Chopra

Another sportsperson to make his debut at the CWG this year is 20-year-old Neeraj Chopra. The javelin thrower from Haryana is a top contender for gold – and for good reason.
Chopra first made waves when he won the gold medal at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championship in Poland in 2016. Not only did he win the top prize, he also, for the very first time for India, broke the world record with an impressive feat of 86.48m throw. It’s no wonder that his former coach Gary Calvert calls him a “once-in-a-generation-talent”.
Recently, Chopra officially made the cut in his sixth attempt at the Federations Cup Championship in Patiala where he managed 85.94m. If he can stick to his target of throwing consistently over the 85m mark, there’s a bright chance for him to win a medal for India.
Srihari Nataraj (Swimming)
He’s only 17 years old, but Bengaluru’s Srihari Nataraj is already making waves, pun intended. This young gun, who counts Michael Phelps as one of his biggest influences, won his first medal at the National Swimming Championship in 2010 after which there was no turning back.
His claim to fame moment came at the Senior Nationals in 2017 after winning all three backstroke events – 50m, 100m and 200m – in each of which he created a record. More recently in February, the swimmer bagged six golds and a silver at the Khelo India School Games. With great performances to his credit, Nataraj is one to watch.
Mehuli Ghosh (Shooting)
Teen shooting sensation Mehuli Ghosh, fresh from bagging two bronze medals at the ISSF
World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, has now set her eyes on breaking a senior world record by the end of 2018. The shooter first made her mark at the West Bengal state junior championship with two silver medals in 2014 and followed it up with two golds in the 2016 Nationals, eight in 2017 Nationals and then one in the Asian Airgun Championships in Japan.
Interestingly, Mehuli ended up sliding into depression a few years ago following her suspension when one of her pellets hit a spectator at a shooting academy in Kolkata. Now, however, the girl who counts four-time CWG gold medallist Abhinav Bindra as her inspiration, has come a long way and definitely worth keeping an eye on.
MC Mary Kom (Boxing)
The 36-year-old boxing champ from India is a special point of interest – wondering why?
MC Mary Kom

Although she has trailblazed her path into the world of boxing championships with numerous accolades – like her five wins at World Championships and an Olympic bronze medal – there’s one that has been out of her reach: A Commonwealth Games medal.
Women’s boxing was included in CWG only in 2014 and unfortunately Kom didn’t qualify for the event back then. But the boxer isn’t giving up, not yet. Her return to the sport in 2017 when she won her sixth medal at the Asian Boxing Championships in Vietnam is proof that she’s a master of the game and could very well be counted upon to bring back a medal or two.
Jitu Rai
Seasoned shooter Jitu Rai has put the setback of the Rio Olympics in 2016 behind him and is confident of a podium finish. The Nepal-born shooter, who was a 50m pistol gold medallist at the 2014 Glasgow CWG, says he’s been working on his mental and physical strength conditioning for the Games and is very happy with his preparation. The shooter recently said he was disappointed by news that the 2022 CWG may drop the sport but said that India shouldn’t boycott them.
Indian hockey team
Indian Men’s Hockey Team

How can we talk about Indian sports and the Commonwealth Games and not mention hockey?
Although the Indian men’s hockey team has never won a gold medal at the Games, one can always hope. The team came home with silver during the 2010 and 2014 Games in New Delhi and Glasgow, respectively. Give their fifth position at the Azlan Shah tournament, hopes are running high.
The women’s hockey team bagged a gold at their debut in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, and then a silver at the 2006 Games in Melbourne. After winning their recent five-match series in South Korea, the team’s confident of making a mark in the 2018 Games as well.
The recent changes in both teams in terms of strategy (more attack, less defence) promise to improve their game considerably.

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