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India shines on track & field in Birmingham even though medal tally is lowest since CWG 2006

Team India bagged total of 61 medals, of which 22 were gold, 16 silver, and 23 bronze. Exclusion of shooting for first time since 1974 may be major reason for dip in medal tally.

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New Delhi: The Indian contingent ended their campaign at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham with an impressive last day, winning a medal in each of the six events listed for Monday. These included four golds, one silver and one bronze medal.

Team India bagged a total of 61 medals, of which 22 were gold — the same number as 2006 — 16 silver and 23 bronze. Although this puts India in the top four among 43 medal-winning countries, this campaign saw the team’s lowest tally of medals at the Commonwealth Games since 2006. 

Finishing fourth after Australia (178), England (176) and Canada (92), India’s performance fell far short of its tally in 2010 — the year Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games — when the team won a total of 101 medals, including 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze. 

In terms of the number of gold medals, this was among India’s worst performances since 1998, when it won just seven golds out of a total of 18 medals. It also won the same number as this year, 22, in 2006. 

Graphic: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Graphic: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

One major reason that led to this dip in the tally of medals may be the exclusion of shooting — for the first time since 1974 — in this edition of the Commonwealth Games. Prior to 2022, shooting accounted for 27 per cent, or a little over a quarter, of team India’s medals at the sporting event held every four years.

Referring to weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu bagging the gold medal in the 49kg category, her coach and Dronacharya awardee Vijay Sharma told ThePrint: “Mirabai Chanu is aiming for the next Olympics and this was a test for that only. Apart from that, India’s 10 medals are also an amazing achievement. Even though there were some close silvers, there will always be disappointment.”

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Athletics, jumping, walking events

Despite the low overall medal tally, India’s performance in athletics stood out in Birmingham, with the national contingent bagging eight medals.

To put this in perspective, with the sole exception of 2010, India had never won more than a total of three medals in athletics at the Commonwealth Games.

Although Olympic Gold medallist Neeraj Chopra was missing in action due to aninjury, Annu Rani brought home India’s first ever women’s javelin medal, a bronze

Jumping events was another area where the Indian contingent showed massive improvement by bagging four medals. Of these, the bronze was won by Tejaswin Shankar in high jump and the silver by Murali Sreeshankar in long jump.

Among the most stunning performances were that of Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker, who bagged a gold and a silver, respectively, in triple jump.

India also bagged not just one but two medals in walking events — Priyanka Goswami won a silver in the 10,000m walk race, whereas Sandeep Kumar won a historic bronze in the 10,000m men’s walk. This reminded many of 2010 when Harminder Singh won a bronze, the first and the only medal for India in walking events, until 2022. 

Even in cricket, which was included for the first time in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, the Indian women’s team won a silver medal.

Then there was India’s Avinash Sable, who impressed all with his stellar performance in the 3000m steeplechase that got him a silver. Making his debut at the Commonwealth Games, Sable clocked 8:11.20, only five seconds behind Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot. 

Sable also broke the national record for the ninth time, having first broken a 37-year-old record back in 2018

“My heartbeat nearly stopped while watching the tense final moment of @avinash3000m in the men’s 3,000-metre steeplechase race run at the Commonwealth Games!,” Union Minister Kiren Rijiju wrote on Twitter, while congratulating Sable.

This was also the first time a non-Kenyan athlete won a medal in the steeplechase event since 1998.

Wrestling, weightlifting, shooting

India won a total of 12 medals in wrestling — the same as 2018 and one medal less than its 2014 tally. 

In weightlifting, India won 10 medals including 3 golds — this was four less than the tally in 2014 and one more than the tally in 2018.

Weightlifting and wrestling have traditionally been strongholds of Team India, along with shooting.

This is why the exclusion of shooting from the Commonwealth Games 2022 may have dented India’s medals tally. Of the 503 medals that India won in the Commonwealth Games between 1934 and 2018, shooting alone accounted for 135. 

In the last three Commonwealth Games, shooting accounted for 30 per cent of India’s medals tally in 2010, 26.5 per cent in 2014 and 24.2 per cent in 2018. Team India bagged a total of 63 medals in shooting in these games.

Shooting features as an optional sport in the Commonwealth Games. However, a host nation can only choose seven out of the list of optional sports. England, the host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, chose not to opt for shooting, citing “logistical issues”. 

Instead, women’s T20 cricket, basketball 3×3, wheelchair basketball 3×3, and mixed synchronised diving featured at the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 2022.

Shooting, wrestling not on list for 2026 

It is also a matter of concern for India that neither shooting nor wrestling features in the initial list of 16 games that will be played in the Commonwealth Games 2026, although the list does include cricket.

According to the International Olympic Committee’s website, “Shooting and wrestling did not make the cut in the initial list. However, the list of sports for the 2026 Commonwealth Games will be updated later in the year.”

Prior to 2022, of India’s 503 Commonwealth Games medals, shooting accounted for 135 and wrestling for 102. 

“The two sports account for nearly half of India’s medals tally at the CWG,” adds.

Talking about India’s medal tally at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Mirabai Chanu’s coach Vijay Sharma told ThePrint, “The 61 medals that India has won is an amazing achievement. We have to keep in mind that this is despite the exclusion of shooting and archery, in which traditionally India has done well. So, it’s of course something to be proud of.”

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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