There is a great deal of caution with which Bahadur Singh, the chief coach of the Indian athletics team, is approaching India's challenge and queries about a possible medal haul at the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games.
"We had about a dozen medals at the 2010 Games in New Delhi. That was a big jump from previous editions, but it was also because the Games were at home and we had entries in all events. Things are different now. Many of our athletes did not qualify for the Games. That apart, walking events have been dropped from the programme. So, I would say we would have done well if we have something like eight to ten medals with a couple of gold."
India won two gold — Krishna Poonia (discus) and women's 4x400m relay — besides three silver and seven bronze medals in athletics at the 2010 Games. Poonia's gold medal was India's first gold in track and field since Milkha Singh's gold medal in 440 yards in the 1958 Games in Cardiff (Wales).
"We have not had great success at Commonwealth Games where the likes of England, Scotland, Kenya, Australia, Jamaica, Nigeria and so on have. Remember we had a walking medal in 2010 and walking events have often produced medals for India. In my times, we had the famous Chand Ram, who won a gold medal in the same 1982 Asian Games as me," said Bahadur, who won the shot put gold in 1978 and 1982 Games.
Not willing to put a precise number of medals India can win at these Commonwealth Games, Bahadur said, "We are expecting good performances from a lot of athletes like Poonia, who was champion four years ago and her discus colleague, Seema. However three years ago, we had three women discus throwers — Krishna, Seema and Harwant — and they swept the medals. This time, Harwant is not here because she has a back problem."
He went on, "Our other medal hopes are men's discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who won silver in 2010. He has been training in the US and did well in IAAF meets. Then there is javelin thrower Ravinder Khaira, whose distance of 78 metres-plus looks good for a medal. Arpinder Singh (men's triple jump) should do well. He can even strike gold if he goes above 17.20-30 metres."
Coach Bahadur also spoke about the women in the contingent. "PT Usha's trainee, Tintu Luka (800 metres), will also run the 4x400m relay. Also watch out for high-jumper Sahana Kumari, triple-jumper Mayookha Johny and Poovamma (400 metres). The 4x400m relay team should do well. The women's 4x400m relay team will see Debasri, Pauloma, Anilda and Rattandeep with Ashwini Akkunji also in the fray. Ashwini has a chance in the 400m hurdles and she is showing form in training sessions. She did seven hurdles yesterday in training and looked good."
Bahadur had a lot of praise for Poovamma, who has been clocking around 52 seconds in training. "She is our best prospect in a long time," he said. He also said the men's team was hit by the return of Sachin Roby, who is down with jaundice. "But we have six runners, so the team is not affected."
A DOZEN IN 2010
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India won 12 medals. Krishna Poonia (discus throw) and the women's 4x400m relay team won gold. India also captured three silver and seven bronze medals. Chief coach Bahadur Singh reckons the athletics contingent may win around 10 medals in Glasgow