Indian stars to watch at 2018 Commonwealth Games

As the 2018 Commonwealth Games begins on the Gold Coast of Australia, DESIblitz picks the Indian stars to watch in their respective sports for securing medals.

India's highest medal total in the Commonwealth Games came in 2010 with 101 in Delhi.

India’s top athletes have arrived on Australia’s Gold Coast for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

They will be looking to build on the success of their last Commonwealth Games entry in 2014 where they won 64 medals.

With the hopes of 1.3 billion people cheering the nation on, 225 Indian athletes will be expecting regular visits on the podium on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Historically, the Commonwealth Games has been a sporting event that India has done well in the past alongside their national sport, cricket.

Incredibly, their highest medal total in the Commonwealth Games came in 2010 with 101 medals in Delhi.

Some of the events the country is expected to collect a large 2018 medal haul are in badminton, shooting, boxing and weightlifting.

DESIblitz picks out a couple of the Indian stars to watch out for at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Mary Kom – Women’s Boxing (Light Flyweight)

Five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion Mary Kom is one of the most decorated female amateur boxers to have ever come out of India.

A bronze medallist in the Flyweight category (51kg) at the 2012 Olympics, she eventually lost the gold to Nicola Adams of Great Britain in London.

After failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016, she began her first retirement from the sport.

She eventually returned to boxing in 2017 where Mary claimed yet another gold medal in Light Flyweight (48kg) at the Asian Boxing Championship.

It is the first time that the legendary boxer has ever competed at the Commonwealth Games albeit she admits that there are no second chances left for her to claim Commonwealth Gold at the age of 35.

Mary told Verve Magazine: “It definitely feels good to have done and achieved so much. I am happy to be able to set an example for my fellow athletes and young girls.

“I would like to encourage girls to opt for a career in sports as it is one of the best professions in the world.”

Never rule out Mary Kom to spring a surprise or two in the Light Flyweight category as it will be the only Commonwealth Games she will be competing at in her career.

Saina Nehwal – Women’s Badminton

It’s been eight years since Saina Nehwal claimed a gold medal in Badminton at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Since then, it has been a rollercoaster few years for the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist. The athlete has been plagued with injuries and inconsistent form on the circuit.

Leg blisters forced her out of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. But there are signs that she is shuttling back into some form.

In 2017, Saina claimed a bronze medal at the BWF World Championship in Scotland, losing out in the semi-final to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara.

At the 2017 BWF Grand Prix Gold and Grand Prix, Saina claimed gold and her third Indian national badminton title against her fellow countrywoman P.V. Sindhu in the final.

With all eyes on Sindhu for the Games in Australia, Saina is in with a good shout for a medal in the badminton event on the Gold Coast.

Jitu Rai – Men’s Shooting (10m, 50m Pistol)

Shooting has been an event at the Commonwealth Games that India has always done well in.

With 56 gold medals, it is no surprise that Jitu Rai will be leading the charge for gold in the 50m pistol and 10m air pistol events in the Gold Coast.

At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he claimed a Gold medal in the Men’s 50m pistol for India. A remarkable achievement for a debutant.

A loss of form led to some disappointing results at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. As he finished 8th and 14th in the Men’s 10m and 50m pistol events respectively.

Jitu is back in a good vein of form that has led him to win another Gold medal alongside Heena Sidhu at the 2017 ISSF World Cup in the 10m mixed air pistol category.

As one of India’s most experienced shooters in the team, Jitu is hoping to make amends in Australia after a disappointing shooting campaign in Rio.

Vikas Krishan – Men’s Boxing (Welterweight)

The 2018 Commonwealth Games represents redemption for Vikas Krishan, who competes in the 69kg (Welterweight) category for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

After suffering heartbreak at two consecutive Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 in the Quarter Finals, Vikas has been in some questionable form as of late.

In the 2017 Asian Championships, he forfeited the middleweight semi-final fight against Korea’s Lee Dongyun in which he received a warning from the Boxing Federation of India.

He bounced back in 2018 with a Gold in the Strandja Memorial Tournament in Bulgaria, becoming the first Indian to be adjudged as the “Best Boxer” of the entire event.

However, the pressure is even greater for one of India’s most decorated boxers as he feels the weight of expectation for his fellow team-mates.

Vikas explained to the Indian Tribune: “Now that I am the most senior boxer, there is added pressure on me to win, otherwise the juniors may lose heart.

“For them, like it was for me, the seniors doing well acts as a motivational factor. The idea is to do well so that these young guys can learn from us.”

Vikas remains India’s best chance in the Men’s Boxing category at Welterweight for a medal alongside his fellow countryman Manoj Kumar.

Srikanth Kidambi – Men’s Badminton

A semi-finalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the mixed team badminton event, Srikanth Kidambi is one of India’s most prominent players on the circuit.

Ranked Number 2 in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings, he is looking to replicate his fellow countryman Parupalli Kashyap, who claimed Gold in Glasgow four years ago.

Two years later, Srikanth secured a pair of Gold Medals at the 2016 Asian Games in the Men’s Singles and Men’s Team badminton events.

It has been a successful couple of years for the 25-year-old. In just 2017, he won four BWF Super Series Titles (Indian Open, French Open, Australian Open and Denmark Open).

Srikanth is a genuine contender for a medal in the Men’s Badminton in Australia as he looks to continue his rich vein of form coming into the Games.

Sanjita Chanu – Weightlifting – 53kg (Women’s) 

As defending champion in the Women’s Weightlifting category (48kg), the pressure to retain her title could not be much higher for Sanjita Chanu.

She became the second Indian, after Karnam Malleswari achieved the feat in 1995, to have won Gold at the 2017 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships.

Her world record lift of 194kg included an 85kg snatch and 109kg clean-and-jerk in the 48kg category, breaking her previous record in the snatch.

Alongside her fellow countrywoman Mirabai Chanu, who competes in the 48kg category, Sanjita goes up 5kg in weight to the 53kg category.

Retaining the Commonwealth Games weightlifting title will be the highest priority for Sanjita as everyone in India is hoping for another Gold for her.

Neeraj Chopra – Men’s Javelin

Trained by former world record holder, Germany’s Uwe Hohn, Neeraj Chopra is looking to make some headlines in the Men’s Javelin event.

The 21-year-old is making his debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. He faces some stiff competition provided by Trinidad’s Keshorn Walcott and Kenya’s Julius Yego.

In 2017, he claimed the Silver medal in the javelin at the 2017 Asian Grand Prix, qualifying him for the IAAF World Championship.

He failed to qualify for the final in London although Neeraj broke the men’s javelin record at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championship, securing a gold medal with an effort of 85.23 metres.

With many Indian athletes identifying him as a rare talent, the current junior world record holder is definitely worth keeping an eye on. 

Mehuli Ghosh – Women’s Shooting (10m Air Pistol)

As one of the youngest members of the Indian Commonwealth Games team, Mehuli Ghosh is a rising star in the sport of shooting.

2017 saw her rise onto the world stage as the latter-half of the year saw her secure a haul of medals that she added to her cabinet.

In the 2017 Indian National Shooting Championship, the 17-year-old won eight gold medals in various shooting events.

She is making her debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she is expected to be a serious challenger for a medal in the Women’s 10m air pistol event.

Whatever the outcome is for Mehuli, it will be an amazing experience for the 2018 ISSF World Cup bronze medallist.       

Other Indian competitors we should be keeping an eye on at the Commonwealth Games include Sakshi Malik (Wrestling), P.V. Sindhu (Badminton), Sanjita Chanu (Weightlifting) and many more.

Notably, Sindhu was the Olympic Silver Medallist in Rio in 2016. She is another star in the Indian Commonwealth Games team.

She has spoken about the extra pressure that comes with being one of the country’s best players on the court.

P.V. told the official Commonwealth Games website: “You don’t have to take on that pressure. I know people expect a lot from you but it’s not so hard to deal with it.”

There was some controversy prior to the Opening Ceremony, however. India was cleared of any dope tests by the Commonwealth Games Federation that involved needles with their athletes.

The 21st Commonwealth Games takes place on the Gold Coast of Australia from Wednesday 4th April 2018 to Sunday 15th April 2018.

Umar is a Media and Communication Graduate with a love of all things music, sport and Mod culture. A data nerd at heart, his motto is “If in doubt, always go flat out and never look back!”

Images courtesy of Press Trust of India, Reuters, Times of India, Mehuli Ghosh Official Twitter, Neeraj Chopra Official Twitter, Indian Olympic Association Official Twitter and Mary Kom Official Facebook

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