“I want to repeat my 2010 performance in Glasgow. I am training very hard to get gold."
The Indian sports ministry has picked a strong 215-member squad, which can inspire a string of medal winning performances at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
This is the largest ever-Indian squad at the Games, including thirty-two members for athletics and seven para-athletes.
The squad will compete across fourteen sporting disciplines, excluding netball, rugby and triathlon.
Ninety officials, coaches and support staff are also accompanying the team at the Games. Shooter Vijay Kumar has been named Indian flag-bearer for the Games.
Team India suffered a big loss ahead of the Games as ace shuttler Saina Nehwal had to pull out due to fitness issues. Saina had won Gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Saina who won the Australian Badminton Super Series in June 2014 was unable to recover from the blisters she sustained in the tournament down under.
The player from Hyderabad was also struggling with a knee injury. Speaking about missing the Games, Saina said:
“I am not fit as I’m still recovering from a leg injury. I’m withdrawing from the Games as I did not get enough time to train after my campaign in Australia where I got blisters on my feet.”
She added: “I’m withdrawing from the Commonwealth Games so that I could be fit for at least the next two events on the calendar.”
India has a number of medal contenders at the Commonwealth games. Lets take a look at the top sporting prospects from the Indian squad:
1. PV Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa (Badminton)
Defending champion, Saina Nehwal’s pull out may be a big blow, but India’s shuttlers are still top medal contenders for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Besides doubles defending champions Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, Games debutant PV Sindhu and last time Silver Medalist, Parupalli Kashyap will form India’s smash hit badminton team. Indian players will feature in the singles and doubles events.
2. Abhinav Bindra (Shooting)
India’s lone individual Olympic Gold medalist is a strong contender. Abhinav Bindra won Gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. He repeated the performance at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.
But at the 2010 Games in Delhi, Abhinav had to settle for Silver in the individual 10m air rifle event. Bindra will certainly be ‘Going for Gold’ this time round. With Gagan Narang failing to qualify for the individual event this time, Bindra is certainly one to keep a close eye on.
3. Sushil Kumar (Wrestling)
Sushil Kumar won Gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, but this time round he will be competing in a new category – 74 kg freestyle category. India’s Olympic Silver and Bronze medalist had taken a long break from major competition after the London Olympics in 2012.
Whilst participating in his new weight category, Sushil bagged a Silver medal in an international competition held in 2014. Targeting yet another medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Sushil Kumar said:
“I want to repeat my 2010 performance in Glasgow. I am training very hard to get gold. With the effort I have put in, hopefully I can get good results.”
4. Jitu Rai (Shooting)
Army marksman and shooter, Jitu Rai has been in the form of his life. The current world number one in the men’s 10m-air pistol category has won three World Cup medals in 2014, including one Gold and two Silvers.
Jitu has not been selected for the 10m air pistol, but will compete in the free pistol event.
Looking ahead to the Games an optimistic Jitu said: “I am pretty confident of winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.”
5. Heena Sidhu (Shooting)
At number five is pistol shooter, Heena Sidhu. Born in Ludhiana, the twenty-four year old is the first Indian pistol shooter to win a World Cup Gold medal and that too with a world record score.
Heena’s performance at the World Cup has taken her to the top of the world rankings. Sidhu, a dental surgery student won Silver in the individual 10m-air pistol event in 2010. She also claimed a Gold medal in the pairs event.
Other medal contenders under the Indian men’s and women’s categories include: Sanjita Chanu (wrestling), Sukhen Dey (wrestling), Yogyeshwar Dutt (wrestling), Vandna Gupta (wrestling), Pinky Jangra (boxing), Sharath Kamal (table tennis), Katulu Ravi Kumar (wrestling), Krishna Poonia (discuss) and Vijender Singh (boxing)
Indian players will also participate in a number of other sports, including athletics, cycling, gymnastics, judo, lawn bowls, powerlifting, squash, swimming and weightlifting.
Hoping to finish in the top three at Glasgow 2014, India will be aiming to win more medals from Delhi 2010, where they won 101 in total.