The first half of 2018 was important for Indian sports. Perhaps the most important since the Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi eight years ago.
It began with an event with a vision for the future- Khelo India. The government-funded initiative called out young athletes to take part in sports which are usually played at the Olympics. The motive of this event was to spot the best talent and help them grow over the next few years via scholarships.
Following Khelo India, the Indian contingent then went down under for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The contingent did not disappoint and bagged sixty-six medals, with shooting, wrestling, and weightlifting amongst the highest contributors.
The first half of the year turned out to be amazing for some other sports and sportspersons as well.
The Indian Football Team officially qualified for the AFC Asian Cup, due to be held next year, after a long absence. The Blue Tigers also won the four-nation Intercontinental Cup, defeating Kenya in the Final.
In Badminton, Srikanth Kidambi climbed to the No. 1 spot in Men’s Rankings, albeit for just a week. PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, and HS Prannoy impressed as well over the first half. Table-tennis saw the rise of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran to a career-high rank of Forty-four. Manika Batra also came to the fore, due to her stunning performance in the Commonwealth Games.
Out of all the sports, shooting perhaps enjoyed the best first half of the year. The sport saw an inflow of medals, emerging prospects, and even world records broken at the hands of the Indian contingent.
The inflow of medals will help a sport grow at the present, with more investment being poured into something which is seen as a success. Future prospects, as the term indicates, will help the country in future. However, world records are something which will be set in stone for years to come; perhaps one of the greatest achievements of a sportspersons life.
A lot of world records were broken by Indian sportspersons in the first half of the year and nine of them are still standing at the time of writing.
Almost all of the world records broken by the Indian contingent came through shooting. In totality, the shooting contingent broke two individual records, while six team records. The sport enjoyed a fantastic year and as a result, has plenty to show for it.
Six of the eight records were broken in Germany, during the past week. The European nation hosted the Junior World Championships in Suhl and was witness to a stunning performance by the Indian youngsters.
Hriday Hazarika, Divyansh Singh Panwa, and Shahu Tushar Mane shot a combined 1875.3 mark to break the world record in 10m Air Rifle Men in the team event. Saurabh Chaudhary shot 243.7 to do the same in its individual counterpart.
Two men’s pistol teams also managed to break the record in their respective categories. Vijayveer Sidhu, Rajkanwar Singh, and Anish Bhanwala broke the record by shooting a total of 1706 in 25m Standard Pistol. Sidhu and Sandhu then teamed up with Udhayveer Sidhu to break the record for 25m Pistol with a score of 1747.
Elavenil Valaviran and Divyansh Singh Panwar broke the record for 10m Air Rifle mixed team event. Manu Bhaker shot 242.5 to break the 10m Air Pistol women’s record.
March: New world record and 10m Air Rifle Gold at Junior World Cup.
June: Second consecutive 10m Air Rifle Gold at Junior World Cup.
— The Bridge (@TheBridge_IN) June 25, 2018
Bhaker was involved with breaking the remaining two records as well. She first teamed up with Anmol in March to break the world record for 10m Air Pistol at the Junior World Cup in Sydney. One month later, she paired up with Om Mitharwal to break the senior record for 10m Air Pistol at the World Cup in Changwon, Korea.
The only remaining world record broken in 2018, so far, came from a surprising source. Para-Athlete Yogesh Kathuniya threw his Discuss to a mark of 45.18m to break the record at the IPC Berlin Grand Prix.
In case you missed, India set a new WORLD RECORD after Yogesh Kathuniya threw 45.18m in F36 Discus Throw at the Berlin Para-Athletics Grand Prix to better the previous world record of 42.96m. @ParalympicIndia pic.twitter.com/E899DiEUck
— The Bridge (@TheBridge_IN) July 3, 2018
What made this possible?
The fortunes of many of these sports changed when the federations started paying a little more attention. In picking out the right athletes, training them, pushing them to their limits, and helping them prepare in a more structured way, India’s sporting fortunes improved. One can agree that some sports, such as boxing and wrestling, were doing splendidly before as well. However, a little more attention to detail helped magnify the scale of their success.
Not to forget another and perhaps the more important aspect, which led to results- Investment. Providing capital and infrastructure can change the fortunes of a sport and its sportspersons.
Take for example, shooting. Shooting is a sport in which there is a requirement of huge investments. The faces of the sport and the people working in the shadows realize the necessity and do their best to fulfill it. The result of it is visible, with shooting one the most successful sports for India in the first half of the year.
Of course, we should not discount the efforts put in by the athletes and the coaches. India is growing in terms of people taking up sports as a profession and subsequently in the quality of its athletes and coaches. The result is visible.
Needless to say, Indian sports enjoyed a fantastic first half of the year, with the second half looking promising as well. Shooting contingent was the most successful with the Indian shooters doing all that was asked of them and more. Many young prospects emerged in shooting as well, such as Hriday Hazarika, Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh, and Anish Bhanwala.
The other Indian sporting contingent saw some fresh faces as well, many of whom are expected to represent India in the future.
For now, however, our immediate focus must fall on to next month’s Asian Games, one of the biggest big-ticket multi-sports events around. With the whole of Asia watching, the Games will provide a chance to many Indian athletes to scribe their name alongside the best.
Apart from Asian Games, the second half of 2018 will bring other sporting events as well.
BWF Super Series and ITTF World Tour will continue over the next half of the year, with the Indian stars hoping to dominate the racquet sports. The 2018 ISSF World Cup (Shooting) will also return in July and October with the Shotgun event. The upcoming months will see various other shooting competitions as well.
Wrestling and boxing will continue with the Indian contingent taking more exposure trips around the world.
Albeit big achievement in themselves, all the world records broken and the medals won will amount to little in front of the Indian fans if the contingent doesn’t do well in Tokyo 2020. It is what every athlete has been preparing for, for the last two years and will continue to do so for the next two.