The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games are now exactly a year away. Let us take a look at the Indian teams, their preparations and their medal chances at the mega event.
Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Samaresh Jung, Gagan Narang, Ronjan Sodhi, Anjali Bhagwat.... the list of India's world-beating shooters is getting longer. So, despite the preparation camp being hampered by the absence of rifle and pistol coaches, an unfinished Delhi range and a nation-wide swine-flu scare, India's shooting fraternity is quietly confident of yet another superlative show at Delhi 2010.
A core group of 150 shooters is toiling hard in the camp, now on in Pune, gunning for the 40 gold medals at stake. They are being put through a series of sessions that is a mix of practice and trial competitions. The shooters' calendar is packed till the Games with four World Cups, a World Championship and the Commonwealth Championship, to be held in Delhi in February, which is expected to give the shooters a dry run. Pistol shooters are still without a coach and rifle shooters are keenly awaiting the arrival of Stanislav Lapidus. The lucky ones are the shotgun shooters who are guided by top coaches Marcello Dradi and Zhang Shan.
Coaches: Marcello Dradi, Zhang Shan (shot gun), Sunny Thomas Last two Games: Manchester 2002: 14-7-3; Melbourne 2006: 16-7-4 Events in the run-up: World Cup final, Asian Airgun championship, World Cup (four events), World Championship, SAF Games, Commonwealth Championships.
Possible medal count: More than Melbourne's tally of 27 medals
The Indian boxing federation has created a core group of 44 boxers who are undergoing training at the national boxing camp at Patiala. This group is likely to be pruned after the Nationals in October end. The Nationals will be followed by Super Cup in Mumbai in January which will be a selection ground for the Commonwealth Championships to be held in March in Delhi. The boxers will then be back at the camp till it's time for the final dress rehearsal -- Mini National Games -- at the Talkatora Stadium in July. The final team of 11 will be announced thereafter
Coach: GS Sandhu
Recent Record: 2006 Melbourne: 1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze. 2002 Manchester: 1gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze. 1998 Kuala Lumpur: 1 silver.
Possible medal count: Although, the federation refused to take names, they are expecting two to three gold medals.
Indian athletes have not had much to boast of as far as the Commonwealth Games are concerned, with the country bagging just five medals so far in track and field events since 1978, when the first Games were held. This time, the hosts are hoping for a turnaround in their fortunes. Athletics Federation of India (AFI) officials insist the preparations are on the right track and India could win "six to eight" medals at home. At present 200 athletes are training in three SAI centres -- in Kolkata, Bangalore and Patiala. India is hoping to win medals in discus, shot put, relay races and triple jump.
Last Two Games: Manchester: 0-1-1; Melbourne: 0-2-0
Upcoming: The AFI is expected to release a calendar next month which, it said, will focus on giving athletes proper exposure for 2010.
Possible medal count: Six
The Indian badminton team hasn't been preparing specifically for the Commonwealth Games and plans of getting the entire contingent to train together under one roof will materialise only a month or two before the event. Till then, the players are free to play the tournaments they want to. They will also be training at their respective bases. National coach Gopi Chand says he isn't too worried about the specific preparations for the Games as his players are doing well on the international circuit.
Coach: Gopi Chand, Hadi Idris (doubles)
Past record (medals): Kingston (Jamaica) 1966: Dinesh Khanna (bronze, men's singles); Edmonton (Canada) 1978: Prakash Padukone (gold, men's singles), Ami Ghia & Kanwal Thakur Singh (bronze, women's doubles); Brisbane (Australia) 1982: Syed Modi (gold, men's singles); Auckland (New Zealand) 1990: Deepti Thanekar (bronze, women's singles); Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) 1998: Aparna Popat (silver, women's singles), Gopi Chand (bronze, men's singles), silver, men's team & bronze, women's team; Manchester (England) 2002: Aparna Popat (bronze, women's singles); Melbourne (Australia) 2006: Chetan Anand (bronze, men's singles), India also won bronze in the team event in the combined format.
Upcoming events: Denmark Super Series (Oct 20-25), French Open (Oct 27-Nov 1), Hong Kong Open (Nov 10-15), China Open (Nov 17-22).
Medals expected: Gopi is sure Saina Nehwal will win gold in women's singles. He's also hoping for gold in the mixed doubles as Jwala Gutta and V Diju are in good form.
The sports ministry has selected a total of 64 archers, in recurve and compound categories, for specialized training for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The training is on at the Sports Authority of India, Eastern Centre at Kolkata. The Archery Association of India (AAI) is planning to trim down the probables list to eight by next month. Going by present form, Indian archers are not doing very well, but there's still time for them to pick up at the right time.
Coach: Limba Ram. This Arjuna award winner missed a medal by only one point in Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Past record: Archery was included as an optional sport in CWG in Brisbane in 1982. India went medal-less there.
Upcoming: Asian Grand Prix in Dhaka in October this year and the Asian Championship at Bali in November. Next year, India will take part in all the five Archery World Cups.
Medals expected: Mangal Singh Champia plus men's team event in recurve. Ladies compound team event.
Individual event: Jhanu Hansda (compound)
The women’s hockey team reached new heights with gold medal in the 2002 Games, but all along it has been a struggle for the men’s team. This time, Jose Brasa’s men are preparing in right earnest to make it count. The team, after a long camp, is off to Canada for a seven-Test series. They have a busy calendar in the run-up to the event. The women, on the other hand, are busy honing their skills in Bhopal. Their crucial test will come in the Asia Cup in Bangkok later this year.
Coach: Jose Brasa (men), MK Kaushik (women)
Last 2 Games: Manchester: Gold (women), Melbourne: Silver (women)
Medal expected: 2
Men's calendar: A four-nation invitational tournament, World Cup in March, proposed tour of Europe, Azlan Shah Cup
Women's calendar: Asia Cup in Bangkok
Indian weightlifters have, it seems, been destined to live with the stigma of doping scandals despite stellar performances. So, when India returned with no medals from the Asian Championships in Kazakhstan recently, there was hardly any disappointment. In fact, officials were relieved that no one was caught in the doping net. Though, weightlifters managed to get fourth spot, chief national coach Harnaam Singh took a realistic view: "Frankly speaking, we did not have any chance of winning a medal there. But the upcoming Commonwealth Championships in Malaysia (October 18) will be a big test."
Past record: India has so far won 93 medals in Commonwealth Games so far (33 gold, 39 silver, 21 bronze).
Expected medals: In men's category, VS Rao (56kg) and Ravi Kumar (69 kg) are the top medal contenders. In the women's section, Geeta Rani (75+) and Yumnam Chanu (58kg) will once again be gunning for gold in Delhi.
Weightlifters banned: Edwin Raju and Tejinder Singh tested positive at the 2006 Melbourne while Prameelavalli Bodari and Shailaja Pujari failed dope tests before it and were banned by IWF from the 2006 Games.
The Indian squash team will face some of the best players in the world with traditional powerhouses Pakistan, England, Australia and Canada vying for honours. The national squash federation has picked 15 men and 12 women players in the “core-probables” list and the coaching programme involves training both at the Indian Squash Academy, Chennai and abroad. Besides, the players have been sent for exposure trips to England, Malaysia and Egypt.
National coach: Cyrus Poncha,
Foreign coach: Subramaniam Singaraveloo
Past record: No medals so far.
Expected medals: The hosts will be looking for doubles medals in both men's and women's.
India is one of the strongest teams among Commonwealth countries in wrestling with challenges likely to come from Canada and Nigeria in some weight categories. Preparatory camps are being held simultaneously at NIS, Patiala, and the SAI centre in Sonepat. The top four wrestlers from last year’s national championships have been selected from each weight category in the men's and women's sections and are undergoing systematic training at the camps. The teams have been taking part in international meets as well as Grand Prix events.
Men’s freestyle: Jagminder,
Men’s Greco-Roman: Har Govind,
Women: PR Sondhi
Past Record: India had a rich haul at the 2002 Manchester Games, winning three gold and three silver. Wrestling didn’t feature in the 2006 Melbourne Games.
Build-up: Commonwealth Championships in December and the Asian Championships in Delhi in May next year.
Possible Medal count: About 10 medals
China might not be a part of the Commonwealth group of nations, but paddlers of Chinese-origin play for teams like Singapore, Australia, Canada and Scotland. India’s Italian coach Massimo Constantini feels the team should train in China as much as possible to stand a chance against the superpowers. “Even their provincial players are so good. The Chinese have a lot of variety in their play and if our players can get to spar with them regularly, it’ll help us prepare better for the Games,” says Constantini, who will be accompanying the players to Zhengding, China, for a 15-day training camp later this month. Meanwhile, the Indian team has begun its preparations for the Games with regular camps in Pune, Patiala and Ajmer. As of now there are 37 core probables (20 men and 17 women), but Constantini wants to reduce the number to 24 next January.
Coach: Massimo Constantini (Italy), Bhawani Mukherjee (SAI).
Past record (medals): Melbourne 2006: Achanta Sharath Kamal (gold, men's singles); gold, men's team; bronze, women's team. Manchester (England) 2002: 3 bronze (men's singles, men's doubles and men's team)
Upcoming events: Training camp in Zhengding, China (Oct 11-28); English Open (Oct 28-Nov 1); Asian Championship, Lucknow (Nov 16-22); 2010 calendar hasn't been decided
Possible medal count: 4-5 medals. “Sharath (Kamal) and Subhajit (Saha) are expected to get us medals and I'm confident of winning in the women's team event also. We could do well in the women's singles and mixed doubles events too," says Constantini.
The 2010 Games have opened up a window of opportunities for Indian swimmers. They now figure in more international competitions and train at the bestavailable facilities in foreign countries with the assistance of renowned coaches. The first camp began at the Sports Authority of India (South Centre) campus in Bangalore in January 2008. Later, a 30-member contingent, led by National coach Pradeep Kumar, trained at the High Performance Training Centre in Pretoria (South Africa) while Virdhawal Khade, Sandeep Sejwal and J Agniswhar along with their coach Nihar Ameen went to Europe for training and competitions. The final camp, comprising 30 swimmers, will begin on October 12 in Pune. Another 75-day exposure trip is planned either to the US or Europe. The squad for the Games will be picked in April next year.
Past record: Four swimmers — Rehan Poncha, Arjun Muralidharan, Puneet Rana and Shikha Tandon — participated in the Melbourne Games and returned without any medals. No medals in the previous editions too.
Upcoming events: Asian Indoor Games, Vietnam (October 30); Asian Swimming
Championships (Gungzhou, November 22), SAF Games, Dhaka (January 29)
Possible medal count: Four
THE OTHER DISCIPLINES AT DELHI 2010: Cycling, Gymnastics, Lawn bowls, Netball, Rugby 7s —Anupama Bagri, Biswajyoti Brahma, Leslie Xavier, Biju Babu Cyriac, TA Ameerudheen, Ruhi Batra, Arghya Ganguly, Gaurav Kanthwal
Not a regular feature in Commonwealth Games, India lobbied hard to include tennis in the list for 2010. With the emergence of young stars like Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri to give company to old hands Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, the Indian tennis contingent holds the promise of more than one gold medal.
While the big stars keep themselves busy playing on the ATP and WTA Tour, it's the rest of the 40-player strong probables list that is put through the paces at training camps and ITF events held in India and abroad. The probables have been training under the watchful eyes of former Davis Cup players and now competent coaches, Jaideep Mukherjea, Nandan Bal, Enrico Piperno, Arun Kumar Singh and Nitin Kirtane. Doug McCurdy from the ITF, who is credited with revolutionising tennis in China, has been appointed as the foreign consultant for Indian tennis with a special focus on the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In addition, month-long training camps have been organised at the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy, the champions-producing tennis factory.
Possible medal count: Five gold medals are on offer at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and two medals, in the doubles and mixed doubles, are expected. Devvarman (below) is a strong contender for a medal while Sania Mirza can never be ruled out.