woman javelin thrower Annu Rani and 38-year-old discus thrower Seema Antil, the most decorated Indian in the CWG with three silver and one bronze, could also finish on the podium, while India is expected to win more than one medal in the men’s triple jump.
With the emergence of several world-class athletes, especially after Chopra won a historic gold medal in track and field in Tokyo Olympics last year, India was in the hunt for at least half a dozen medals at the Games from July 28 to August 8.
The best collection of medals in athletics in the country took place at the CWG in Delhi in 2010 with 2 gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze medals. This performance will surely be hard to match, but the Indians are said to be looking for their second best show ever.
The second best show of the Indian athletics contingent at CWG so far was the three medals (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze each) in the 2014 and 2018 editions.
India’s history at the Commonwealth Games
With the six finalists from the ongoing World Championships in Eugene, USA heading to Birmingham where the competition will be relatively easier, India would love the chance to win a handful of medals.
The country has so far won 28 medals (5 gold, 10 silver, 13 bronze) across editions since legendary Milkha Singh won a gold medal in the men’s 440-yard event in 1958.
Sekar Dhanalakshmi, who was scheduled to compete in the women’s 100m and 4x100m relays, and Aishwarya Babu, who was scheduled to compete in the long jump as well as the triple jump, were dropped from the 36-member squad after failing doping tests who have shamed the country. .
Dhanalakshmi would not have much luck in the 100m but her absence would be a blow to the women’s 4x100m relay team although India are not favorites for a medal in the presence of England, Jamaica, from Canada and Australia.
Aishwarya could have been a medal contender – for a bronze medal – with her national mark of 14.14m set at the Interstate Nationals last month.
Defending champion Chopra isn’t sure of a gold medal however as he will have to fight for the top honor against Anderson Peters of Grenada. Peters had finished third at the 2018 Gold Coast Games with a best throw of 82.20m while Chopra took gold with 86.47m.
Since then, Peters has won gold at the 2019 World Championships and has thrown over 90m three times this year.
Chopra has beaten Peters twice while the 24-year-old Grenadian has prevailed over the Indian once in their three encounters this year so far.
India can win two medals in the men’s javelin throw as 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott, third best among Commonwealth athletes behind Peters and Chopra, is struggling this season.
Indians DP Manu and Rohit Yadav, who reached the final of the World Championships with Chopra, are next on the list for the season among Commonwealth athletes.
Manu won a gold medal at the National Interstate Championships last month with a throw of 84.35m while Rohit qualified for his first final at the World Championships.
Co-second on the season list with 8.36m, Sreeshankar is a clear favorite to win a medal in Birmingham. He was a medal contender at the World Championships but finished seventh with a best effort of 7.99m.
The disappointment of the world championships could push him to medal in the CWG. His seventh place in the Worlds final was the best among Commonwealth athletes, with Jamaican Wayne Pinnock and Australian Henry Frayne finishing ninth and 12th respectively.
India’s other long jumper, Muhammed Anees Yahiya could also be in contention for a medal if he manages to clear the 8m mark, which he has done five times this season with a record 8.15m in march.
Sable, for his part, will have to do battle again with Kenyan World Championships bronze medalist Conseslus Kipruto and Abraham Kibiwot in the 3,000m steeplechase for the top honors.
Kibiwot had finished fifth in the Eugene World Championships in a slow, tactical race while Sable finished 11th. Kipruto and Kibiwot took gold and silver respectively last time out in Gold Coast.
India’s three triple jumpers, Praveen Chitravel, Abdulla Aboobacker and Eldhose Paul, who made it to the finals of the World Championships, are the Commonwealth’s top athletes this season.
Chitravel and Aboobacker have broken the 17m mark this season, and they would be looking to redeem themselves after their disappointing performances at the World Championships, where they could reach 16.49m and 16.45m respectively.
Annu Rani will also be confident heading into CWG Birmingham after their second straight World Championships final. She will face Australian 2019 world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber, also a bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, and Canada’s Elizabeth Gleadle for the top honors.
The women’s discus can also bring two medals to India, thanks to Seema Antil and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, just as they won a silver and a bronze in the 2018 edition with 60.41m respectively and 57.43 m of effort. Any distance beyond 60m is good for a CWG medal.
Antil is aiming for his fifth medal in as many appearances. She has never returned empty-handed from the CWG although her best performance this season was the 57.09m effort at Chula Vista in the United States a few days ago.
Navjeet Kaur Dhillon didn’t break the 60m mark this year with a best of 58.03m in May, but in a weak field she can win a medal if she improves on her season best.
The marathon race, in which Indian Nitender Rawat will participate in the men’s race, will take place on July 30, while the other athletics events will take place from August 2 to 7.
There was selection drama as well as high jumper Tejaswin Shankar was not selected to the squad after breaching the qualifying standard set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). After Shankar petitioned the Delhi High Court, the AFI included him in the squad, but Birmingham organizers refused to accept him as the entry deadline had already passed.