Despite stiff competition from Nigeria, Indian weightlifters are expected to come up with medal-winning performances when the action begins at the Commonwealth Games here on Thursday. Indians are traditionally strong in the lower weight categories and are expected to start on a winning note in the women’s 48kg and men’s 56kg weight categories.
Their target would be to improve upon their 2010 edition performance, when they were pushed to third spot by Nigeria (5 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze) and Samoa (3 gold). With Nigeria’s preparations being hampered by lack of funds, the experienced Indian team, which has six lifters who participated in the previous edition, is expected to do better than the 2-2-4 performance in 2010.
Though Nigeria has named a strong squad, which includes the 2010 gold-medal winner Obioma Agatha Okoli (63kg), the Indians are in fine form having done well in last year’s Commonwealth Championships at Johannesburg.
Khumukcham Sanjita and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu are competing in women’s 48kg and India are expected to do well considering this has been a strong weight category since the days of Kunjarani Devi. India had won a silver and bronze in this category in 2010. Besides, Sanjita and Mirabai lifted 179kg (79+100) and 161kg (72+89), respectively in the National Championships in March-April, while Mirabai won gold in the 2013 Commonwealth Championships with a total lift of 166kg (73+93).
The Indian duo will face strong competition from Chika Amalaha of Nigeria, winner of silver in 53kg in the Commonwealth Championships, but competing in 48kg class here. Delhi CWG gold-medallist in 69kg, K Ravi Kumar, coming back from an injury and competing in a higher weight category (77kg), is expected to face some stiff opposition.
Saurav, Dipika buoyant
The six-member Indian squash team, led by Saurav Ghosal and Dipika Pallikal, begins its campaign with the singles competition, well aware that it has a good chance of winning its first ever medal in the quadrennial event. Though India’s best bet for a medal is in the doubles and mixed doubles, world No 16 Ghosal and 10th-ranked Pallikal are capable of springing a surprise in the individual category.
Ghosal, seeded fourth takes on little-known Jules Snagg of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the opener. The Indian is drawn to meet eighth seed Malaysian Ong Beng Hee in the quarterfinals and England’s second seed James Willstrop in the semifinals. “The draw looks fine. I am focussing on getting through one match at a time,” said Ghosal. Harinder Pal Sandhu and Mahesh Mangaonkar are the other Indians in the men’s singles draw.
Women eye win
With eyes firmly set on a podium finish, the women’s hockey team would look to make a positive start against lowly Canada in its opening pool match on Thursday. Going by present form, the Indians have a fair chance of progressing to the semifinals as, apart from Canada, they are placed alongside 2010 Delhi Games silver-medallist New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa in Pool A.
Apart from New Zealand, who are ranked fourth in the world, South Africa (11th) are the other higher-ranked team in India’s (13th) pool, but the gap between the Indians and the South Africans is minimal.