Each of these athletes defied expectations to return with medals from the quadrennial event.
India finished fourth in the medals tally at the completion of Commonwealth Games 2022. The Indian contingent won a total of 61 medals (22 golds, 16 silvers, 23 bronzes). Although the overhaul is five less when compared to their previous performance at the 2018 Gold Coast edition where they won 66 medals and finished at the third position, it was still a memorable outing for India at Birmingham 2022.
The predicted loss in medal count due to the exclusion of shooting and archery was compensated by historic medals in other sports. Let’s have a look at the top five gutsy performances from the Indian contingent where they defied the odds to finish at the podium:
5. Saurav Ghosal – Squash Men’s Singles
Saurav Ghosal is a force to reckon with at the international squash circuit. However, a Commonwealth Games medal in singles event was eluding the 35-year-old since he made his Games debut in 2010. He came close to winning it in the Glasgow 2014 edition when he finished fourth.
However, Saurav finally clinched a medal in the men’s singles event at Birmingham 2022. He beat the defending champion James Willstrop of England to win the bronze medal. Saurav outplayed James, the former world number one, in straight games 11-6, 11-1, 11-4 in the bronze play-off to become India’s first-ever singles medal winner in squash at CWG.
4. Achanta Sharath Kamal & Sreeja Akula – Table Tennis Mixed Doubles
Achanta Sharath Kamal is an Indian table tennis legend. Birmingham 2022 was his fifth CWG campaign. He pocketed three golds with one each in men’s singles, men’s team and mixed doubles, and a silver in men’s doubles. His gold in the mixed doubles was India’s maiden medal in this particular event at Commonwealth Games.
Sharath Kamal was equally supported by the young Sreeja Akula in this gold quest. Sreeja, in her debut CWG, ended at the fourth spot in women’s singles. She came back stronger in the finals of the mixed doubles to create history with her paddle partner Sharath Kamal.
3. Eldhose Paul & Abdulla Aboobacker – Triple Jump (Athletics)
In recent times, India has made remarkable progress in the athletics discipline. The upward graph continued at Birmingham 2022 too. Eldhose Paul scripted history by becoming the first Indian to stand atop the podium in the men’s triple jump event at CWG.
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Abdulla Aboobacker won the silver to ensure India won two medals in men’s triple jump, a feat never achieved before at Commonwealth Games. Before Eldhose Paul & Abdulla Aboobacker’s success, India had won only a silver and three bronze medals in the triple jump event at CWG.
2. Women’s Fours Team – Lawn Bowls
The Indian women’s Lawn Bowls team consisted of Lovely Choubey, Pinki Singh, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey. The Indian team first surprised New Zealand in the semifinals 16-13 to book the finals berth.
In the gold medal match, they overcame a strong challenge from South Africa to win the title 17-10. It was India’s maiden Lawn Bowls CWG gold medal. What made the achievement inspirational was the fact that the Indian team neither had a coach nor proper support from the stakeholders.
1. Avinash Sable – Steeplechase (Athletics)
Avinash Sable won India’s first-ever CWG medal in men’s steeplechase – 3,000m. A minimal margin of five microseconds separated Avinash Sable from gold medal winner Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot. The Kenyans were the constants in all three podium positions of the 3,000m steeplechase since the last six editions of the Commonwealth Games.
In the process, Sable also registered his personal best with a time of 8:11.20. He came into this race after an unexpected 11th place finish in the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Oregon, US. The turnaround made by Sable is worth appreciating as he steadied himself with a span of a few days to rewrite the history books.
The entire Indian contingent will look to deliver an even better show in Victoria 2026.