New Delhi: Women shuttlers led by singles title-favourite Saina Nehwal provided India with a golden double to pilot the country to a historic second-place finish in the Commonwealth Games that ended here on Thursday.
Saina Nehwal (centre) holds up her gold medal on the podium with silver medalist Wong Mee Choo of Malaysia (left) and bronze medalist Liz Cann of England (right) at the Siri Fort sports complex in New Delhi on Thursday. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP photo
Saina rallied brilliantly from a first-game loss to put it across Mew Choo Wong of Malaysia 19-21 23-21 21-13 in the women’s singles final after Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had captured the doubles crown.
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The men’s hockey team crashed to a humiliating 0-8 defeat against world and defending champions Australia in the final, but the two-gold final flourish in badminton enabled India to rise to the second spot in the medals tally with 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze medals.
England, ahead of India going into the last day of the Games, finished in third place with a total haul of 37-59-45 while Australia ended up in the top position with a huge heist of 74-54-48.
The push for the second spot on the concluding day was started by Jwala and Ashwini. The duo overwhelmed Singapore’s Sari Shanti Mulia and Yao Lei in straight games to become India’s first women’s doubles pair to win a gold medal in badminton.
The second-seeded Indian pair subdued their top-seeded rivals 21-16 21-19 by combining attack and defense in the right mixture in front of the packed crowd at the Siri Fort complex.
Then came Saina’s crucial gold-winning effort that pushed the country ahead of England, in their bitter fight for the runner-up position in the Games.
The hosts clinched another medal, a bronze, in table tennis when Poulomi Ghatak and Mouma Das prevailed in the women’s doubles bronze medal play-off against Australian duo Tan Zed Vivian and Peri Campbell-Innes.
But in men’s hockey gold medal-deciding clash, the Indian team suffered one of their worst-ever defeats in front of a huge crowd that included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
High-flying India were brought down to earth rudely and ruthlessly by Australia who dished out a clinical display to spank the hosts in a totally lopsided summit clash.
The Indians, who had pipped England in a thrilling penalty shoot-out in the semis two days ago to make their maiden entry into the final, came up with a rather pathetic show when it mattered most and had to be content with the silver medal.
The capacity crowd at the national stadium were left heart-broken as the hosts conceded goals with embarassing ease in the summit showdown.
The sweltering conditions had no effect on Australia’s performance as they proved too strong for the erstwhile Asian giants and completely outplayed the hosts with their power hockey.
Jason Wilson (19th, 28th minute) and Luke Doerner (34th, 52nd) scored a double each while Chris Ciriello (21st), Simon Orchard (60th) and Glenn Turner (70th) found the net once to rout the hosts.
The “Kookaburras” title win completed a golden hockey double for Australia as their women’s outfit “Hockeyroos” had already clinched the crown.
With this win, Australia reigned supreme winning in all the four editions of hockey competitions at the Games since the sport made its debut in Kuala Lumpur 1998.
The Delhi Games gold also gave the Aussies a rare feat as they became the only men’s hockey team to have won the World Cup, Champions Trophy and the Commonwealth Games in a year.
New Zealand won the bronze medal beating England 5-3 in the penalty shootout.
It was also India’s worst-ever defeat at this ground after the 1-7 drubbing at the hands of Pakistan in the 1982 Asian Games final.
The day had started on a very good note for the Games organisers when Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell gave a huge thumbs up by saying that the capital had delivered.
“Delhi has performed and the overall image of the Games has been extremely positive”, declared Fennell ahead of the formal closing of the multi-discipline event that was mired in a controversy-filled and shambolic build-up.
“Leading up to the Games, people were not sure whether to go to India or not after all those reports (about the less than perfect build-up) came out. When I was going to India on 23 September I was even asked when would I announce the cancellation of the Games,” Fennell said at the customary daily press conference.
“I said our job is to fix the problems and not to give up. I had said in a press conference at that time (before the Games) when asked whether there was Plan B and I said Plan B is Delhi. It was always Delhi and Delhi has performed,” Fennell said.
The CGF president refused to buy the line that the controversies in the lead up have damaged the integrity of the Games.
“No doubt the overall image of the Games has been good. Spectators have enjoyed, broadcasting has been good. People have seen extremely positive image of the Games right across the world,” he said.
“There are some details to be called into (for scrutiny). There were a number of issues but the fact is that the end result is good. I don’t think whatever has happened (in the lead-up) has damaged the image of the Games,” he added.
Fennell said the feedbacks from the athletes have been good while some of the competition venues and the Games Village were “exceptional”.
“This is only a provisional comment. We will have a detailed evaluation and post mortem later. The athletes competed very well and they are comfortable.
“Apart from one or two incidents, it was a very satisfactory experience. Some of the competition venues were exceptional. Some are of high standard. They provided high quality of competition,” he said.
Taking the cue, Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, who had been lampooned by the media before and during the initial part of the Games, said ” world apprehensions before the Games have disappeared.“
“The whole Games were built around athletes and they have enjoyed. They were happy with the food, Games village and everything. They enjoyed their stay here. When they go back they will take back great memories of india,” he said.
“India too won a lot of medals, we have doubled the tally in Melbourne as we touching about 100. So as the head of Indian Olympic association it has been great for Olympic sport in the country,” Kalmadi said.
“The technical conduct of the Games has been good. Over 75 Games records were broken. I have said (after the pull-out of some leading competitors) that new champions will emerge and that has happened. New sporting icons have come up for India also,” he said.