It's a given that high levels of intent and intensity, motivation and tenacity, grit and determination are mandatory ammunition for sportspersons courting success. On Sunday, Saina Nehwal brought these in large doses to the court for the Commonwealth Games badminton women's singles final with teammate PV Sindhu, and powered to a well-deserved gold.
For countless Indian sports fans, there was no better way to start the Sunday than by settling down — on the edge of one's seat, if you please — and watch the two gladiators from Hyderabad across the net from one another. And what's more, Saina's blue outfit nicely contrasted with Sindhu's red, the two bringing a touch of combat sports to the court.
You could reach out and feel the electricity in the air, and yet it's a good wager that only the two women on court felt the enormous amount of pressure. Fans could sit back and delight themselves in watching this intense duel, where the two players played for high stakes, for gold and pride. At the end of the day, one of them will be remembered for winning the title.
There was wonderful evidence of 28-year-old Saina Nehwal's hunger — decidedly greater than Sindhu's on the day — especially in the long rallies towards the end of the second game. After all, Sindhu's only hope was to take the match to the decider, where she could draw from her advantage of being five years younger than her counterpart.
A 60-stroke rally ensued, going well past a minute. The two were willing their tiring bodies to cover visit every inch of the court where the other sent the shuttle, now tossing it, now dribbling it over the net, now playing the backhand cross-court, and now hitting down the line. Neither of them was will going to play safe by not attempting to hit to the corners.
In the end, Saina Nehwal won that crucial point, doubled up beyond the baseline, placed her hands on her knees and caught her breath back. On the other side, Sindhu wasn't in any different posture after conceding the point, disappointed perhaps that she let Saina stay in the contest and remain in a position to win the game over extra points and the match.
Saina, who appeared at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and won the 2010 singles gold, admitted that she had to win to prevent any talk of her getting on in age. While such thoughts may have been weighing her down, her movement on court suggested that she wore them lightly, focusing only on the shuttle and on outsmarting the girl across the net.
And besides, she had stirred the proverbial hornet's nest before the Games by holding out a threat not to play the matches unless her father Harvir Singh was given the right accreditation/accommodation. It is just as well that the storm blew over quickly and she was able to return with gold medals, both in the team and singles events.
Then again, if intent and intensity, motivation and tenacity, grit and determination alone were to win gold medals, the newly installed men's singles World No.1 Kidambi Srikanth and the young men's doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty would also have driven home to gold on Sunday. They were up against players of quality, and settled to be second best on the day.
Srikanth found a very different Lee Chong Wei across the net on Sunday than the one he whipped in the team final. The Malaysian legend kept intact his amazing record of not losing a men's singles match in three Commonwealth Games: In 2006, 2010 and 2018 now; he had missed the Glasgow edition in 2014 with a thigh injury.
Squash players Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal Karthik were in line to win gold in women's doubles, but their bid to retain the Commonwealth Games title ended in a straight game defeat by the New Zealand pair of Joelle King and Amanda Landers-Murphy.
In table tennis, the Indians added two bronze medals to complete a memorable Games. Manika Batra, with gold and silver already in her bag, completed the set by winning the mixed doubles bronze in partnership with Gnanasekaran Sathiyan. This meant that she picked up a medal in each of the four events that she entered in: Gold in women's team and singles, silver in women's doubles and now bronze in mixed doubles. She was easily India's most successful athlete at Gold Coast.
Saina's gold enhanced India's gold collection to 26, an overall tally of 66 medals, including 20 silver and bronze each. This is a creditable tally, featuring more gold than silver or bronze medals, and is the country's best showing for a Commonwealth Games held outside India.
It helped India secure third place on the medals table behind only hosts Australia and England. India can now continue its good work that started with the 2010 Games in Delhi, when it won 101 medals. But with a smaller contingent in Gold Coast, Indian athletes did very well in several disciplines.
If only the no-needles policy hadn't been breached twice, it could have well been the perfect Games for the country.
It is just as well that human mind has trained itself to look at a different kind of needle, one that hangs over a high-voltage contest between Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, both wonderful champions and inspirations for lakhs of young Indians. That they dished out a memorable no-quarter-asked-none-given contest made it a heady Sunday to cherish.
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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 14:03:06 IST