India won 61 medals in the just concluded Commonwealth Games 2022 to finish in the top five. But the fight was for a top-three finish, behind – Australia and England. The two powerhouses accumulated nearly half the medals on offer at the Games with Canada coming third with a haul of 92. (More Sports News)
Now that the Games are over, one question that arises is -- was there a good chance for India to finish third, a feat the country achieved in the previous edition? In hindsight, one would claim there sure was, at least on the gold medal count which decides the ranking.
It was expected that the exclusion of shooting, and to some extent archery, usually fertile grounds for India, would impact the nation’s overall performance. But to actually see that happen and for India to finish with 22 golds, just four less than Canada, makes one think of 'what ifs'. Four years ago, Indian shooters won seven gold medals, and 16 medals in all.
The reason for dropping the two disciplines, given by the Birmingham Organising Committee (BOCCG), was "logistical issues". The closest Olympic standard shooting range was about 150 miles from the main venue.
In defence of the local organisers, archery and shooting, despite being Olympic staples, remain optional sports in Commonwealth Games. It’s up to the host country or city to feature any such sport. In the case of Birmingham, shooting and archery became expendable.
India did try its best to convince the BOCCG that excluding global sports was not good for the Games. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) even threatened to boycott Birmingham, then offered to host the two excluded sports on the condition that the medals from the events be counted in the overall tally.
As it turned out, that never happened and India missed out on a chunk of medals.
India entered Birmingham with 181 gold medals won across the previous 17 editions, and 63 of those came from shooting.
Archery has featured in only two Commonwealth Games, in Brisbane 1982 and Delhi 2010, with England and India being the two most successful countries – with eight medals each. Shooting, in contrast, has been at the Commonwealth Games in every edition since 1966 with the exception of the Edinburg 1970.
Come 2026, there's a possibility of wrestling joining archery and shooting as a discard. It will be another blow to India. Consider this - Indian grapplers won medals in every discipline they competed in at the Birmingham Games.
On the bright side, despite the indifferent treatment from Commonwealth Games, both archery and shooting remain integral to the Olympics. It's now time for Indian archers and shooters to shed the Commonwealth Games fixation and focus on the 2024 Olympics and 2023 Asian Games.