New Delhi, Oct 14: The country's competitors came out with flying colours and helped India finish a historic second in the final pecking order with more than 100 medals as the Commonwealth Games, that had a troubled build-up but proceeded smoothly thereafter, came to a close today.
A record medal haul of 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze medals, the best-ever harvest for the country in the Games history, helped India climb to the record-high second position and end the multi-discipline event on a thumping note.
The main haul of these 101 medals came from the shooting range, wrestling mat, boxing ring, archery range and, to everyone's surprise, the track and field events, to provide the country with a reasonably strong sports foundation on which to build a more powerful edifice on.
The country had several highs and a number of sports heroes and heroines in the 12-day sports festival that commenced with a spectacular opening ceremony on October 3.
There was the rifle-shooting ace Gagan Narang, the Hyderabadi, who scooped up four gold medals but could not achieve the feat of overhauling five-gold hero of the 2006 Melbourne Games - "Goldfinger" Samresh Jung.
There was the teenage woman archer Deepika Kumari, daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver, who held her nerves even as the more seasoned Dola Banerjee wilted, to come up with a golden double in the women's recurve event.
The track and field events witnessed India's first gold medal in 52 years when Krishna Poonia led a clean sweep of the women's discus throw, Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil winning the silver and bronze.
Later the women's 4x400m relay squad also struck an unexpected gold with a superb display that pushed Nigeria and England to second and third places.
Just when the titles seemed to be drying up at the end, the women shuttlers, led by this year's Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee Saina Nehwal, brought down two gold medals to bring down the curtains on the country's competitive show with a bang.
Those two gold medals in badminton were vital to help India push England to the third place by the skin of their teeth, India's gold tally becoming 38 on the last day after they trailed their rivals going into the final day today.
The men's hockey team, whose fortunes are followed closely by the sports fans of the country, made history by making it to the final for the first time before coming a cropper against world and defending champions Australia in today's summit clash.
The 8-0 defeat was huge and one of the biggest suffered by the country, but the positives were the stirring displays put up against Pakistan and England, against whom the squad fought back from 1-3 down to win the semi final via the penalty shoot-out.
On the organisational front, after the shambolic build-up that included a dirty athletes village and other shortcomings leading to threats of pull-out by leading competing nations, the Commonwealth Games was today given a pat on the back by CGF chief Michael Fennell in his concluding media conference.
"Delhi has performed and the overall image of the Games has been extremely positive", declared Commonwealth Games Federation chief Fennell on the last day of the multi-discipline event.
"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 September 23 I was even asked when would I announce the cancellation of the Games," Fennell told a 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.
But there were a lot of shortcomings - especially relating to sale of tickets, transport of athletes, officials and media and the Games info system that crashed totally and showed signs of getting back on track only towards the end.
The last-hour scramble to complete the infrastructure for the Games, including the village, led to less-than-perfect conditions that were expectedly criticised by several quarters before things were brought on track by the government authorities.
A lot of lessons need to be learned after the conduct of such a complex multi-discipline extravaganza by the organisers if India's dream of hosting an Olympic Games in the future is to bear fruit.
In the action-packed sports arena, it was a foregone conclusion that Indian shooters were the competitors to beat at the range and this proved correct though in the ultimate analysis the overall figures could have been a little better, especially in the gold stakes.
Narang missed two gold medals in his least favourite event, the 50m prone, where he ended outside the medal bracket.
He had captured the 10m air rifle pairs with Beijing Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and then upset his teammate for the individual title. He claimed two more gold in 50m 3-position.
The hosts won 30 shooting medals including 14 gold, 11 silver and five bronze medals in the Games. Of those, only three came from the shotgun range.
If Indian marksmen were the primary contributors to country's rich medal haul the wrestling contingent were not far behind winning 19 medals in the 21 designated event. Among the 19 medals, there were 10 gold, five silver and four bronze medals.
If Sushil Kumar literally walked his way to gold, the women wrestlers participating in the Games for the first time stole the show with a memorable performance.
In the six events for women, India won three gold, two silver and a bronze medal to show their supremacy in the freestyle category.
The trio of Alka Tomar, Geeta and Anita won their final bouts with ease, while Babita Kumari and Nirmala Devi missed out on yellow metal losing their final rounds but their performance drew praise from none other than superstar of Indian wrestling -- Sushil.
"I am very happy for the girls' performance. I hope they would keep up the good work," Sushil said.
India achieved unprecedented success in athletics by bagging 12 medals, including two gold, but a dope flunk took away some of the sheen off the glorious feat in the Games.
India's 12 medals which came from athletics here were two more than the number it won in all the earlier editions.
Just as the Indians basked in the glory of their track and field success, a rude shock hit them with woman 20km race walker Rani Yadav flunking a dope test for a banned steroid.
She was provisionally suspended and her 'B' sample called for confirmatory test.
Two other athletes, Nigerians Osayemi Oludamola and Samuel Okon tested positive for banned stimulant Methylhexaneamine. Women's 100m gold winner was stripped of her medal while Okon finished outside the medal bracket. These were the only positive dope cases in the Games till the final day.
Krishna Poonia created history by breaking India's 52-year-old Commonwealth Games gold medal jinx by winning the yellow metal in women's discus throw with the event also setting a record of first with the country sweeping all the medals.
Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil bagged silver and bronze respectively.
Poonia also became the first Indian woman to bag a Commonwealth Games gold after 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh won the men's 440 yards race in 1958 edition in Cardiff, Wales.
The women's 4X400m relay team of Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur added another gold in a memorable race, beating strong teams likes Nigeria and England.
It was a 25-year-old girl from a poor family at a non-descript village at Nashik district in Maharashtra who opened the medal floodgates for India by winning a bronze in women's 10,000m race and she later said she took to athletics as she can run barefooted.
Fancied fisticuff exponents Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar were ousted early but Indian boxers still delivered a historic golden punch to come up with their best-ever campaign in the Games history.
With a hat-trick of gold plus four bronze medals, the Indian ring stylists recorded their best medal haul at the quadrennial multi-discipline sports event, bettering the 2006 campaign at Melbourne by two.
The three titles -- won through Suranjoy Singh (52kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91kg) -- are unprecedented for India, for whom previously only Mohd Ali Qamar (2002) and Akhil Kumar (Melbourne, 56kg) had finished on top.
The four bronze medals were won by Amandeep Singh (49kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Dilbag Singh (69kg) and Vijender Singh (75kg).
The biggest disappointment came from Olympic and World Championship bronze medallist Vijender, the pre-event favourite, who had to settle for third place after losing controversially to eventual silver-medallist Anthony Ogogo of England due to the warnings he got during the semi final bout.
The other setbacks suffered by India were the defeats of Commonwealth championship gold-medallist Dinesh Kumar and defending bantamweight (56kg) champion Akhil in the quarterfinals.
The unexpected ouster of these big names before the finals had raised doubts about whether the boxers would be able to live up to the expectations of the nation following the success they have enjoyed since the Beijing Olympics.
But all doubts were erased when Suranjoy, Manoj and Samota combined forces to deliver the historic 'trick last night.
Among the trio, Manoj was, arguably, the find of the event as he was competing in the biggest event of his career after being sidelined with a wrist injury for two years. Similar was the case of Samota, the shy-22-year-old, who won a gold at the Commonwealth Championships in March.
The two quietly went about their job even as Suranjoy stamped his class and justified his nickname 'Chhota Tyson' with one power-packed performance after another.
The trio's remarkable show wiped out the lows experienced following the defeats of Akhil, Vijender and Dinesh. PTI