Less than 24 hours remain for the inaugural ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and we still don’t know who will be India’s flag-bearer at the event. Neeraj Chopra, the Olympics gold medallist, was supposed to lead the Indian contingent before a groin injury ruled him out of the tournament. In his absence, PV Sindhu is most likely to lead the troop. 

While Neeraj’s absence has been a big blow for the country, there are a host of athletes across different sports primed for a podium finish at the event. India will try to better the medal tally from the last edition of the CWG Games, where they won 64 medals, out of which 26 were gold.

Read More: Fans Disheartened As Neeraj Chopra Pulls Out Of The Commonwealth Games Due To Injury

Shooting has been the most successful discipline for India, in which they boast a record total of 135 medals. But the current edition of the tournament will not have shooting, and this is likely to dent India’s overall medal count. 

Since the dramatic highs of the Tokyo Olympics, there has been a significant increase in the budget allocated to sports. Several big names have been offered a fully-funded foreign tour to train among the best athletes in their respective sports. 

How Much Has the Indian Government Spent On Athletes?

The domino effect of success at the Tokyo Olympics was felt when the government announced the union budget. The budget for sports saw a massive rise of Rs 305.58 crore in the fiscal year 2022-23, taking the overall figures to the north of Rs 3000 crore for the first time in history. 

An amount of Rs 7.84 crore was spent on the national camp for athletics, which lasted for over 250 days, thus allowing the athletes to stay in the groove even though the world was still under lockdown. On wrestling, over Rs 5 crore was spent on the national camp, organised across various Sports Authority Of India (SAI) locations in the country. The hockey team, both men’s and women’s categories, got an additional support of Rs 3.15 crore.

Improvement In Training Centres, Overseas Trips & Foreign Coaches

Besides conducting year-round national camps, the government funded 111 exposure trips for the athletes across various disciplines. The badminton team, led by Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu, has played over 26 international tournaments, and all travel expenses were fulfilled by the government. 

The wrestling contingent too participated in five international tournaments, while the cycling team shifted their base to Slovenia and Portugal for over three months. 

There has been a heavy investment in updating the existing infrastructure too. More than Rs 5 crore has been spent on procuring high-standard weightlifting equipment, boxing gear, video and analysis software for the hockey team, and strength and conditioning equipment. 

Read More: Five Athletes Who Can Be India’s Flag Bearers At Commonwealth Games 2022

Mirabai Chanu, the Olympic medallist, was sent to St. Louis to train under specialist coach Dr. Aaron Horschig. Steeplechaser Avinash Sable, who recently completed in World Athletics Championships final, and several other long-distance runners are training under the stewardship of Scott Simons. PV Sindhu’s contract with the head coach Park Tae-Sang has been extended to Olympics 2024.

International Exposure To Athletes

Since returning to training after Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai Chanu has been sent to Squat University in the US three times in just over a year, to train under the specialist Dr. Aaron Horschig. The rest of the weightlifting team arrived in Birmingham a month ahead of the CWG Games for better acclimatisation. 

Similarly, PV Sindhu, who recently won the prestigious Singapore Open title, has been offered financial assistance for a dozen international competitions. Sports Ministry Of India also incurred the travel expenses of her fitness trainer M Srikanth during the international tour.

Ravi Dahiya, the silver-medallist at Tokyo Olympics, trained in Bulgaria before competing in tournaments across Turkey and Mongolia. Dahiya’s international exposure will definitely come in handy at the event, where his road to a gold medal looks relatively easy.

Bajrang Puniya also got financial assistance from the government to travel to Turkey and Kazakhstan for international competitions. Puniya spent 18 days in Iran, almost a month in Russia, and 22 days at Michigan University to train under some of the best coaches in the world.

Featured Image Credit: PV Sindhu/Twitter