India’s last three finalists will face huge pressure

One of the hallmarks of champion sportspersons is their ability to hold themselves together under pressure and deliver high quality performances. We have seen a number of such examples at the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi. But, with the curtain coming down on the Games on Thursday night, the pressure on the Indians left in the gold medal hunt will be enormous.

The intense public focus on the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi hockey final, featuring India against world champion Australia, does not mean that the pressure will be any less on the women’s badminton stars Saina Nehwal as well as the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa when they step on court to play their gold medal matches.

As India seeks more gold in its quest to dislodge England from the second place in the medals table, Saina Nehwal will be expected to justify the favouritism of being the top seed here. She is up against Malaysia’s Mew Choo Wong and is expected to win the battle. Yet, she will have to ensure that goes out there and enjoys playing the game just like any other.  Jwala and Ashwini will square up against the top-seeded Sari Shinta Mulia and Yao Lei but they will be under huge pressure to win since India starts the day with one gold fewer than England.

For all that, while India had picked up an unprecedented 36 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, the whole nation will be hoping that the men’s hockey team will beat the World champion, Australia, on Thursday and provide the proverbial icing on the cake. If the team gives off its best over those 70 minutes, it can be in with a chance.

The Indian men’s team had returned empty-handed from three attempts in the Commonwealth Games since hockey was introduced in its schedule back at Kuala Lumpur in 1998. And, with sterling shows against Pakistan and England, it has landed itself with a chance to end that drought with a golden performance.

There is a collective hunger for that one gold. Can Rajpal Singh and his team fetch that? They can take heart from the fact that India’s latest gold diggers Manoj Singh and Paramjeet Samota showed no sign of pressure when they entered the ring on Wednesday evening. They rode on the crowd support to beat their respective opponents.

Of course, when the Indian teams sit down to analyse their performances, they will discover that some of those expected to win gold at home fell short.  Come to think of it, some of the metal won by Indian sports persons can also be branded as pleasant surprises.  Now, unmindful of what happens in the three finals featuring Indians on Thursday, the whole Indian contingent can take a bow for having turned in a stupendous performance at the Games.