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Can India grab athletics gold?

Renjith Maheswaryand Seema Antil
Will Indians Renjith Maheswaryand Seema Antil get their hands on gold?

Mark Butler
By Mark Butler
BBC Sport's athletics statistician

Remember when Lachie Stewart won the Commonwealth 10,000m title in Edinburgh 1970? Or when Raelene Boyle took 400m gold in Brisbane 1982? Or Govindasamy Saravanan's dramatic win at the 50km walk 12 years ago in Kuala Lumpur?

You might not remember the last one, but each were defining moments of their respective Games when a track-and-field athlete from the host nation took a wildly-acclaimed gold medal.

Delhi needs a moment like that. Although the athletics events begin on Wednesday, I predict it will come next Monday, when the diminutive Tintu Luka is due to contest the women's 800m final.

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Luka is coached in Kerala by India's most famous former woman athlete, PT Usha. She has already made an impact this season at the Brussels Diamond League and at the IAAF Continental Cup in Split.

We knew her from her reasonably fast times in India, but she rose to the occasion in both races with her brave front-running.

She cut her best from two minutes, 01.24 seconds to 2:00.79 and an Indian record 1:59.17 to head the rankings of those competing in Delhi.

No Indian woman has won an athletics gold at the Commonwealth Games, and their men have only won one, thanks to "The Flying Sikh" Milka Singh way back in 1958.

The timing is perfect for Luka's breakthrough, especially as she now won't have to face the formidable and contrasting figure of Caster Semenya.

India, of course, are one team who will be at full strength in Delhi.

India's Abhinav Bindra

Bindra claims India's first gold of Delhi 2010

Their names will not be familiar to European fans, but among the 92-strong squad are a host of medallists from Asian Games and Championships, particularly among the women.

Their 4x400m team has traditionally run well and took the silver in Melbourne 2006.

In the absence of Caribbean and English one-lap stars, the Indian quartet - possibly including Luka - could well go one better this time, as could Seema Antil, their discus silver medallist from four years ago.

India's men also have a new 800m star, Pankaj Dimri, who recently moved to second place on the Indian all-time list with 1:46.26 - not near the new world record of 1:41.01 but set in a domestic race with no pacemakers.

There is more to come from the 20 year-old from the Himalayan district of Chamoli in Uttarakhand State.

The absence of Philips Idowu from the triple jump will be good news for former Asian champion Renjith Maheswary who represented Asia in the recent IAAF Continental Cup, while another Asian champion Om Prakash Singh will be a title contender in the shot put.

It's hard to see how India's athletes will not have their best ever Commonwealth Games here.



India's Commonwealth Games athletics medallists:

GOLD:

Milka Singh - 1958 men's 440 yards

SILVER:

Praveen Kumar - 1966 men's hammer

Mohinder Singh Gill - 1974 men's triple jump

Neelam Jaswant Singh - 2002 women's discus

Seema Antil - 2006 women's discus

Manjit Kaur, Rajwinder Kaur, Pinki Paramanik and Chitra Soman - 2006 women's

4x400m relay

BRONZE:

Mohinder Singh Gill - 1970 men's triple jump

Suresh Babu - 1978 men's long jump



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see also
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