The Commonwealth Games are normally beyond the reach of most of the Indian athletes. Since Milkha Singh won the country's lone gold medal in track and field, back in 1958 when the games were known as the Empire Games, Indians have struggled to reach the world-standard levels required to get onto the podium.

This edition could, however, turn out to be different from all the previous Games. Not just because the championships have come so late in the season, when the best in the world normally rest, but also because there have been several withdrawals.

The most important, from India's point of view had been the last-minute pull-outs of World women's discus champion Dani Samuels of Australia, and former World champion and Olympic silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei and reigning World champion Caster Semenya of South Africa from the women's 800 metres.

Best chance

Samuels' absence should give Krishna Poonia her best chance to get the gold. The 33-year-old Indian, fifth in Mebourne (58.65m) and bronze medallist in the Doha Asian Games, has been in good form this season with a personal best 63.69m coming in Chula Vista, USA, in April.

Poonia has not touched that kind of form since then, but has been consistently throwing beyond 60 metres. With the defending champion Elizna Naude of South Africa showing indifferent form through July and September, Poonia has her eyes set on the gold.

“At worst she could be 61 metres and at best 64 metres. We are aiming for the gold,” said coach and husband Virendar Poonia.

India also should be nursing more medal hopes in women's discus through either Harwant Kaur (season best 60.66m) and National record holder Seema Antil (SB 59.51m) though former world champion Betarice Faumuina of New Zealand can provide a challenge.

Tintu Luka (National record holder at 1:59.17) could have hoped for a minor medal in the women's 800 metres, but with two top women withdrawing, her chances have brightened.

From among the other Indians, there is hope that Mayookha Johny (long jump and triple jump), women's 4x400m relay team, triple jumper Renjith Maheswary, shot putter Om Prakash Singh and discus thrower Vikas Gowda would be able to win medals.

The rest, a lot many of them chosen without the approval of the Selection Committee Chairman, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, who has since resigned in protest, would be lucky to make a mark at this level.

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