The 35th edition of the national games concluded on Friday in Kerala with the home state finishing with the best ever display in the competitions.
Kerala finished second with 161 medals that included 54 gold, 48 silver and 59 bronze behind the champions Services who led from the front with 93 gold medals. The home team performed better than in Imphal in 1999 improving its medal tally. The event was held at thirty venues across seven districts of the state costing around Rs. 611 crore. Kerala clinched the championship title only once, for the first and final time in 1987 when it hosted the Games topping the medals tally. The commendable performance of the sportspersons comes amidst the widespread discourses regarding the perishable state of sports in Kerala. Compared to men, women managed to grab more medals this time particularly in areas like badminton and volleyball and put up an impressive show in athletics, cycling, canoeing and kayaking. The state produced the top individual medal winner at the event through swimmer Sajan Prakash, who finished with six gold and two silver medals. It excelled in traditional sports events like judo, rugby, gymnastics, driving and tennis. While Elizabeth Susan Koshy clinched the gold medal in the women's 50m Rifle Prone event, Mahitha Mohan, Nitya Kuriakose and O P Jaisha had their share by winning gold in cycling, canoeing and 10, 000 m women’s race respectively.
The national games have hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons even before its commencement. The organizers were dragged into the controversy regarding the uncertainty in the starting date, inadequate infrastructure and technical inefficiencies, the over expenses and corruption allegations in the construction activities and the hullabaloo during the inauguration ceremony of the event due to Lalisom fiasco. The issues are likely to be debated even after ending of the Games. Despite the Sports Minister’s guarantee of a ‘complete transparency and high-level monitoring of the processes’, the event had its share of highs and lows. The winners haven’t reached even as far as the records set by legendary athletes like P T Usha, Beena Mol and Anju Bobby George. With several of the top stars about to leave the field, the promises by the government of a better job and pay has to be kept for retaining them for the state and steps should be taken to bring out high standard performances from the nation’s youth.