Meet records tumbled in a heap, established stars performed as expected even as some lesser known faces managed to surprise with lion-hearted performances in the 35th National Games where the Services Sports Control Board ended up being the most dominant force for a third year running.
Although hosts Kerala won the highest number of medals— a total of 162 -- to round off their best ever haul in the event, they could not stop SSCB from getting the overall trophy. SSCB finished with 159 medals, three less than the 2011 edition. But they stole a march on others with a whopping 91 gold, 21 more than what they fetched in Ranchi.
To begin with, the Games faced almost all the problems that had been there in past editions. The top stars pulled out citing a variety of reasons, the stadia were barely ready, the opening ceremony proved to be a damp squib despite the presence of cricket megastar and Games Goodwill ambassador Sachin Tendulkar and to top it all, the organisers faced allegations of corruption in developing the infrastructure.
But once the action started on February 1, the athletes made sure that the focus turned to achievements instead of shortcomings.
The first few days were dominated by swimmers, who pushed the limits to make the pool a graveyard for existing meet records. The biggest star to emerge from it was local favourite Sajan Prakash, who won half a dozen gold medals and earned the moniker ‘Golden Shark’ in the state.
Also proving his mettle was Asian Games bronze-medallist Sandeep Sejwal, who represented Madhya Pradesh, and SSCB man and Madhu PS, both of whom signed off with four gold medals against their names. Among the women, veteran Richa Mishra and 15-year-old Manna Patel, who produced outstanding performances, to finish with four and three gold respectively.
On the wrestling mat, Haryana lived up to its powerhouse tag demolishing rivals to sign off with 18 gold, and were neck and neck with SSCB on the medals table before the latter took control courtesy their star-studded shooting lineup.
The likes of Jitu Rai and London Olympics silver-medallist Vijay Kumar shot on target to ensure that SSCB secured the top honours with 15 gold medals in a total haul of 26 at the range here.