Services retain Raja Bhalindra Singh Trophy; Sajan Prakash, Hashika crowned Best Athletes

SURAT : The 36th National Games came to a poignant end here at the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, with Services Sports Control Board, Kerala’s Sajan Prakash and Karnataka’s Hashika Ramchandra walking away with the top honours.

The Government of Gujarat had stepped in at the last minute to revive the country’s largest and most significant sports festival after a 7-year hiatus, successfully putting it all together in less than 100 days.

India’s best athletes from all 36 states and Union Territories, adding up to over 8,000, competed in 36 sports disciplines to symbolize the Games’ motto: Judge India, Jitega India.

Honorable Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar gave away the coveted Raja Bhalindra Singh Trophy to the hybrid contingent of Services for the fourth time in succession. They cornered 61 gold, 35 silver and 32 bronze to tower over all the competing teams.

Maharashtra bagged the Indian Olympic Association’s Best State trophy for finishing second in the medals tally with the most medals among States and UTs.

Honorable Gujarat Chief Minister Shri Bhupendrabhai Patel presented the Best Male Athlete to Sajan Prakash (5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) who pipped Karnataka’s Srihari Nataraj (5 gold and 2 silver) at the post in a dramatic finish. This was Sajan Prakash’s second successive honor, having won the same trophy in 2015 as well.

Karnataka’s Hashika Ramchandra, barely 14 years old, appropriated the Best Female Athlete crown with 6 gold and 1 bronze. She received her reward from Honorable Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla.

Gujarat’s 10-year-old Shauryajit Khaire (Mallakhamb), who was a reluctant starter after losing his father just a few days back, emerged as the ‘viral star’ of the Games, becoming its youngest medal winner.

As many as 38 National Games records crumbled in Track and Field at the IIT Gandhinagar and 36 in Aquatics in Rajkot. Tamil Nadu’s Rosy Meena Paulraj (women’s pole vault) and N Ajith (weightlifting men’s 73kg clean & jerk), Services’ Siva Subramaniam (men’s pole vault), UP’s Ram Baboo (men’s 35km race walk) and Arunachal Pradesh’s Sambo Lapung (weightlifting men’s 96kg) clean & jerk) were among the few to shatter National Records too.

Unmindful of the carnage above them, sporting powerhouses Maharashtra and Haryana engaged in a bitter tussle until the very end before the former emerged as the worthy No. 2 with 39 gold, 38 silver and 63 bronze. Haryana (38 gold, 38 silver, 39 bronze) had to be satisfied with the third position on the table.

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala took the fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively on the medal table. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur finished with a creditable 20 gold each.

Hosts Gujarat also registered their best-ever performance in the history of the National Games, bagging 13 gold, 15 silver and 21 bronze medals for a total of 49. The hosts finished 12th in the overall standings.

As many as 29 teams won at least one gold and three other contingents finished with at least one medal to show for their efforts.

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar said there was a certain energy that one immediately feels when one visits Gujarat. “I have no doubt that all of you will carry home sweet memories of Gujarat.

“Several records were broken in the National Games. But no hearts have been broken,” he said, referring to the power of sport in national building.

The Vice-President also expressed confidence that the country would soon host the Olympics.

Gujarat chief minister Bhupendrabhai Patel pointed out that sports was beginning to become a way of life in the state as well as the country.

“Our new Sports Policy should help the athletes in the state to aim higher. To develop the skills of athletes, we have also started the Swarnim Gujarat Sports University and I hope the university helps create Olympic athletes,” he added.

Indian Olympic Association secretary Rajiv Mehta said that Gujarat has set a new standard by organizing the National Games in just 90 days. “This should be an example to states who will be organizing it in the future,” he said, adding Goa will have big shoes to fill when they host the Games in 2023.

The National Games flag was handed over to a delegation led by Sports Minister Govind Gaude from Goa, hosts of the 2023 edition.

Among the 8, 500-strong audience were officials of the IOA, National Sports Federations and State Associations, Sports Authority of India, Chef de Missions, Competition Managers, top athletes, media persons and other National Games participants.