Six Medals for India's Olympic Effort

From the International Business Times, "
Despite the Record Haul, a Disappointing Olympics for India,"
on 16 August 2012 --  When India's sportsmen marched into the Olympic stadium in London on July 27, 2012, the expectations were high. Even though India had never won more than three medals in any single Olympics until now, with the country fielding the largest contingent of athletes till date, Indians everywhere, including the diaspora worldwide, hoped that would change.

However, 16 days later, when the curtains fell on the 30th Olympiad, there is no denying the fact that London was a big disappointment for India, even though the nation doubled its previous best tally. It was once again a case of the country literally subscribing to the Olympic creed: "the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part."

India's bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt kisses his medal on the podium

In fact, for Indians, one of the most enduring images of the Olympics, where their Olympians produced few highlight reels, was during the opening ceremony where a student from Bangalore took the "taking part" aspect to a new level.

When wrestler Sushil Kumar from Haryana led the contingent and carried the national flag, he was given the honour due to having won a bronze in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But a fellow Indian, Madhura Nagendra, marched alongside the flag-bearer into the stadium waving at the crowds.

The broadcast of the ceremony showed the Indian contingent marching in their beautiful and cheery yellow safaas (turbans) and sarees for only a few fleeting seconds, which was annoying, to say the least. To make matters worse, Nagendra marched alongside in red and blue, clearly standing out like the proverbial sore thumb.

The "smiling interloper" wasn't the only distraction Indian athletes had to face in London. Even before they arrived in the city, an ugly row over men's doubles team selection had been playing out in the media. With Mahesh Bhupathi, refusing to play alongside Leander Paes in men's doubles, the country had literally surrendered a medal even before the Games had begun.

As sporting events kicked off, many of the 81 athletes fell by the wayside without putting up much of a fight. The psychological pressure of being in the centre of such a big international stage, knowing that each move is being scanned and technique and skill being analysed, put some athletes under pressure they were not prepared for and hence crumbled.

Saina Nehwal is an Indian Khel Ratna badminton player currently ranked 4 in the world by Badminton World Federation. Saina is the first Indian to win a medal in Badminton at the Olympics.

The ones that made country proud were Sushil Kumar, flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, who won a silver in boxing; Vijay Kumar, who bagged a silver in men's 25 m rapid fire pistol; Saina Nehwal, a bronze medal winner in women's badminton singles; Yogeshwar Dutt, who won a bronze in the 60 kg freestyle wrestling; Gagan Narang, who bagged a bronze in the 10-metre air rifle; and Mary Kom, who won bronze in the women's flyweight category in boxing and a horde of fans along with it.

Mary Kom

If the fan following on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook were an indication, perhaps the biggest star for India was indeed Mary Kom. When the diminutive mother of twins was in action, the Twitter world was abuzz. When she won a bronze and apologized to the nation for not winning a gold medal, these very fans were humbled and emotional in her generosity of spirit.

Nothing stirs the heart more than humility in greatness. Having taken the world stage and beaten opponents in a higher weight category (she weighs 44 kg and played opponents at 51kg), Mary became "Magnificent" Mary, and Mary "Gold." Her humility was contrasted with that of Indian politicians who take money meant for the masses and never apologise when caught.

At the end of London 2012, once again India is left debating why its advantage in population never reflects in the sporting arena, apart from in cricket.

Gagan Narang bags Bronze Medal

"The performance at the Olympics proved once again that Indians succeed despite government support and not due to state support or planning," says Meenal Srivastava, a sociologist, who has been watching India's performance keenly. " I felt proud to see Indians compete and give it their all - particularly Mary Kom; but sad to see yet another reminder of the rampant corruption that has made a mockery of the state apparatus that is being used to fill the coffers of those in power rather than to invest on human resource development and infrastructure."

Clearly, the feeling that government money allocated to sports has not reached those it should rankles as it does show up at events like the Olympics.

Perhaps the corporatization of more sporting items and more financial incentives to athletes might help, similar to what happened in cricket. The announcement of a Rs 1 crore reward by the Haryana government to the medal winners should encourage more people to pursue a sporting career.

Perhaps some amongst our vast media companies might now produce programmes to seek out the country's best sporting talent whether in archery, triathlon, or athletics, much akin to the myriad TV shows dedicated to finding out best singing talent and getting them record deals.

Having seen the achievement of the Brownlee brothers at triathlon in Hyde Park, it makes you think of how many untapped and unrecognized talented youths there are in rural India who can swim faster in the streams and rivers, run quicker with or without their rubber slippers, and cycle in record time from one village to another on their trusty Atlas and Raleigh bicycles.

Perhaps in Rio, India will be able to showcase the existing talent better. As a measure, Britain won just one gold in Atlanta in 1996 and a total of 15 medals overall. Four years later in Sydney, it won 11 golds. Taking inspiration from this, if we set our sights at a similar tally we could come back with far more than that in Rio in 2016. (source: International Business Times)

No comments:

Post a Comment