London 2012: Beginning of a new journey for Indian Athletes

Posted: August 17, 2012 by Niranjan Kuppan in Opinion
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Niranjan K

“Be the change that you want to see” – M.K. Gandhi.

India is a country with great hopes. It hopes to be a superpower when it cannot stop a crumbling democratic system filled with INFLUENCED people. It is also a country that basks in its past glory for far too long refusing to move on. Yet it can surprise you with its resolve and talent. Indian sports, just like the county, is a bundle of talent but not quite up there with the best with what they simply call in cricket, “big match temperament”. The story of Indian athletes in the 30th London Olympic Games is also the same.

India sent its largest contingent of players to the quadrennial event and returned with 6 medals. Is that good enough? Well, technically India equaled the no. of medals it collected in 4 previous games in one event, but we still had a feeling that we could have done better. That we hoped for more medals itself is a big step forward to a nation that always prays for one medal to prevent us from total embarrassment. Initiatives like the “Olympic Gold Quest” have been instrumental for the record tally.

If we go in depth of the performance of Indian athletes, barring Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Sushil Kumar, very few lived up to their expectations. From Archery to Hockey, one can clearly see the lack of temperament when delivering at the grandest stage of them all. To me, Archery was the biggest disappointment. They had all the talent and training but none could even come closer to sniff a medal. So much for being descendents of Arjuna. Expecting a medal from hockey was outrageous but the way they played was an embarrassment for the 8 time Olympic champions.

India’s Olympic medal winners with the president Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Gold in Beijing and failure to qualify for the final in London, Abhinav Bindra’s dad-influenced life style will only take him so much and his lack of committed training has cost him and the country.  But what he couldn’t, Gagan Narang did. He was always destined for Olympic success but his temperament kept failing him before. But with a steady improvement, he will make a bigger mark in Rio 2016.

Yogheshwar Dutt and Vijay Kumar are the surprise packages. May be they had it in them and maybe it’s a good thing that they were not spotted by the media glare, but they made the difference between India’s lackluster performance and a commendable one.

Mary Kom: She is a supermom and now she is India’s super lady. M.C Mary Kom, finally got her rightful place in the hearts of Indian people. It’s bitter though, what an Olympic bronze could do what 5 world championship Gold could not. For long, Saina Nehwal is destiny’s child and she will continue to be at least till Rio. Critics may point out that she was lucky, but the very fact that the Chinese selected their Olympic women’s badminton team based on who beat Saina Nehwal previously, shows that she deserved the bronze. That Saina did not take the other girl from Hyderabad; Sania’s route has been good both for her and the nation.

He may have lost to the World No 1 ranked player in the quarterfinals but P.Kashyap showed to the rest of the Indian contingent how to gain respect even while losing. So did the Indian male boxers, no dearth of effort from them. They had been unlucky too. Indian Tennis embarrassed itself in front of the world even before the games and its best not to talk about it. So finally, the man who held the flag aloft in the opening ceremony did the same on the final day. Sushil Kumar will go down as one of India’s greatest athletes and a true inspiration for generations of sportspersons. He surprised everyone with a bronze in Beijing and proved to be no flash in the pan which a better showing in London. But for a freak injury, he could have achieved the pinnacle. But the way he handled himself in these 4 years speaks volumes of the man. Expect big things from him in the future.

Most of us would have read an article in the Hindu by Nirmal Shekar. I beg to differ with the author on most parts. True we are a cricket mad country but things are changing now. We spoke more about the Games rather than the India-SL series in social networking which we would not have under normal circumstances. With cricket getting cheaper and cheaper by the year, the interest is naturally shifting and there was a wave of interest for the Olympics this time unlike any time before. In the midst of this wave of hope, Shekar comes up with an article which was intended to do one thing and one thing only, to sell. He talks about how Mary Kom would be running pillar to post for gas cylinders and Yogeshwar walking to a tea stall. With plaudits and prize moneys pouring in for the athletes, Yogheshwar can own a coffee shop and Mary, a life time supply of gas. What I hated was the fact that in times of hope, here’s someone who starts to lament again. It takes quite a bit to beat a beast like cricket but hey, David did slay Goliath, didn’t he?

In a way, Nirmal is helping Cricket in hindsight by keeping the focus on it rather than the medal winners. He could do well to read Gandhi’s famous caption that I’ve quoted. We have to embrace the winners, criticize the losers and talk about these sports nonstop just like how we do for cricket. The athletes need out support as much as we need them to win medals. The ovation that the medals winners and the glorious losers got on their arrival showed people are ready to accept the change. Move on Mr. Shekar, go whine about it in solitude.

I guess India will not dominate Olympics or World sports anytime soon or anytime later. However they can start by fine tuning the disciplines that they are doing well. India should dominate in Boxing, Wrestling, Shooting and Archery like how China does it in Badminton, Table Tennis, Water sports, Weight lifting and Gymnastics. Hockey needs to start from the absolute scratch and I don’t see miracles happening in Tennis or Track and Field. But Rio 2016 will be even more hopeful, even more exciting and even more fulfilling for India. I say this with optimism and with belief that India will sort out its problems with temperament. And none of this would be possible without us talking about it. Let’s keep the flame burning!

  1. binisajan says:

    Nice opening for the aricle Niranjan.

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