A few days before the start of London Olympics 2012, a report by Goldman Sachs predicted that India would get 5 medals at the Olympics, three golds, a silver and a bronze. Our athletes did better on the overall tally, but fell short at converting into the shinier metals.
However, a lot has been gained from the Olympics this time around. And though this statement might sound repetitive, something we are told every 4 years, the results and the potential are highly tangible this time around.
Winning 6 medals (2 silvers and 4 bronze) might sound like a bit of a joke, especially since it means that India ranks 55th (at time of writing) in the medal tally! The correct perspective out here would however be to compare India against its own past – 1 medal on 13 occasions, 2 medals in 1900* and 1952, 3 medals in 2008. And now 6 medals is a record high.
First, we run through our shining stars! It all started off with Gagan Narang who won the bronze medal in the 10m Air-Rifle event. A bit disappointing from the qualification world record holder, especially since his qualification score is what cost him dear in the final round. Next, Subedar Vijay Kumar brought home an unexpected silver on the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol. He held no world championships or records as did most of the Indian shooting contingent, but he made light work of the nerves in the space where it mattered the most! Saina Nehwal, India’s blue-eyed wonder-woman became India’s next bronze medallist, ensuring that singles Badminton did not become an all-Chinese affair. She was seeded 5th for the event and did extremely well to beat some higher ranked players too! Mary Kom, the poster girl for the world’s women’s boxing association (literally!) showed a lot of grit. Mother of two, known for 2 world championships after coming out of retirement, punched her way through before she met a formidable, younger, local opponent in the semi-finals! An incredible effort indeed.
The first three medals were followed by a long hiatus, and then suddenly there were two! Less than 24 hours apart. Best buddies Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar, wrestling together since childhood picked up a bronze and a silver in the 60kg and 66kg Freestyle events respectively. Sushil was always a medal hope, coming back from an Olympics bronze in 2008 and World Championship Gold in 2010. His apparent dehydration in the final cost him his gold medal, but nerves get to even the best of us. The real surprise however was the underdog Yogeshwar who fought three rounds in less than an hour and pulled off six amazing technical points in the bronze-medal round.
Other than the six, quite a few Indians left their mark in the Olympics, especially in the track and field events. Krishna Poonia (5th) and Vikas Gowda (8th) made the nation proud by qualifying for the finals in the women’s and men’s discus throw. No Indian has ever won a medal in field events and handfuls have even qualified! Tintu Luka, P.T.Usha’s protégé, made it to the semi-final of the 800m sprint where she ran her season’s best effort to finish 6th.
Fans back home were, however, left very disappointed by India’s performance in certain fields; not a single medal in Men’s Boxing (World Champion and Olympics bronze medallist Vijender), Hockey (an abysmal last place finish) or Archery (world no. 1, Deepika Kumari didn’t even qualify for the quarters!).
All in all, a fine performance by the Indian contingent. The increasing number of medals at the highest arena, shows the fruits of the labour put in by our athletes, the government and several private sector initiatives (think Sahara, Mittals). This shall, hopefully, encourage more Indians to take up sports, other than cricket, professionally. That is the only way to bring the best talent out in the open and aim for more medals in the future.