While the decision to postpone the Olympics posed a headache for many athletes, there were a few silver linings, especially in the Indian camp.
1940. 1944. Since their modern inception in 1896, the Olympic Games have only been cancelled three times in history. This fact helps us gauge the magnitude and significance of the International Olympic Committee’s decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to next year due to the coronavirus induced global standstill. Besides the three cancellations, this is the first ever instance of a postponement. Evidently, we find ourselves in a once-in-a-lifetime situation, though not a very pleasant one.
For athletes who had been preparing their bodies – following strict diets and rigorous training cycles – under a tight structured schedule to ensure they hit peak form in the summer of 2020, the announcement of the postponement, that too with only a few months to go, certainly would have produced cries of disappointment and frustration. In sports, time is paramount. One whole year can make a significant amount of difference. Most athletes are only ever fully at their peak for a very short period of time in their career. And since the Olympics are held after every four years, athletes don’t get many shots at glory. With medals being decided in milliseconds and millimetres, the margin of error is extremely small and not being in peak condition means no medal.
From a financial point of view, Japanese economists estimated the economic damage of postponing the Games to be more than 600 billion Japanese yen. The postponement shall cost the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) an estimated 1.2 billion American dollars in advertisement revenue. As is evident, a large chunk of stakeholders are at the receiving end of the postponement. However, for some Indian athletes, the decision, even if imposed under unfortunate circumstances, has been a blessing in disguise.
Take for instance, Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. Chopra is a Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medallist and a junior world record holder in his sport with his exploits frequently prompting the media in the past two years to label him as the brightest prospect to end India’s drought in athletics at the Olympics. But due to an injury, Chopra had to undergo a surgery on his elbow, forcing him to miss the complete sporting calendar in 2019. He only got back to action in January 2020 and while he did produce a good performance, it’s not possible to be at one’s best a few months after being out of action for a whole year. Thus the postponement couldn’t have come at a better time for Chopra as now he’s been “gifted” with another whole year to recuperate and reach his peak. Chopra told Reuters, “I had found very little time to work on my technique as I was concentrating more on rehab. I didn’t have much time to work on my throws as I started very late. Now I will try to solve the problems that I have noticed.”
Image Credits: India Today
Image Caption: Neeraj Chopra seen mid run-up
In another case not largely different from Chopra’s situation, Jinson Johnson, a middle-distance runner and an Asian Games gold medallist, suffered an Achilles tendon injury in 2019 and was still under recuperation at the start of 2020, in a race against time to recover, qualify and compete in the Olympics. “Earlier, the qualification was going to end in June. So I tried to rush through my rehab a little. It was a situation where I had to have enough rehab time and have enough track time. There was a worry that I wouldn’t get enough rehab time,” said Johnson in an interview with The Indian Express. But with the postponement, he receives opportunity to get back into perfect shape and plan his way back into contention next year.
Image Credits: India Today
Image Caption: Jinson Johnson after breaking the national 1500m record
India’s medal count has been consistently dismal, with the highest tally till date being only six (2012 London Olympics). The country sent a contingent of over a hundred athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympics and returned with only two medals. To give a fair idea of the disparity, Georgia, a country with a population barely touching 3 million, which is five times less than that of Delhi, returned from the same Olympics with 11 medals.
Indian athletes certainly leave a lot to be desired with their performances. While it would be wrong to say that they don’t work hard, they do tend to come up short against their foreign counterparts for various wide-ranging reasons, from lack of finances for purchasing world-class training equipment to the rigorous military grade preparations of their opponents. Many are already at a disadvantage before the competition even starts. The postponement shall surely give the athletes in the Indian camp more time to train better and plot and plan their way to the podium.
Fouaad Mirza, equestrian and an Asian Games silver medallist, told the Press Trust Of India that the postponement was a “blessing in disguise” as it gives him and his horse “more time for some much-needed preparations”.
“From a practical point of view, India were surely the underdogs. No one really expected us to pose any serious challenges, except in some events where veterans were scheduled to participate. And true, this would just have been another Olympics and another dismal show. But now it’s not really a “normal” edition. The event has been pushed back by a year and all plans of competitors have gone haywire. Under such abnormal and unusual circumstances, I would say we have an outside chance to strike the pot of gold.” opined a University Of Delhi student, on the condition of anonymity.
It’s good to bear a competitive spirit, but while being at it, we should keep in mind the sombre atmosphere prevalent across the world currently and not forget the actual reason which forced the postponement of the Olympics in the first place. Whether or not the postponement was a blessing in disguise for the Indian Olympic camp shall only be fully ascertained after the event happens next year. Till then, we can only hope that the pandemic doesn’t push the Tokyo Olympics further back, into oblivion.
Feature Image Credits: Outlook India