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Gunning For Gold

India's Performance at the London Games, 2012 and a Harbinger of Bigger Things to come
By Pradyut Hande

The velvet curtains have recently come down on the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet, the London Olympics, 2012. Over 10,000 athletes from 204 nations strove unstintingly in the eternal quest for personal and professional glory. All those years of perseverance and preparation came to fruition for some; while the dreams of many others lay shattered on the floor, under the hospitable English sun. For many, it was their final shot at dazzling their ways into the haloed history books; whilst for many others, it was a stern baptism by fire.

The USA, China and the UK led the gold rush; leaving their respective stamps across multiple disciplines as the reigning sporting powerhouses of the world. India too came on by leaps and bounds as a sporting nation; clinching a record six medals at the Games. In the process, it finished 55th in the overall medal tally and also doubled its previous best figure of three medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. Even though there were no Gold medals to India's credit this time around; the two Silver and four Bronze medals transpired to make these Olympic Games a real watershed in its chequered emergence as a sporting nation of worth. Thus, the London Games were different for the country on numerous levels; assuming even greater significance.

For the first time perhaps, a nation fed on the steady comestible of Cricket and ordinarily starved of world class sporting icons; truly believed in the medal winning abilities of its largest ever Olympic contingent. The usually hopeless attitude was replaced by a refreshing air of optimism and confidence that pervaded the public consciousness in the run up to the Games. For the first time, we had athletes who could be deemed as legitimate medal hopes. Yes, the competition would be fierce; but the generic opinion exuded surprising confidence. The media frenzy surrounding these medal hopefuls reached a crescendo as the Games finally got underway. Would our heroes deliver on the grandest arena of them all?

As it transpired, India gave a respectable account of itself. Ace Shooters Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar bagged a Bronze and a Silver each; relegating immense pressure and cut throat competition to the back seat. Shuttler Saina Nehwal stormed the Chinese bastion to clinch a fortuitous Bronze in Badminton. MC Magnificent Mary Kom defied the odds and displayed tremendous resilience and fortitude to win a Bronze in the 51 kg Women's Boxing Event. Grappler Yogeshwar Dutt battled his way from a seemingly hopeless situation to win a fantastic Bronze in the 60 kg Freestyle Event. But it was perhaps Sushil Kumar who wrestled his way into the history books and every proud Indian's heart and mind; winning the Silver with a lion hearted effort in the 66 kg Freestyle Event. This made him the only Indian Olympian to win back to back individual medals - a truly incredible feat for an incredibly humble man. Along the way, the performances of Shooter Joydeep Karmakar, Shuttler P Kashyap, Boxers Vijender and Devendro Singh were also most noteworthy. The fact that Krishna Poonia and Vikas Gowda made it to the final rounds of their respective events is also creditable.

Despite tasting unprecedented success, one would be naïve to disregard the blemishes that marred our overall campaign. For starters, the Indian Hockey Team was pummeled into submission in each of their games to finish abysmally, without a single point. Terming their insipid displays a disgrace would be a gross understatement. The Indian Men's and Women's Archery teams crashed out without so much of a whimper. World Number One, Deepika Kumari clearly found the competition too intense, buckling miserably under pressure. Much was expected from the strong Men's Boxing contingent but they flattered to deceive. For all their posturing, the Tennis stars floundered. Medal hopes in Shooters Abhinav Bindra and Ronjan Sodhi too failed to perform to their potential. Thus, viewing our performance from a more discerning lens, some quarters would say that our campaign turned out to be the proverbial mixed bag.

Despite multiple setbacks and selective under performance, India's strongest ever Olympic showing has not just reaffirmed our faith in performing with aplomb on the international arena, but has also amplified it manifold. It is now up to the Sports Ministry and other concerned authorities to seize the moment, capitalise on this success and lay the foundations for a more robust future. International exposure and world class coaching has facilitated the development of many of our athletes. The Centre ought to draw up a clear cut action plan to further their development. Prudent investment to enhance existing infrastructure, provide better training facilities, coaches, physiotherapists and nutritionists would further augment the efficacy of the action plan. Furthermore, there needs to be greater emphasis on identifying and nurturing latent talent. Thus, talent scouts and ancillary training setups would have to play a more proactive role. India would be better served taking a few leaves out of China's sporting books. Granted the fact that their setup may not be ideal, but it certainly has many merits worthy of emulation. With the era of corporatisation and increased private sector support extending to the realms of Sport (and not just Cricket), existing and potential athletes have greater incentive to perform. However, there needs to be far greater investment and proper allocation of resources if India plans to embark on the path to a veritable sporting revolution.

We have every right to celebrate the rousing accomplishments of our sporting heroes but at the same time, we ought not to be content or complacent. Practicable ambition is essential to our future endeavours as a potential sporting powerhouse in the making.


Let us shoot for the stars with the accuracy of Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang...punch and jab our way ahead with the power of MC Mary Kom...smash forward with the ferocity of Saina Nehwal and battle past many an opponent with the heart and strength of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt... The future is ours for the making, the future is ours for the taking.

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Pradyut Hande
The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen Debater, Munner, Quizzer, Painter and Amateur Freestyle Rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship

 

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