One is Not Enough
New champions are born. Old legends are demolished. India manage to grab a bronze as the nation waits for more.
The Olympics are all about dreams. Some linger long after they are realised, others are crushed on the biggest stage of them all. Since the Games began on July 27, London has been home to thousands of athletes, whose most cherished hopes are either coming true or being ruthlessly shattered.
The world watched as Chinese and American athletes resumed their rivalry for primacy. Indians mattered only to India. There was the affable 29- year- old Gagan Narang, drawn to marksmanship after he shot a few balloons at Chennai’s Marina Beach. He secured India’s first medal, a bronze in the 10m air rifle event at the Royal Artillery Barracks. In contrast, there was World No. 1 archer Deepika Kumari crashing out in the first round of the women’s recurve event.
Yet, it was the unknown Madhura Nagendra who hogged the initial headlines, sauntering alongside Indian flagbearer Sushil Kumar during the parade at the 60,000- seater Olympic Stadium. The first thought was that India had stumbled, failing to provide one of its athletes her team colours. After all, in Beijing, Sania Mirza had taken part in the parade in a pair of jeans because her kit was not quite up to scratch.
But as Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Olympic Games Organising Committee, said, she was an over- enthusiastic member of the opening ceremony cast who had gatecrashed. The Indian Olympic Association did register a protest, but the response was meek. “After three days, we got a letter from the Organising Committee regretting the incident. They, however, did not see it as a security breach,” acting chef- de- mission Brigadier P. K. Muralidharan Raja told INDIA TODAY.
Until Narang’s bronze, the only contribution of the Indian athletes was to complain incessantly about London heat. “Yes, it is a sprawling complex but it’s so hot in our rooms,” said an Indian hockey player, who was among those who went to the local market to buy pedestal fans to beat the heat.
Then there were queues at breakfast in the Games Village. “When you see 10,000 athletes at breakfast together, it is a crowd,” tweeted tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi. The athletes have also had to fetch their supply of mineral water from the canteen, not what they had expected after the facil- ities lavished upon them at the 2010 Commonwealth Games ( CWG) in Delhi.
Perhaps the archers couldn’t adjust. Perhaps it was the viral fever that some contracted in the run- up to the Games, or the shifting winds at Lord’s, but the world beaters missed the target.
Expectations were fuelled by the silver the women’s archery team won at the world championship in Turin in 2011, but India lost to Denmark 210211 in the first round, primarily due to a show of nerves by Chekrovolu Swuro, who shot two poor 6s that undermined her 10s. The male archers also crumbled under pressure, Tarundeep Rai shooting an 8 off his final arrow, letting Japan force shoot- off. The Japanese thrived under pressure, recording two 10s and a 9, while the Indians came up with three 9s.
For long, the Indian archers have been asking for the services of a sports psychologist, but the call went unheeded, till Olympic Gold Quest, the foundation started by billiards icon Geet Sethi and badminton legend Prakash Padukone, arranged for Delhi- based sports psychologist Vaibhav Aghase— a former CBI officer— to spend some time with Rai and Rahul Banerjee. Indian archery needs to embrace sports sci-
THE GAMES VENUE AT GREENWICH PARK