One is Not Enough

New cham­pi­ons are born. Old le­gends are de­mol­ished. In­dia man­age to grab a bronze as the na­tion waits for more.

India Today - - NA TION - S. Kan­nan in Lon­don

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

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