LIFE IN THE LOSERS’ LANE

Medal hope­fuls who dis­ap­pointed pick up the pieces and look ahead

India Today - - SPORT - By Shravya Jain and Amitabh Sri­vas­tava with Ro­hit Par­i­har

Deepika Ku­mari, 18, was one of In­dia’s bright­est medal prospects in the 2012 Lon­don Olympics. Ranked world No. 1 in the in­di­vid­ual re­curve archery event in June this year, she crashed out in the elim­i­na­tion rounds in Lon­don. She has not watched videos of her per­for­mance. “I know my mis­takes. I don’t need videos to know why I failed,” she says. She is back to a gru­elling 10- hour train­ing sched­ule at the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshed­pur, where she wakes up at 6 a. m. in the hos­tel to train for the World Cup in Tokyo this Septem­ber. The event is cru­cial be­cause she has slipped in the women’s re­curve rank­ings af­ter Lon­don.

The 2012 Olympics have also taught Ku­mari how im­por­tant it is to re­lax and fo­cus. This is some­thing Ab­hi­nav Bin­dra knows well. Bin­dra knows the pre­cise mo­ment when the quest for a re­peat of his Bei­jing gold was shat­tered. It was at noon on July 30, af­ter his 53rd shot. He fal­tered. It was all down­hill from there on. He crashed to 16th place in the 10 me­tre air ri­fle. In that split sec­ond, four years of eight- hour train­ing days, fir­ing 120 prac­tice shots in Dort­mund, Ger­many, where he trained since 2000, va­por­ised. Bin­dra can’t hide the sting of de­feat as he sits in his plush three- sto­ried south Delhi bun­ga­low, com­plete with an el­e­va­tor and a row of cars in his pri­vate garage, in­clud­ing a sleek black BMW 7 Se­ries. “Win­ning is a com­bi­na­tion of hard work and luck,” he says. “There is no for­mula to gold.” Bin­dra, 29, with­drew to Ger­many for a fort­night af­ter his Games dis­ap­point­ment. That was the only break he al­lowed him­self. Now, af­ter a two- day halt in In­dia, he will head to Canada. There’s only a hint that the trip could be for train­ing, when he says the two- week break was

enough. Asked what he plans next, he will only say: “Ask me in six months and I’ll have an an­swer.”

Not all ath­letes have taken de­feat on their chin. Vi­jen­der Singh, 26, In­dia’s mid­dleweight box­ing medal hope, has gone un­der­ground af­ter los­ing 13- 17 in the quar­ter- fi­nals to Uzbek ri­val Ab­bos Atoev. Once eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to the me­dia, he now re­fuses to take calls. He is be­ing treated in a Delhi hospi­tal for a back in­jury he sus­tained dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion in Lon­don. The six- foot- tall Haryana po­lice in­spec­tor bagged a bronze in Bei­jing. Overnight, he was pro­moted to deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice. He be­came the poster boy of box­ing, walked the ramp for Ro­hit Bal and ap-

NOT ALL ATH­LETES HAVE TAKEN DE­FEAT ON THEIR CHIN. VI­JEN­DER SINGH, IN­DIA’S BOX­ING MEDAL HOPE, HAS GONE UN­DER­GROUND.

peared in TV shows like 10 ka Dum and Nach Baliye. The loss in Lon­don has dev­as­tated him.

“It takes time to get over de­feat,” says Jagdish Singh, who has coached Vi­jen­der since he was 12. “It’s not easy. Bhaari chot toh lagti hi hai ( It’s al­ways a deep wound),” Vi­jen­der was supremely con­fi­dent of an­other medal in Lon­don. “He could have im­proved when the score was 3- 3, but he did not play to his strength, which is counter punch­ing,” says his crest­fallen coach. “It’s not the end of the world. I still have one more Olympics left in me,” Vi­jen­der told the me­dia on Au­gust 11.

Kr­ishna Poo­nia’s seventh spot in the woman dis­cus throw came as a dra­matic let­down for her son Lak­shya Raj, 11. “I felt bad when mom didn’t win a medal,” says the son. It was a state­ment loaded with dis­ap­point­ment. Kr­ishna, 34, be­gan her sport­ing ca­reer soon af­ter her son was born. With hus­band and coach Viren­dra Poo­nia, she stayed away from her home in Jaipur for large parts of the year. Lak­shya has now ad­justed to life with­out her mother at his pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther’s home. He vis­its his par­ents dur­ing va­ca­tions. Back from Lon­don af­ter her de­feat, Kr­ishna told IN­DIA TO­DAY that she un­der­stands her son’s sen­ti­ments. But she still feels sac­ri­fic­ing fam­ily life for a sport­ing ca­reer was worth it. In fact, she plans to restart her eight- hour train­ing sched­ule in Lon­don. She was to fly to Stockholm to com­pete in the DN Galan Di­a­mond League track and field meet on Au­gust 17, but skipped it to at­tend the Au­gust 16 re­cep­tion by the sports min­istry in Delhi. Viren­dra says she will get back to her train­ing reg­i­men for the Rio Games. Her 64.7 me­tre throw in Lon­don equalled the gold medal win­ning ef­fort of Stephanie Brown Trafton at Bei­jing, but fell short of San­dra Perkovic’s 69 me­tres that fetched gold here, while Trafton came eighth. “She’s the first In­dian to qual­ify for an Olympics fi­nal in dis­cus,” says her hus­band. But there’s also a creep­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that age may not be on her side— she will be 38 at the Rio Games in 2016.

Kr­ishna speaks of cre­at­ing a sport­ing legacy. With her hus­band, she plans to set up an academy in Jaipur to train girls in ath­let­ics. “It’s time to think of giv­ing back to the coun­try,” she says. As for to­mor­row, there’s al­ways Rio.

VIKRAM SHARMA / in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

Ab­hi­nav Bin­dra, 29, will restart train­ing

Vi­jen­der Singh ( left), 26, wants to fight

SOMNATH SEN

Deepika Ku­mari, 18, is train­ing for the Tokyo World Cup

Kr­ishna Poo­nia, 34, plans to start an ath­let­ics academy

in 81 kg in Rio

soon

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