More side­lights than spot­lights!

Sportstar - - LONG READ GAMES - K. P. MO­HAN

The Sum­mer Olympics is per­haps the most im­por­tant and cov­eted event in world sports. In­dia still has quite a bit of catch­ing up to do to be counted among the lead­ing coun­tries in the world of Olympic sports. Through these 40 years, In­dia has won just 15 medals in the Olympics, the same num­ber that Uzbek­istan had recorded in the Rio Olympics to be ranked 21st on the medals ta­ble two years ago.

How far has In­dia trav­elled through the multi­dis­ci­pline trail through the past 40 years? Quite far but it is still strug­gling to reach its avowed des­ti­na­tion among the sports pow­ers even at the Asian level. That is not a com­fort­able po­si­tion to be in, though the last Asian Games in In­done­sia has led to a never­be­fore cel­e­bra­tory mood in the coun­try, ex­pect­edly rais­ing hopes for the 2020 Olympic Games and be­yond.

When re­al­ity hits hard, we re­alise we still have quite a bit of catch­ing up to do to be counted among the lead­ing coun­tries in the world of Olympic sports. Through these 40 years, In­dia has won just 15 medals in the Olympics. Among those 15 were two gold medals, one by the In­dian team in a de­val­ued hockey com­pe­ti­tion at the Moscow Olympics in 19■0, and the other, In­dia’s first in­di­vid­ual gold medal, by ri­fle shooter Ab­hi­nav Bin­dra in Bei­jing 2■ years later.

Bin­dra’s sin­gle­minded ap­proach to his Olympic suc­cess af­ter hav­ing come ag­o­nis­ingly close to a medal in the pre­vi­ous edi­tion has been well chron­i­cled through the past decade. He had qual­i­fied in fourth place in the air ri­fle fi­nal in Bei­jing with a score of 596/600, two points be­hind Finn Henri Hakki­nen.

Even­tu­ally, Chi­nese Zhu Qi­nan, the de­fend­ing cham­pion and Olympic record holder, was sec­ond and Hakki­nen took the bronze as Bin­dra reeled off an im­mac­u­late se­ries in­clud­ing a 10.■ score in the fi­nal.

“I sin­cerely hope that it changes the face of Olympic sport in the coun­try. For me, life will go on,” said the soft­spo­ken cham­pion shooter.

Bin­dra’s land­mark achieve­ment seemed to have opened up the doors to Olympic glory for In­dian sportsper­sons. Boxer Vi­jen­der Singh (mid­dleweight) and wrestler Sushil Ku­mar (66kg) sup­ple­mented Bin­dra’s glorious feat with a bronze each in Bei­jing and by the time the Lon­don Games came around, hopes for a bet­ter medal haul were jus­ti­fied.

Lon­don in 2012 ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions though a gold eluded the coun­try. Sushil Ku­mar added a sil­ver medal to his Bei­jing bronze and to date he re­mains the only In­dian to have won two in­di­vid­ual Olympic medals. Shooter Vi­jay Ku­mar won a sil­ver in the rapid­fire pis­tol event while four bronze medals came through shooter Ga­gan Narang (10m air ri­fle), wrestler Yo­gesh­war Dutt (freestyle 60kg), bad­minton star Saina Ne­hwal (women’s sin­gles) and boxer M. C. Mary Kom (fly­weight).

The Bei­jing and Lon­don suc­cess did con­

PTI

Only one to have two: Sushil Ku­mar won a bronze at Bei­jing 2008 and a sil­ver at Lon­don 2012, and the wrestler is the only In­dian to win two in­di­vid­ual medals in the Olympics.

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