India's Medal Hopes in Tokyo Olympics

VK Bahuguna

July 17, 2021, 10:35:30   

(The writer is Chairman of Centre for Resource Management and Environment)

In the next two weeks a small contingent of Indians will leave for Japan to participate in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games which were initially scheduled in the year 2020 but postponed due to covid-19 pandemic. From 206 countries around 11,000 athletes are expected to Participate in 33 sport events. A total of 126 Indian athletes have so far qualified and are all set to fly for the Tokyo Olympic, which begins on 23 July 2021. All over the world the athletes have found themselves stranded due to the lockdown to rising cases of corona virus and Indian athletes were no exception. 

The Olympic Games symbolizes the triumph and celebration of unity of all human wisdom and power. It is the celebration of tolerance, peace, mutual respect and universal brotherhood and spreading it through the means of sport. It also symbolizes how humanity over the centuries had broken the barriers and set new records of human physical excellence. The generations after generations get motivated to win the physical and biological barriers which ultimately spur overall progress of nations and all round cultural development. Olympic Games overall are the symbol of uniting the sport personnel from five continents of the world, the only event where the common citizens of the world participate in the sporting events and spread the message of unity of all humans. 

The Olympic Games were started in Greece around 3000 years ago. It is said that Heracles son of Zeus (the sky and thunder god of ancient Greek religion) and the mortal woman Alcmene, founded the Games, which by the end of the 6th century B.C had become the most famous of all Greek sporting festivals. The ancient Olympics were held every four years between August 6 and September 19 during a religious festival in the honour of Zeus. The modern Olympics first time took place in 1896 in Athens and 280 athletes' participants from 13 nations, competing in 43 events consisting of track and field, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, cycling, tennis, weightlifting, shooting and fencing. It was a Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin who was responsible for reviving these games in 1896.

For India it was in the year 1900 in Paris Olympic an Anglo-Indian athlete Norman Pritchard who represented India where he won two medals in Men's 200 metres and Men’s 200 metre hurdles. However, the Indian made name in the Hockey after the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics when they won the Gold by defeating the home team and dominated the world hockey and in 1936 Olympic won by the biggest margin of 8-1 goal by defeating Germany and continued dominating till 1956 but in 1960 the team was defeated in final by Pakistan. After that our Hockey team won Gold in 1964 and then after a long wait in 1980 in the Moscow Games. Other than hockey we have not won Medals compared to our population. Khashaba Dada saheb Jadhav created history, becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal (bronze) in an individual sport at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. It is ironical that he was initially rejected but could make it only when he represented to Maharaja Patiala who was the Chairman of the Indian Olympic Association. Milkha Singh missed it in 1960 Rome Olympic. Abhinav Bindra won the first individual Gold in 2008 Beijing Olympics. Before him 2004 Rajyavardhan Singh Rathor won the Silver in the shooting. Karnam Malleswari was the first women who won a bronze medal in the weightlifting in Sydney Olympics in 2000. After that a few more medals were won by Leander Paes, Saina Nehwal, PV Sandhu, Vijendra Kumar, Yogeswar Datt, Marry Kom, Sakshi Malik, Gagan Narang, Vijay Kumar and Shushil Kumar. 

This year again we have medal hope in Hockey as the team in practice tournaments had done quite well and is one of the best prepared hockey teams for many years. Indians are hoping that PV Sandhu is the biggest hope in Badminton women single category, Saurabh Chaudhary who at 19 years won the Asian Game Gold in 2018 is our one of our brightest medal hopes in the Men's 10m air pistol and mixed 10m air Pistol categories and who is ranked number two in the world. The star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra may hit the bar and bring home India's first-ever Olympics medal in athletics. If he can better a little his highest throw currently stands at 88.07m he can win a Medal. Then we have Bajrang Punia India's best bet in wrestling in the 65kg weight category. The ageing Mary Kom cannot be underestimated and we hope she wins a Medal in Tokyo. Then we have Mirabai Chanu in 49 kg weightlifting category and Vinesh Phokat in 53 kg wrestling. The army man Amit Panghal is also a hopeful in Boxing. So if things go our way we may clinch Medals in double digits. 

Now the question our citizens are asking why we are not able to win Medals in Olympics and other international sports meets. It is a country of more than 135 crore people and hence a big disappointment that we are nowhere near becoming evens an average medal winning country. Any country which wants to win medals must have international level sport infrastructure in several locations as also adequate money. One of the reasons for the downslide in Hockey was lack of astro turf play grounds in India for many years and by the time we had we had lost the steam. The football is now slowly getting vibes with Indian Super League and infusion of money and foreign. The government must draw a plan of action by genetically selecting sport persons as some sections of the people are genetically suitable to a particular sport and then provide them world class training and facilities especially in athletics. Rid the sports bodies of politics and individual stranglehold and create infrastructure at the sub-divisional levels along with surety for employment for the emerging enterprising athletes and sports youngsters, we will surely produce Medal winners. Once we do it the ball will set rolling.


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