25.3 C
New York
Monday, July 22, 2024

Will India hit double digits next time?

NEW DELHI: For long the backbenchers of Olympic sport, in London, India moved on from four-yearly debacles in hockey and the public brawling of its tennis prima donnas. Instead, it looked to a set of doughty, ambitious small-towners who refused to be swept up by the hype and banked on monk-like devotion and undying hunger to serve up two silver and four bronze medals.

Mary Kom

India’s tally from London looks like a dam breach when compared with the trickle that began with Leander Paes’ bronze in 1996 and it has created a sense of hope for Rio 2016. After three medals in Beijing and six in London, will it be nine, or even 12 in Rio?Fired on by Gagan Narang’s bronze — where India found itself on the 10m rifle podium for the second successive Olympics — Sushil Kumar’s fighting silver brought down the curtain on a mixed-bag fortnight for India. It is possible that the performance has caused a shift in perception in a nation notorious for its lack of sporting culture.Mary Kom’s exploits on the Olympic stage helped push the north-east in western focus; back home her bronze has inspired big-city girls to take up boxing gloves. With hockey continuing its dismal free fall and tennis flattering only to deceive, India turned to relatively less glamorous sports.Karnam Malleswari, India’s first woman Olympic medal winner, says that it could be the poor man’s sports that could be India’s future. “No rich family boy will go into sports like weightlifting , boxing or wrestling. These are clearly poor man’s sports,” says the Sydney 2000 bronze winning lifter, implying how the smaller centres tucked away in the interiors of Haryana or the distant north-east have been providing us with champions.”Parental support and idea of the sport providing employment opportunities are the other triggers that can change mindsets,” she adds.Govt focus on core sports helped India’s Olympic causeAbhinav Bindra’s gold medal at Beijing forced a rethink of the sports ministry’s policies . Under the ambitious ‘Operation Excellence for London Olympics 2012 (OPEX 2012)’ the core probables were provided with foreign coaches, training stints abroad and exposure trips. The ministry’s budget for London: Rs 142.43 crore.Out of the ministry’s annual budget of Rs 722 crore, they spent about Rs 34 crore for hockey and boxing alone — considered India’s main sports at the Olympics. Yet, the boxing failure is a minor blip in the work in progress.In addition to Bindra, Vijender Kumar and Sushil’s medals at Beijing crucially awakened a cricket-drunk corporate world to the possibility of lesser-known sport in the country. Trust and support groups helped the regular sportsman with direction.Going by unconfirmed figures, the Mittals Champions Trust — a Lakshmi Mittal brainchild — spent about Rs 3 crore on the goldwinning shooter in addition to another Rs 32 crore on other athletes. Thirteen of those under MCT’s umbrella were in action at London.Similarly, the Olympic Gold Quest, spearheaded by former sportsmen of repute, chipped in with Rs 8 to Rs 10 crore on its programmes.There were disappointments at London — notably in archery and men’s boxing — but the combined efforts seem to bear results. No gold came our way, but with the Indian sportsman not afraid to slug it out with the best in the world, Rio could well prove our watershed Olympics. An Indian contingent walking into the closing ceremony will no longer seem an ordeal anymore.

Related Articles

Latest Articles