I think Indian sport is in a transition phase and the Tokyo Olympics is a real change for the good. We not only got the highest number of medals but the performance of athletes of the various disciplines gives me a lot of hope. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to be complimented and the sports ministry the credit for ensuring support to sports persons not only in terms of facilities but the way they have cheered and followed the sport. It means a lot for sportspersons. This is the perfect time when sports need to be taken to grass roots level and every parent should try to put his or her kid to sport.
The big thing is the seven medals that we have won and the qualification which was phenomenal. A special mention is for the fencer and the swimmers who qualified against all odds. But the real transformation came in the women’s hockey team. A fourth-placed finish is something to cherish and celebrate. They jumped from 12th place to fourth spot in Tokyo. The composition of the team which comes from various parts of the country gives a huge hope. We should congratulate Rani Rampal and her team for their scintillating performances.
After not qualifying in 2016 Rio Olympics, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu came back strongly and to win a silver medal on the first day was very special. She took the pressure of the other Indians with that spectacular show. She clinically performed and won the silver.
Neeraj Chopra was outstanding. For the first time after the 2008 Beijing Games where Abhinav Bindra won the gold, we had our national anthem played. Neeraj has won gold through sheer physical strength. Beating top athletes at the highest level requires mental strength. The gold medal, I am sure, will have a tremendous impact in Indian athletics. We can find more athletes taking javelin. The 4×400 relay squad did not qualify but broke the Asian record.
As a 23-year-old Ravi Dahiya showed a lot of character in winning silver in wrestling. His attitude is commendable and makes me feel that he can go a long way. Having fought with injury, Bajrang winning the bronze medal is also something to be appreciated. These two filled in the shoes of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt though I would have loved to have a few more medals.
But it was great to see Lovlina Borgohain getting a medal in boxing. Over a period the Mary Kom was the flag-bearer of Indian boxing. It is good to see a young talent in Lovlina coming to the fore in the Tokyo Olympics with a bronze medal.
The men’s hockey team winning the bronze after a gap of 41 years was very good. Losing 1-7 against Australia and coming back so strongly showed that this team is full of character. Skipper Manpreet and goalkeeper Sreejesh along with coach Graham Reid played a big role in the revival of the Indian hockey team. Rohidas’ guts was evident the way he rushed to stop the penalty corner hits. It gives us hope that we can win gold in the Paris Olympics.
(PV) Sindhu’s bronze medal was special. It is a third straight medal in badminton. We could have done better but Chirag (Shetty) and Satwik made an unfortunate exit from the league stage though they beat the eventual Olympic gold medalists.
Shooting was disappointing. Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker had chances to win medals. It is a fine sport where there is a thin margin between the winner and loser. It is all about experience. I do believe although they missed medals, they are definitely potential winners in future Olympics.
Aditi Ashok caught the eye with her stunning show. She has given a new definition to golf in the country and I hope more young women would be inspired to take to this sport. Faooud Mirza took Indian equestrian to a new high.
One needs to congratulate the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Funding at the grass-root level is important. The entire ecosystem needs to be evolved before we are a sporting nation. To win more medals, we need to reorganize the talent system. Overall there are positive signs.
(The author is chief national badminton coach and former All England Open champion)
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