How many of you have suddenly become patriotic? I mean, not because another August 15 is approaching, but because of the ongoing Olympics in London. When our players perform in any event, we all forget our differences and fervently pray for him/her to reach final and win a medal.
I do not want to proceed on the pessimistic note that only 4 or 5 medals were won and it's such a dismal show for the country of 1.2 billion and, especially, with our super power neighbour China topping the chart. For all those naysayers, we have to remember that there was a time when our country did NOT even enter the medal tally in successive Olympics (1984, 1988, 1992). Yes, it was an absolute ZERO medals in some olympics. Hockey game did the nation proud by consistently winning the gold medals up to the year 1980. That might be the reason, it was named as the national game. But, after 1980, the hockey team's performance has spiraled downward, and this year we saw its humiliating defeat in the hands of the other countries. The once unbeatable champions have become like toys to be crushed with, these days. The national game can be changed to cricket and an appeal can be made to the Olympic committee to include that in the list.
K D Jadhav, 1952 bronze medal winner for wrestling.
We may end up with the medal tally of 4 or 5, all won by individuals, and the highest ever so far. Before this, the independent India won an individual bronze medal by K D Jadhav for wrestling in Helsinki. Who is he, everybody and even I asked. Yes, he went into oblivion and our Government did not give him the due recognition he was worthy of. He did not even receive the Arjuna Award and he died in an accident and was in abject poverty. So much for the lone medal winner of the greatest sporting extravaganza!!! After that, Leander Paes won a bronze medal for Tennis in 1996. I remember myself beaming with pride because that was the first time in my life I was getting to see somebody from our country standing on the podium. And, so did Karnam Malleswari, the gutsy lady from Srikakulam (AP) win a lone bronze in the year 2000 for weightlifting. The other medals won by the individuals in the successive Olympics are:
2004 Olympics-Silver medal for Col.Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in shooting.
2008 Olympics-Gold medal for Abhinav Bhindra in 10 mtr rifle shooting.
-Bronze medal for Sushil Kumar in wrestling.
-Bronze medal for Vijender Singh in boxing.
2012 Olympics - Silver medal for Vijay Kumar in shooting.
- Bronze medal for Gagan Narang in shooting 10 mtr rifle shooting.
- Bronze medal for Saina Nehwal in badminton
- Bronze medal for Mary Kom in boxing.
-Silver medal for Sushil Kumar in wrestling.
-Bronze medal for Yogeshwar Dutt in wrestling.
Each one of them deserves long term recognition & glory for raising the Indian flag in the Olympic village. They are the role models for the youngsters who showed that winning an Olympic medal is 'achievable'. Having told that, the total number of medals won by our country in about 100 years is just handful!! Come on, we need more!! How can we go about it?
In our country, sports is given the least priority as is seen everywhere. We are all brainwashed by statements like 'don't waste your time playing around, you are not going to pass the exams', 'now say goodbye to all your sports and other extracurricular activities and concentrate on getting a degree' (which ensures a career and a job). If excelling in sports does not guarantee a decent job and recognition, how many of us are going to sweat into it?
Even if you want to seriously take up any sporting event, the support and facilities are woefully lacking here compared to USA, China and many Western countries. When our cricketers are bought and sold for millions, other sports persons struggle for funds from the government and private sectors. Abhinav Bhindra belongs to an affluent family and Saina Nehwal, with the support of her family, trained under Pullela Gopichand. Others like Sushil Kumar 's & Vijender Kumar's fathers were drivers. Mary Kom has emerged as a new warrior from the most unlikely state of Manipur, already a mother of twins, first ever woman boxer, a former world champion proving to our country that boxing is not just a man's sport. She had to struggle all alone to reach the Olympic village before she became the overnight household name. She was at first denied Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in spite of becoming a world champion before this Olympics. (Of course, she was awarded later on). Gagan Narang's father had to sell a piece of land to buy the foreign equipment required for his training. He got no support from anybody during his early years. Every Indian Olympian has a story to tell which will be full of struggle, persistence, and a lonesome journey to the top.
If we want to see ourselves placed along with the top countries in the medal tally, there needs to be a lot more investment and facilities and a huge change in our attitudes. Just praying and hoping fervently that our players win any medal is not going to be enough. Let there be more Mary Koms, Karnam Malleswaris, Saina Nehwals, K D Jadhavs, Abhinav Bhindras, Sushil Kumars, Vijay Kumars,etc......
P.S.----So near, yet so far!!!! That was the thought which crossed my mind when I saw the wrestler Sushil Kumar losing out to Japenese finalist to settle for the silver. That elusive gold medal seemed within the reach, yet-----Apart from that, we have so much to cheer about in this Olympics!! For the first time, all six medals(the highest ever, so far) were won by the individuals, which was not imaginable about a decade ago. The wrestler Sushil Kumar set a new record by winning the individual medals twice in consecutive Olympics. Well done & CONGRATS!! to all of you and to those who missed the medals in the finals.(Krishna Poonia for finishing 7th in the finals of discus throw, Joydeep Karmakar for finishing 4th in shooting) Finally, something to cheer about and give hope a new direction to the aspiring sports persons.