After Boxing, we come to the most tragic sport in Indian history- Field Hockey.
History is History
If there’s any team in the world that’s capable of understanding what Indian hockey fans must feel like- it’d be the supporters of the current West Indian cricket team. The irony is that both teams won their respective World Cups in the year 1975.
The good news is that the Indian Hockey team has qualified after a gap of 8 years for the Olympics. A convincing 8-0 victory in the final of the world cup qualifiers over France, with 5 goals from drag flicker Sandeep Singh, sealed India’s place in a relatively straightforward group that includes Netherlands, Kora, New Zealand, Belgium and ex-World-Champions (2006) Germany.
The bad news is that this is a team from the same country that won 6 back-to-back Gold medals and went undefeated in the Olympics from 1928 to 1956. Even after that, India went on to win two more Golds in Japan (1964) and Moscow (1980). They are the ONLY country in the world to have won 8 gold medals in the Summer Olympics. They have won a total of 11 Olympic medals (1 silver and 2 more bronze medals).
No other sport played in India can boast of such an illustrious, yet forgotten history- but as we know, in this day and age, history rarely matters- especially with most teams evolving far faster than the once-naturally-gifted Indian team.
They haven’t been in the worst of form lately, and are current holders of the Asian Champions Trophy (2011), and even managed a silver in the Commonwealth Games (2010)- losing to arch rivals Australia once again.
Head coach Michael Nobbs does not hold the most envious coaching job in Indian sport, and faces an uphill task to inspire his erratic team to do unto atleast ONE major team what they’re famous for doing to minnows.
India’s sole Judoka
Surprisingly, there is only ONE participant from India in this relatively unknown martial art sport.
Not surprisingly, it is Meerut girl Garima Chaudhary to have acquired this quota in the 63 kgs category.
88th-ranked Judoka, Chaudhary finished 7th in the Asian Judo Championship in Tashkent, and then earned 34 more points from other international competitions to earn the coveted Olympic spot.
There will be 24 other judokas in her weight category, and little-known Chaudhary is, in fact, favored to go quite far in this category, where she has consistently beaten the best in the world over the last year.
A product of the Centre of Excellence in Patiala, she has trained under coach Jiwan Sharma, and owes her success to his influence- after she was recognized for beating up kids older than her when she was younger.
Fighting with boys is still what she does, in order to train herself at the highest possible level for the biggest competition of her life.
Paddle Kings Swarn Singh, Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh
India has qualified 2 boats with 3 athletes in this sport.
Swarn Singh Virk (Single Sculls)
The National Games Gold medalist from Jharkhand will compete in his first Olympic Games. The 21 year old booked his berth by winning the qualifying event at the FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta for Asia in Korea.
He will participate in the Single Sculls event, at the Dorney lake, with the heats starting from July 28th- against 32 other rowers in his category.
Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh (Lightweight double sculls)
The duo managed a 3rd place finish at the qualification event in Korea. This will be Chandigarh resident Manjeet Singh’s second Games after Beijing, and this is the fourth time in a row that Indian rowers have qualified for the Games. They will be accompanied by rowing coach Ismail Baig at London. They will take on 21 other rowers for a spot in the second round.
The coach honestly admits that a quarterfinal spot itself will be a massive achievement, and anything more could be a bonus.
For that, Swarn Singh needs a top-6 Heats finish, and Sandeep and Manjeet need a top 12 finish to go through to their next round.