Less than two weeks to go to the biggest sporting spectacle on Earth. 28th July will mark the beginning of the Summer Olympics, four years after China took the world by storm with a highly successful staging of the same. Whether London can match the magic of the 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony, and dazzle us with their unique take on the Olympic games- remains to be seen.
But what really matters are the components of these great games- the participants, their teams, the countries they represent, the athletes and their form. Winning a medal often eclipses every other sporting achievement for these world-class performers, especially in relatively obscure categories that are rarely covered on National television. It is their opportunity to shine, and put their sport at the forefront, in front of the eager eyes of over 2 Billion fans.
The Olympic Games, as an event, is the only spectacle in the world that will be recognized, lapped up and watched- irrespective of how popular their sporting categories are. The concept of the Games reaches out not only to fans, but to citizens, to ordinary people- a celebration of pure raw patriotism above other emotions like choice, excitement, fanaticism and following.
From here on, we will be giving you an extensive lowdown of the best of our very own Indian athletes participating in the Games. It is a matter of pride for these men and women, after working all their lives to reach the pinnacle of their selected sport. In the process, we will also learn about most categories- otherwise unknown to many of us.
There will be a TOTAL of 81 Indian sportsmen and sportswomen participating in London- 58 men and 23 women. It is India’s largest ever contingent at the Games.
The categories they will be participating at are: Archery (4 events), Athletics (11 events- the most watched section of the Games), Badminton (4 events- India’s second best chance at a Gold), Boxing (8 events- A proven medal sport for India), Hockey (Men’s), Judo, Rowing (2 events), Shooting (9 events- India’s best chance), Swimming (1 event), Table Tennis (2 events), Tennis (4 events- long story), Weightlifting (2 events) and Wrestling (5 events).
We start with Archery, an unrecognized sport in most parts of the world- also one of India’s more competitive contingents this year:
Though his best individual form is behind him (First Indian to win Gold at the 2006 World Cup), he still remains a contender in the Team men’s recurve event at London. He was seeded 1 as recent as 2009, and will be one of 3 Individual Indian men’s archers to be competing here.
Prediction: Individual- Top 30, Team- Top 10
The form Archery man for India. Multiple Gold medallist at World Cups and Asian Grand Prix. Commonwealth Gold medallist in 2010, and India’s best chance in this category.
Prediction: Individual- Top 8, Team- Top 10
Asian Games Silver medallist. Multiple Gold medallist at the Asian Grand Prix events. Supported by the Olympic Gold Quest. Rai hit his peak around 5 years ago, but could be a surprise contender for a strong finish this year.
Prediction: Individual- Top 30, Team- Top 10
The Women’s contingent for Archery has similar composition. 3 women, participating in Individual as well as the team Recurve event.
An Olympian in 2008, this Manipuri Archer failed to reach the final in Beijing after a round of 64 finish in the Individual event. A strong 6th place team finish will give her confidence going into her Second Games.
Prediction: Individual- top 20, Team- Top 5
Deepika Kumari (GOLD)
A prodigy. One of the youngest participants from India, Kumari is 18 years of age and is the current World No. 1. Not many know that, along with Dhoni, she is Ranchi’s pride and joy. She is a gold medallist at the Commonwealth games, and contrary to public opinion (Badminton and Hockey), Deepika Kumari is India’s BEST chance at a GOLD medal in London. In May 2012, she won her first Gold medal at a World Cup at Antalya, Turkey.
Prediction: Individual- GOLD, Team- Top 5
The Great Gold Quest begins with Deepika Kumari
The second Nagaland athlete to perform at the Games (after 64 years), she is one of the most experienced Indian Archers at this event. A 2002 and 2006 Asian games veteran.
Prediction: Individual- Top 20, Team- Top 5
So, there we have it. ARCHERY will, in all probability, be India’s first contribution to their Medal’s tally this year. And as most Indians in the heartland will believe, it could be their very own daughter- Deepika Kumari, who would never miss a target when aiming for Mangoes as a child- to come away with nothing less than a GOLD MEDAL.
A typical Indian rise-against-all-odds story, had her father (an autorickshaw driver) as the villain, until Kumari decided to take matters into her own hands- with a lot of help from her cousin Vidya Kumari. With plenty of years ahead of her, she stands in the same position Sania Nehwal was at the last Olympics- young and inexperienced- but has the current advantage of being Ranked at the top. The pressure could overwhelm her, but as we know, sportsmen and women from Ranchi rarely feel it. If she fails in the individual category, she will definitely not let her teammates deny her atleast a bronze in the team category of Women’s recurve.
In the next part, we will have a look at India’s Athletic contingent.