Genuine Soul-Searching Needed in Medal-Starved India

Sporting accomplishments are in decline – 6 in London, 3 in Beijing and 2 in Rio, a figure that takes India back to the 1900 Games

India is winding up its Rio Olympic campaign with two medals – one silver (Sindhu in badminton) and one bronze (Sakshi in wrestling). 

That takes the country back to the 1900 Games when they won two medals – both silver, so better than how India fared in Rio.

The 2016 count is one-third of what India won at the 2012 London Games and one less than the three they struck at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where shooter Abhinav Bindra brought home the country’s first-ever individual gold.

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Sindhu’s Stellar Show

Indians have reason to be proud of the performance of Sindhu but some soul-searching is needed as to why sporting accomplishments are in decline in a country of over 1.3 billion. 

That despite Indian sportsmen spending a lot of their time overseas, participating in tournaments and undergoing training.

SindhuSindhu gets to savour all of the attention that is justifiably being heaped on her. Just as Joseph Schooling received in Singapore after his record-breaking gold in the 100-metre butterfly event that pushed Michael Phelps to silver.

If, say, 70 of the sportspersons India sent to the Olympics had won medals then attention will have been divided and given Indians greater reason for joy and celebration.

China Disappointed

China won 70 medals in Rio – lower than what they had achieved in the last few Games.

This has understandably left the country disappointed. It won 88 medals in London 2012 and 100 in Beijing 2008. It blamed the fall on competition getting stiffer. This is a fair assessment as even tiny nations have begun to punch above their weight.

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Nonetheless, the U.S., topped the table in Rio with 118 medals as opposed to 103 in 2012. But their gold count is 43 while they won 46 gold medals in London. 

There are a few more events awaiting completion, so the overall tallies could still change. 

Britain is in second place currently with 27 gold medals, with China third.

Besides China, other Asia-Pacific countries that have done well are Japan (41 medals), South Korea (21 medals), Australia (29) and New Zealand (18). The final tally could be checked here.  

The Monetary Factor is Secondary to Passion for Sports

In Singapore, every gold medalist gets S$1 million but in countries such as Canada, it is just a few thousand dollars. 

Those passionate about sports will not be driven by monetary or considerations other than love for the games they take to. It is that culture India must encourage and no prejudices must come in the way.

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Prejudices aplenty

India is a country bogged down by regional, racial, religious and casteist  factors. For instance, media reports indicate that when the nation was celebrating Sindhu’s silver the people of the country were more concerned about her caste. Her caste was the most googled item, as this report shows.

Sindhu, who is from Hyderabad and is coached by former champion Pullela Gopichand, is the first Indian woman ever to win an Olympic silver.

Celebrities, Leaders Jump in for Share of Limelight

The glow is understandably on her. Celebrities and political leaders have jumped in with tweets for their share of the limelight.

One NDTV reporter in Rio could not resist saying that “Saina Nehwal was unfortunately injured and lost early.” There was no need to bring this up but then the North-South divide is very pronounced in India.

Bhindra 3When columnist Shobhaa De expressed her frustration over India’s continued poor performance at the Olympics with a sardonic Tweet, Abhinav Bindra came on TV to say that what old people say does not bother him.

Indians do not have the maturity to take criticism in their stride. In the process, they expose the prejudices so deeply ingrained in them.

The Olympic Spirit Lives on – https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/heartwarming-tales-from-the-web-of-worms/

G Joslin Vethakumar

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