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Indian athletes create new vision @ Tokyo Olympics
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Indian athletes create new vision @ Tokyo Olympics

In a cricket crazed country, building a conducive atmosphere for different games, sports and particularly athletics was not so easy for the Sports Authority of India

Post by on Wednesday, August 11, 2021

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There was a time when Olympics for India would practically mean Hockey and Hockey alone. Right from 1928 down to 1980, India would mostly conclude its journey in the Olympics with the podium finish only due to the game of Hockey. With 8 gold medals in five decades is not an ordinary feat. India is actually the most successful country ever in the Olympics when it comes to Hockey.
Hockey is perceived as the National Sport of India. From 1928 to 1956, India dominated Field Hockey at the Olympics and won an astonishing six straight gold medals while remaining unbeaten in the competition. The Hockey team made a habit of victory in the 20th century and gave the world of Hockey its many superstars like Major Dhyan Chand, Balbir Singh, Govinda, Ajit Pal Singh and Ashoka. To date, India has won 12 Olympic medals in Hockey - 8 gold, 1 silver, and 3 bronze. The last of these medals came this time in Olympics2020 at Tokyo after a gap of 41 years when at the 1980 Moscow Games, India beat Spain 4-3 in the finals to clinch the Gold medal.
Milkha Singh, the flying Sikh, tried his utmost to introduce an athletic flavour to the Indian participation in the Olympics but missed a golden opportunity to win a medal by a whisker in the Rome Games in 1960. He missed out on a bronze medal during the 1960 Olympics held in Rome. Participating in the 400 metres final and touted as a medal contender, Singh is said to be misjudged when to kick on in the race only to be pushed to fourth at the finish by South Africa’s Malcolm Spence, by a mere 1/10th of a second. Singh did not win an Olympic medal in the three editions that he participated in. It remained a painful memory for the legendary athlete, but his story was nonetheless inspiring for others to follow.
There are only two instances in almost a full century for India that India won a medal in a sport other than Hockey from 1900 to 1992. India first participated at the Olympic Games in 1900, with a lone athlete Norman Pritchard winning two medals –both silver –in athletics and thus India became the first Asian nation to win an Olympic medal. Later on in 1952, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won a Bronze medal in Wrestling at Helsinki Games.
 It was only in 1996, that Leander Paes created a new thinking for other athletes to follow when he won a Bronze medal in the Atlanta Games in Lawn Tennis Men's singles followed by one more Bronze medal in the Sydney 2000 Games by Karnam Malleshwari in Weightlifting. She virtually opened the mental vistas for the new vision and horizons for the young athletes of India in relation to the Olympics. This was the time when Indian Hockey had started a new beginning after a lull of almost two decades. However, it didn't match the standards of the changed format of international hockey. The game of Hockey by then had taken a new shape as per the IHF rulings in consonance with the International Olympic Association guidelines.
The world moved very fast and new records were set in every game and sport. Technology took over training and coaching and even track and field activities. Coaches, training, tours, 24×7×365 days practice and the role of money assumed their role in international sports. In a cricket crazed country, building a conducive atmosphere for different games, sports and particularly athletics was not so easy for the Sports Authority of India.
Over the last two decades, India's preparations for the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games helped Indian athletes to make a judgement about themselves in the international context. These judgements made them realistic and tough about their future challenges at the international level which included the World championships and also the Olympics.
India's super athletes and sportsmen and women and Olympic medallists like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, Gagan Narang, Yogeshwar Dutt, P.V.Sindhu and Sakshi Malik laid foundation for the generations to follow to dream of Olympic medals in their respective fields. Tokyo Games of 2020 held in 2021, despite Covid19 restrictions, were held in a great atmosphere and the Indian athletes, this time, did exceedingly well. There are a number of games and sports in which Indian athletes ended their challenges as runners-up. This is quite remarkable. India headed to the Tokyo Games with its biggest-ever medal contingent and finished with their biggest-ever medal tally. India finishes with its best-ever Olympic medal tally at Tokyo.
There were some disappointments also in the much-followed sports like shooting and boxing but there were plenty of positives too for India. Tokyo Games 2020 could be seen as India's hockey rejuvenation and rebirth as both their men and women's hockey teams reached the semi-finals. It has happened after a long time, like dreams coming true. In fact, the men's team ended their 41-year-long wait for an Olympic medal. Not to forget, Aditi Ashok's super attempt in Women's Golf and some superb performances in Rowing and Race-walking are surely reassuring about the bright future of Indian sports. Then Women's hockey created great hopes and won hearts of the Indians.
India started their campaign with a Silver medal from weightlifter Mirabai Chanu. It ended its campaign with a historic gold medal, its first-ever in track and field when Neeraj Chopra won the Men's Javelin gold on August 7th, 2021. The medal winners at Tokyo 2020 included Neeraj Chopra -Gold in Men's Javelin, Mirabai Chanu -Silver in Women's 49kg Weightlifting, Ravi Dahiya -Silver in Men's Freestyle 57kg Wrestling, Lovlina Borgohain -Bronze in Women's Welterweight boxing, PV Sindhu -Bronze in Women's Singles Badminton, Bajrang Punia -Bronze in Men's 65kg Freestyle Wrestling and most importantly, India men's hockey team -Bronze.
The fact of the matter is that India needs to match the brilliance of other superpowers in sports keeping in view its current position in the geo-political global scenario. With one of the oldest civilizations, ancient values in vogue and the living cultural ethos, India will have to come up with a fresh, encouraging and superb sports policy in which funds shouldn't be an issue. With a vast population and enormous human resources, there is a great prospectus for sports in the vast country. Political leaders, sports administrators and fund raisers have a special responsibility in this context.
Indian athletes have undoubtedly created a new vision for Indian sportsmen by giving them hope and happiness to march ahead with big targets in mind. In this context, the government of India and the Indian Olympic Association should effectively think of organizing the Asian Games and the Olympics in India in the near future and make the best accordingly. This will lift the standard of the games in India, the connected institutions, and the overall policy focus of the government towards sports. There is a paramount requirement to take a final call by the government led by the PM, Narendra Modi in this regard. Hope it comes forth as soon as possible.
(Author is Senior BJP & KP Leader, Incharge: J&K BJP Political Feedback Deptt, Author & Columnist. Feedback: ashwanikc2012@gmail.com)

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