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Monday, August 9, 2021

For a richer haul: Olympic medals come when massive amounts of In Tokyo, India discovered: Results show the goal of putting the country in Olympic top ten is feasible (TOI)

M Venkaiah Naidu

The author is the Vice President of India.


The Indian tricolour, the pride of the nation, was hoisted in the Olympics arena after 13 years, on the penultimate day of Tokyo games, thanks to the young Neeraj Chopra, the first to win an athletic medal for independent India, in golden fashion.


The significance of Tokyo Olympics for India needs to be understood in the backdrop of despairing performances in the previous 24 Olympics that our country participated in, and which made the future look bleak. India made a profound statement in Tokyo asserting that ‘We too can do it.’


New India hoped for more medals every four years, only to be left frustrated with each edition. Tokyo marked a break with such a forgettable past, not merely in terms of number of medals, but in other ways too.


Dismal record


As a colony, India first took part in the Paris Olympics in 1900 and won two medals. It took 108 years to better that tally to 3 in Beijing and another 4 years to go up to 6 in London. But then the medal count fell to 2 in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Till the last Rio games, India could fetch only 27 medals in 24 Olympic ventures. No wonder, India lost its soul and confidence every four years. More so, when other similarly placed countries made rapid strides towards the medal stand.


The Tokyo takeaways


In the last Rio games in 2016, of the 118-strong Indian contingent, only about 20, including the men’s hockey team, could reach quarter-finals and above. Of the 120-plus athletes in Tokyo, 55 fought in quarter-finals and above.


Of the 18 disciplines that India contested in, our sportspersons made it to quarter-finals and above in as many as 10 disciplines. These include 5 in final fights for the gold medal, 43 in semi-finals in 4 events including hockey and 7 in quarter-finals of 3 events. All these contests were medal prospects.


Besides the 7 medals won in Tokyo, which marked India’s best ever Olympic performance in 121 years, it was the grit demonstrated by our athletes that made medal-hungry Indians cheer.


In a rare feat for India, Neeraj Chopra topped the javelin qualifiers and bettered it to win the gold, underlining the need for consistency. Kamalpreet Kaur in discus throw, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra in table tennis, wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya, and our hockey teams testified to the new found grit of Indian athletes.


Fencer Bhavani Devi and golfer Aditi Ashok spoke for the bright future. A new Asian record in Men’s 4×400 metres relay was set up and national records in Men’s 800 metres race and long jump were bettered by our athletes. A better show in archery and shooting, our medal tally could have been much better. But Olympics are high-pressure settings. When our athletes’ day comes, we will have a rich harvest of medals.


The ‘Chak De’ moment


It was, however, the glorious ‘Chak De’ moment in hockey in Tokyo that restored the sagging morale of Indians. Given the past glory of 8 gold medals, the country’s love for the game, and the fact that hockey is part of the national pride, the failure to win a medal over the last 41 years has deeply dented the confidence and self-respect of our nation.


Spectacular performances by both the men’s and women’s teams, coming back grittily from behind at crucial junctures, will go down as defining landmarks in the resurgence of Indian sport. This ‘Chak De’ spirit is another reason for Tokyo games to be our best moment.


Mission ahead


Tokyo games defined our future mission. Four gold medals would have placed India among the top 20 in the medal tally and another four among the top ten. This is imminently feasible in the future given our show in Tokyo, as detailed and explained above.


The thrust given by GoI on identifying and promoting sporting excellence since 2015 bore results in Tokyo. This mission can be achieved by nurturing the culture of sports across the country and through necessary professional and scientific help to our future stars.


Tokyo games, our best moment in 121 years of Olympic history, demonstrated that India can do it. It is now Target Paris in 2024.


Courtesy - TOI

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