India @ Tokyo Olympics
A top seed player is against someone that you favour. And the top seed player is 2 points down. You seem to think that a major upset is on the cards. Someone you are supporting is winning the match. He/She just needs to hold on to that slender lead. The player tries “every arrow in his quiver” to hold on. Time left : 2 mins.
These 2 mins feels like eternity. You have not wished for anything more than wishing for these 2 mins to get by. Suddenly, a wrong move and the top-seed player takes advantage. It’s level now. The rules of the game state that the last scorer wins. Time left : 30 secs. You don’t want these 30 seconds to end.
That thrilling experience. That adrenaline rush. That contrasting wishful thinking. Those heartbreaking losses. Those winning moments.
That’s sports for you.
It has been the Indian story of these Olympics.
India, as a country, never prioritise sports over studies/work/money. In Indian culture, sports is seen as a way to escape responsibilities.
He went into sports because he was not good in studies.
She went into sports because she didn’t want to marry.
Nobody mentions that he is good defence in wrestling, she can throw a discus longer than some of the experienced throwers in the world. Nobody mentions that she wanted to provide a reputation to her family. Nobody acknowledges that studies/work/money comes with money itself whereas sports are free for everyone in the initial phase.
And yet, every 4 years, we are there for criticising our Olympic contingent. Everyone, including people who deplore sports as a career option, criticise them for not producing medal winning performances. And once Olympics are over, people are done. Those critics never find the time to even search what is going on with the sports for whom they are condemning. No media houses exposes their struggles. No one even bothers to check how their preparations are going. Critics question the athletes, question the governments but never once question themselves, why India is performing the way it is despite being home to 1/6th of the world’s population.
But in her Olympic history, India produced some of the world class athletes which are revered by the whole world. And to think of it, these athletes haven’t risen from political circles or through approaches or corruption. These athletes rose from the most humble beginnings that you can imagine and captured the world’s imagination with their sheer talent, skill and hard work, their sacrifices, their courage to not let the circumstances pull them down.
These Olympics were no different.
From well known PV Sindhu to unknown Ravi Kumar Dahiya, from Mirabai Chanu, Bajrang Punia to Lovlina Borgohain, Indian athletes produced some of the best performances to win laurels for the country in Tokyo. To reignite the love of hockey in hearts, the men and women hockey teams displayed the performance of their lifetime to be in the top 4 of the world. Aditi Ashok, who displayed her prowess in a sport which 99.99% of Indians are not aware of, Golf. Kamalpreet Kaur, the discus thrower who won the hearts without her coach by her side due to administrative issues. The men who produced India’s best performance in rowing in the Olympics, the lone fencer who became the first Indian athlete to qualify and win her first round match. The table tennis contingent, Sharath Kamal, Monika Batra, and team who produced credible performances to give the top seeds a run for their money. Deepak Punia, who came agonising close to the medal.
But as the Olympics draw to close, something spectacular was in the store. India, in her last event of the Tokyo Olympics, produced something that every sports lover in the country dreamt of. An athletics medal. A track and field event medal. Something we couldn’t achieve in the 125 years of Olympics history. From the likes of Milkha Singh to PT Usha and to Anju Bobby George, we could not have been closer to an athletics medal. But Neeraj Chopra, a 23-year old, had different plans. He arrived on the Olympics stage and how. From no medal in 125 years to a Gold in Olympics will be construed as a fairy tale. Neeraj completed that with a javelin straight to the sky. After 13 long years, we stood mesmerised to our Jana Man Gan with tears in our eyes.
If you read about them, you will find that what they endure to reach at this level. It’s not that easy. Passing criticism is easy. But reaching the level isn’t.
They are ready for the hard work, they are ready to fight the world. There are many more who are dreaming to conquer the world. But they only need two things from us, one, not to nip them in their buds, and second to be the wind under their wings. I am sure India will always perform better than their last olympics. It’s the culture that we need to foster.
Salute to the Indian Contingent. See you @Paris2024. In person :)