Sunday, August 19, 2012

London Olympics 2012: When Will India Win Gold Medal?

London, capital of the United Kingdom, brought the curtain down on a glorious Olympic Games on August 12 in a spectacular, technicolor pageant of landmarks, lightshows and lots of fun. The headline performers were each paid a pound, a little more than $1.50.

More than 10,500 athletes from 204 nations took part in the London Games (July 27–August 12) staged in this historic city for an unprecedented third time. A total of 2.18 million people attended the 58 games across the two tournaments, compared to the previous record of 2.13 million in the 2008 Beijing Olympics - with the men's final crowd of 86,162, the biggest. It all came at a price tag of $14 billion, three times the original estimate. But nobody wanted to spoil the fun with such mundane concerns, at least not on this night. The 2012 Olympic Games were packed with sporting highlights, personal dramas and emotional highs and lows.

Similar to the opening ceremony, the United Kingdom again showcased its rich music repertoire combined with some stunning visual and lighting effects at the closing ceremony watched by an estimated two billion global audience.

The United States and China predictably emerged as the powerhouses by taking the first and second spots in the medals tally while hosts Britain produced their best-ever show to take the third position. The United States with 104 medals (46 gold, 29 silver, and 29 bronze) edged China (87 medals – 38 gold, 27 silver, and 22 bronze)in both the gold medal and total medal standings, eclipsing its best performance at an Olympics on foreign soil after the Dream Team narrowly held off Spain in basketball for the country’s 46th gold.

Britons, who had fretted for weeks that the games would become a fiasco, were buoyed by their biggest medal haul since 1908 with 65 medals in all (29 gold, 17 silver, and 19 bronze).

Russia could manage to get fourth place with 82 medals (24 gold, 25 silver, and 23 bronze).

India too had their moments of glory at the Olympic Games as it notched up its best ever medal tally of six (2 silver and 4 bronze).

Saudi Arabia's first female athlete The kingdom sent female athletes to a Games for the first time, ensuring every country competing was represented by both sexes. Judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, a painfully shy teenager with no international experience and wearing an ill-fitting suit and headcovering, made a brave debut in front of a global audience of millions. She lasted only 80 seconds but won plenty of applause nonetheless.

Michael Phelps Creates History

Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time, the US 4x200m freestyle relay gold giving him a 19th medal after bittersweet silver in the 200m butterfly. Phelps' record of 15 Olympic gold medals includes eight from his spectacular Beijing Games campaign as well as six from Athens in 2004.

He also won two bronze in Athens and has won two silver in London. South Africa's Chad le Clos denied Phelps' bid for a 200m butterfly treble by a hair yesterday, but silver allowed the US superstar the consolation of matching Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's record of 18 Olympic medals. Phelps returned an hour later and teamed with Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens to capture the 4x200m free relay gold ahead of France and China.For most of the race, it looked like Phelps would make his 18th career medal gold.

But Le Clos, third at the final turn but clinging stubbornly to Phelps and Takeshi Matsuda, relentlessly pressed his challenge and plunged past Phelps at the finish to win in 1min 52.96sec.

Phelps, who had led at every turn in a quest to become the first man to win the same Olympic swimming event at three successive Games, was just five-hundredths of a second back in 1:53.01 and Matsuda settled for bronze in 1:53.21.

Le Clos, 20, thrust his body out of the water in delight upon seeing the scoreboard. Then he perched on a lane rope with his head in his hands as he tried to absorb his achievement in his first Olympics.

Phelps has dominated the 200m fly for a decade. He owns the four fastest times in history and his world record of 1min 51.51sec is more than one second faster than the second-best performer in history.

Bolt’s Spectacular Achievement

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt became an Olympic legend by repeating as champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. Michael Phelps ended his long career as the most decorated Olympian in history.

Bolt wins (and wins and wins) The world's fastest man and his Jamaica relay team mates provided three of the enduring moments of the Games. The showman opened his campaign with a Games record in the 100 meters, followed up by becoming the first man to retain his titles in the 100 and 200m - where Jamaica finished 1-2-3 - and then anchored the 4x100 relay to a world record time.

The moment where Bolt and Yohan Blake caught each others' eyes as they crossed the finish line in the 200, with the winner putting his finger to his lips to silence the young pretender, was a classic moment of theater.

Women Athletes Steal Show

British distance runner Mo Farah became a national treasure by sweeping the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races, and favorite daughter Jessica Ennis became a global phenomenon with her victory in the heptathlon.

Female athletes took centre stage in a way they never had before. American gymnast Gabby Douglas soared to gold, the U.S. soccer team made a dramatic march to the championship. Packed houses turned out to watch the new event of women’s boxing. And women competed for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei for the first time.

And then there was Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee from South Africa running on carbon-fiber blades, who didn’t win a medal but nonetheless left a champion. And sprinter Manteo Mitchell, who completed his leg of the 4x400 relay semifinal on a broken leg, allowing his team to qualify and win silver.

Sarolta Establishes Swimming Record

Hungary's Sarolta Kovacs broke the Olympic record for the swimming leg of the women's modern pentathlon on August 12 while her compatriot Adrienn Toth took an overall lead in the race for the last gold medal of the London Games. A sport invented by Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, the event involves fencing, swimming, horse-riding, shooting and running. At the 2012 Olympics, it takes place in a single day at three separate venues.

In the swimming leg, a 200 meters freestyle race, the two fastest swimmers both broke the previous Olympic record of 2:08.86. Kovacs set a new record of 2:08.11 while Britain's Samantha Murray clocked 2:08.20.

India’s Performance

Wrestler Sushil Kumar won India their sixth and final medal of the Games after settling for a silver in the final of the men’s 66kg freestyle event. Sushil looked almost unstoppable till Japanese Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu halted his charge, getting the better of him 3-1 in the final.

Two medals in two Olympic Games - a bronze at Beijing and now a silver. The 29-year-old Sushil Kumar has become a living legend. He is the only Indian athlete to win two medals in the Olympic Games in individual events. That's a victory enough - a gold would have been a bonus. He came close, though, reaching the final of the 66kg freestyle wrestling before being outclassed by Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in two periods. The excellence of the Japanese was reason enough for Sushil's defeat, if more weren't needed. But a team official let out the fact that Sushil, suffering the effects of dehydration, had an upset stomach and had been vomiting - and that one minute before he was to go out for the final, he was in the toilet, for the sixth time.

Twenty-six-year-old Vijay Kumar took the silver in the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event with 30 out of 40 shots. He started with a perfect five, shooting his targets in four seconds in a final in which the reigning world champion Alexei Klimov went medal-less.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mary Kom, went down to Britain’s Nicol Adams 6-11 in a women’s boxing semi-final bout to settle for a bronze in the women’s fly weight category. Mary, a five-time world champion, fought gallantly but was clearly outpunched, much to the dismay of a sizeable Indian crowd.

Manipur boxer Mary won her first two rounds without much bother but, confronted with a superior 51kg boxer, it was amply evident that she was out of her class today. Nicola, three inches taller than Mary, was quicker on her feet and her punches were heavier. Nicola also has a baffling ability to change from orthodox to southpaw stance during a fight - Mary was thoroughly confounded by this British package.

Saina Nehwal's dream run ended in the London Olympics when she went down in straight games to 24-year-old World No.1 Wang Yihan of China in the Semi Finals. Even though Saina had never beaten Yihan in any of their previous five encounters, much was expected of the Indian in this crucial encounter considering Saina's form in this Olympics. But she came a cropper yet again without putting up much of a fight.

Saina made the tactical mistake of playing too flat, too often which suited the Chinese. She should have cleared higher and tried to move Yihan out of her base more often. Saina did this on a few occasions especially in the second game, but that was not enough. The Chinese was certainly the faster of the two and had the advantage of the height as well. More often than not Yihan attached Saina's forehand to create the openings which she finished with a smash. Rather than Saina winning the bronze medal, did Wang lose it?

She did lead 14-6 at one point, but Saina won 12 of the last 19 points, and four in a row to jump from 14 to 18; she was serving at 17-20 when Wang, trying to move to her right and back, got injured. She landed on her right foot, hit the shuttle out, and fell down.

The big names like shooters Abhinav Bindra and Ronjan Sodhi, archer Deepika Kumari and Beijing bronze medalist boxer Vijender Singh returned empty-handed. All of them were serious medal contenders.

The much-hyped men`s hockey players were the worst offenders as they lost all their six matches to finish 12th and last, the worst-ever performance in the history of the Games if one overlooks the country’s failure to even make it to the 2008 Olympics. Never in the history of Indian hockey has a team finished last in the Olympics, an 8th finish in the Atlanta Olympic Games being their worst show before the London debacle.

New Delhi’s Gold Dream

Also, while we have reason to be proud of our show in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, these events are not even comparable to the Olympics, and success in them is no indicator that we have suddenly emerged as a major sporting country. That will take a long time in coming, and will come only if we take the right steps today. Unfortunately, for all these years, despite the grand announcements of the sports administrators, little of substance has been done to evolve a clear-cut and time-bound sports policy to spot and groom potential medal winners.

 Many of our sports organizations are run by politicians as their personal fiefdom and are far removed from professional considerations. We have had instances of coaches and administrators indulging in favoritism and malicious manipulations. In recent times, several of the country's well-known sportspersons have openly spoken out against these instances. While the administrators take care of their needs, the athletes are left to fend for themselves with the bare minimum amenities.

For instance, there were reports that a participant at the Olympics had been given just a fraction of his allowances and promised that the rest would follow. When those of our performing sportspersons are given shoddy treatment, the erstwhile stars can expect no better. The humiliation of athlete and medalist Pinki Pramanik and the financially embattled runner Santhi Soundarajan are cases in point. The country cannot expect to rise as a prominent sporting nation if its athletes are treated like dirt while scams of monumental proportion engulf the very organizations that are supposed to promote sports.

A large number of medals is on offer in the track and field events as well as aquatics, and we lag far behind in these disciplines. Despite the brave words of our athletes and officials, it is unlikely — barring a major miracle — that our participants will get to stand on the podium for these events. Our expectations, therefore, must be largely limited to prospects in the areas of wrestling, archery, shooting, boxing, badminton and tennis. Even in these sports, it is not that we have a chance to corner all the medals. In tennis, for instance, we have chances in the doubles and mixed doubles. It would be commendable enough if our sportspersons in other disciplines put up a good show and better their own records.


Watched by billions, the Olympics provide the ultimate stage for any athlete and each successive Games etches new names on the world's sporting consciousness. Some dominate a single Olympics, like U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz at Munich in 1972, while others — like Phelps, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina or "Flying Finn" Paavo Nurmi - blaze a trail of victories over two or more Games.Some, like boxing gold medalist Cassius Clay in 1960, use the Olympics as a platform for glory in a different arena. As Muhammad Ali, he became world heavyweight champion and one of the greatest sportsmen of the 20th century.

Wonderful as the Olympics were, it is doubtful whether London 2012 can be described as the greatest Games ever. For India, the end result — two silver and four bronze medals — was far better than the shambolic start in which an intruder freely walked with the contingent in the Opening Ceremony. The medal return may, however, not have been commensurate with expectations in the wake of the best possible training the 83-member squad was given.

It is a myth that all the medals India has won in the Olympics is in indirect proportion to its population of 1.2 billion simply because less than 1.2 million of them have access to international-quality sporting facilities in the country. With over `300 crore spent preparing, of which about 60 crore came from private sources, the London Games were also the most expensive for India with athletes free to train in the most suitable locations across the globe.

The next Olympic Games will take place in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America.

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