A roller-coaster ride for the Indian Olympic team

PTI London | Updated on August 13, 2012 Published on August 13, 2012

Gagan Narang with his Bronze at the Olympics 2012. File photo

Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan. File Photo.

Saina Nehwal in action during the Oympics 2012.

Sushil Kumar after winning a Silver in Olympics 2012. PTI.

A disappointed MC Mary Kom after losing to Nicola Adams of Great Britain in the semi-final of women's Flyweight boxing at Olympic Games. PTI.

When the team left the Indian shores, Beijing Games gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi were touted as serious medal contenders and the media talked about an unprecedented hall of medals from the shooting ranges at the Royal Artillery Barracks. While Gagan Narang managed a bronze, Abhinav Bindra and Ronjan Sodhi turned in disappointing performances to dent their medal prospects.

On the whole, it again proved that Indian shooters, despite having improved vastly over the years, lacked the confidence and the composure to do well in the biggest sporting stage.

Although they have good track records, they just could not hold their nerves and many of them got overawed by the situation and succumbed to pressure. None of the women shooters could really make much of an impression.

Heena Siddhu, known for her consistency, was expected to do better than what she did, finishing 12th in qualification round for 10m air pistol, while Rahi Sarnobat took the 11th position in the 25m air pistol qualification.

The boxing ring was expected to give India a few medals, but a bronze from Mary Kom was all that came their way. There was a lot of hype surrounding the boxers when they left for the Games amid high hopes of winning a few medals, so the results will no doubt come as a huge let down with all the male boxers returning empty-handed.

The 29-year-old Mary Kom was the saving grace for the contingent as she clinched a historic bronze in women’s boxing that has been introduced in the Olympics for the first time.

Mary Kom, who generally fights in the 48kg category, had to increase her body weight to take part in the women’s 51kg category and did put up a sterling show against boxers who were much taller and heavier than her.

But the seven male boxers could not go beyond the quarterfinal stage and the Indians claimed that many of them were at the receiving end of some dubious judgements. Although some of the Indian boxers were distinctly unlucky, it was not always the reason for their defeats. Clearly, they were technically not as sharp as their rivals.

Beijing bronze medallist Vijender Singh was hoping to become the first Indian to bag back-to-back Olympic medal but he lost to Uzbekistan’s Abbos Atoev 17-13 in the quarterfinals. Abbos Atoev was clearly a superior boxer and the Indian needed a huge slice of inspiration to pull it off but it didn’t happen.

The young Devendro Singh was the only other pugilist to make enter the quarters where he fought bravely before going down to Paddy Barnes of Ireland in a contest marred by debatable refereeing. The Indian camp was understandably quite peeved by the refereeing in many of the bouts involving Indian boxers.

In badminton, a historic bronze medal for India in Olympics was not something that many had bargained for when the Indian shuttlers began the competitions. Though Saina Nehwal was regarded as a medal contender, many had doubts on whether she could break the Chinese stranglehold to actually win a medal for the country.

The bronze medal for the Hyderabadi ace came under fortuitous circumstances when the world no 2 Chinese Xin Wang retired due to a knee injury just at the start of the second game, giving India its first ever Olympic medal in badminton.

The debate will always continue whether Saina Nehwal, who was trailing 18-21, 0-1 when Xin Wang conceded the match, could have actually prevailed over her strong Chinese opponent if the match had gone the distance. Saina Nehwal reckons that she could have pulled it off as the Chinese was getting tired and she was beginning to find her rhythm midway through the first set.

But all said and done, it is a historic medal for India and as Saina Nehwal herself suggests, could change the badminton scenario in the country, which has struggled to find players of international quality for long. Apart from Saina’s bronze, another quiet and shy Indian, Parupalli Kashyap also made a mark by becoming the first Indian male to reach the quarterfinal stage of the Olympics.

Not many had expected Parupalli Kashyap to set the badminton arena on fire, so his performance to secure a place in the quarterfinals was highly creditable. Other shuttlers, Jwala Gutta, V Diju and Ashwini Ponappa, could not really make any impact, failing to enter quarterfinal knockout stage in their respective team events.

Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa featured in the women’s doubles event and were distinctly unlucky not to make the knockout stages, missing out by just one difference point.

Tennis was another event in which the Indians failed, expectedly so after all the public bickerings over selections ahead of the Olympic Games. When it was the time to perform, the Indians came up with a disappointing show. Most of the teams lasted only till the second round, except for the pair of Leander Paes and Sania Mirza who progressed till the quarterfinals in the mixed doubles.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Mahesh Bhupathi, who looked off colour and was found wanting in many areas. Clearly, the onus was on Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to deliver as they got the team they wanted and were seeded seventh in the men’s doubles.

The Indian duo won the first match against Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus in a three-set marathon tussle, which lasted two hours and 26 minutes. But the euphoria of winning the first round was shortlived as they lost to Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau in another three-setter contest in the second round.

Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan also won their first round match but found Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Michael Llodra of France, the strong combination, too hot to handle in the second round.

With the elimination of the doubles duo, the focus shifted to Leander Paes and Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles. They won the first round against Nenad Zimonic and Ana Ivanovic of Serbia with a clinical display, raising hopes of a medal. But they could not go past the pair of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the quarterfinals, bringing an end to the Indian challenge in the tennis competitions.

In the men’s singles event, Somdev Devvarman and Vishnu Vardhan, who got a wild card in the 11th hour, fell by the wayside in the first round itself.

There was no noteworthy performance from the Indian camp in the showpiece athletic event, not that anyone expected, but some of the athletes even fail to reach their personal best.

Krishna Poonia qualified for the final of the women’s discus throw final and Vikas Gowda also did the same in the men’s discus throw. But in the final, Vikas Gowda finished 8th and Krishna Poonia finished seventh. Krishna Poonia could only hurl the discus to a distance of 63.62m, well below her personal best of 64.76m, also a national record. She was subdued throughout the competition.

Vikas Gowda began on a promising note with a near 65m mark, a 64.79m throw, but eventually fizzled out without any semblance of fight.

Triple jumper Renjith Maheshawary astonished everyone as he fouled in all his three to record “no mark”, making a complete mockery of his Olympic participation.

The young Indian paddlers, Soumyajit Ghosh and Ankita Das also failed miserably, while in judo, Garima Choudhury lost her first round contest. The rowers also could not create any ripples.

Published on August 13, 2012
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