Act Eight – India’s Rio 2016 Olympic gloom shows no sign of abating

The silent majority might as well end up influencing the eventual outcome of the American Presidential elections this November. But let me tell you something Ankit. The majority of the Arsenal fans inside the Emirates last Sunday weren’t silent. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was vociferously booed by the club’s fans after his injury stricken side succumbed to a damaging 4-3 defeat at home to a boisterous Liverpool side in the opening match of the 2016/17 Premier League season. Even a fourth place finish for the Gunners looks a tough proposition this season. It really does.

However, sporting gloom isn’t just reserved for Arsenal right now. Just ask the Indian Olympic contingent. We are 12 days into the Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, and the Indian contingent is yet to open its medal account. While a handful have come close to getting on the podium (Deepa Karmakar, Abhinav Bindra), most have crumbled under pressure. Seasoned performers such as Saina Nehwal (Badminton), Sania Mirza (Tennis), Gagan Narang (Shooting), Deepika Kumari (Archery) and Jitu Rai (Shooting) failed to raise their game when the going got tough.

The Indian hockey team (Mens) made it to the knockout stage of the Olympics for the first time in 36 years on the back of some scintillating displays in front of goal. However, they too lost out eventually – beaten by an excellent Belgium side in the quarter finals.

The story of India’s Olympic misery doesn’t end here. The fate of the Indian Boxing contingent was sealed last night when its last medal hope, Vikas Krishan lost in the quarter final to the second seed  Bektemir Melikuziev from Uzbekistan.

The Indian athletics and swimming contingent bowed out without a whimper. Having said that, a special word of mention needs to go to 3000m steeplechase runner Lalita Babar, who broke the national record en route to becoming only the second ever Indian woman to qualify for the final of an Olympic track and field event.

However, the biggest disappointment came at the hands of the Indian shooters. After winning medals in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, India’s largest ever shooting contingent (12) failed to win a single medal in Rio. Abhinav Bindra can count himself a tad unlucky after finishing 4th in his pet 10m air rifle event. None of the other shooters even managed to make the finals of their individual events.

With 5 more days to go, Wrestling (Yogeshwar Dutt) and Badminton (P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth) remain India’s only realistic medal hopes.

While it is easy to point the finger of blame at the athletes, the Indian sporting federations must also take responsibility for India’s Rio Olympics debacle. Indian athletes across various disciplines are expected to be competitive against the best in the world despite inadequate facilities and a lack of proper coaching at home. As Bindra pointed out in his tweet the other day, “Each medal costs the UK £5.5 million ($7.13 million). That’s the sort of investment needed. Let’s not expect much until we put systems in place at home”.

The blame games will soon begin. But the stark reality remains – India’s biggest ever Olympic contingent is in danger of coming home without a single medal around their necks.

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