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Clear and present challenge

Four years of tense preparation by sportspersons across will be finally put to test in the London Olympics in July. As the sporting mega event draws close, it is time to find out how India can fare in the highest platform. TWF correspondent Supriyo Hazra analyzes
The year 2008 was perhaps one of the landmarks in the history of Indian sports. The distant dream of claiming more than one medal in Olympics finally became a reality as three Indian athletes won medals to make the country live through some real moments of celebration. The Olympics 2008 in Beijing surely made India dream bigger than confining themselves within the paradigm of cricket or soccer.

Beijing Olympics provided India with new stars. Three men- Vijender Singh , Abhinav Bindra and Sushil Kumar- became household names by dint of their electrifying performances at the highest platform of sports.

While it was Hockey that had made India taste gold in the past, star shooter Bindra brought home the first individual gold medal by winning the yellow metal in the 10 m Air Rifle event in 2008.

It was in Beijing that boxing witnessed tremendous revival in India, holding the hands of Olympic bronze medalist Vijender Singh who defeated Carlos Góngora of Ecuador 9–4 in the quarterfinals at the Beijing Olympics, to guarantee the bronze medal.

Bhiwani Boxing Club or BBC, as it is popularly called, has now become a household name for producing the champion boxers of India.

“Haryana and Bhiwani is surely an epicenter, it is indeed a good venue where boxing and boxers have emerged over the years,” says Rakesh Thakran, Secretary, Indian Boxing Federation.

“Vijender played well in the previous edition of Olympic Games. Bringing India their first boxing medal, in a way he has caused a revolution. More and more children are taking interest in the game,” Thakran says.

Speaking about Olympic hopes, he says: “Olympic gold is not very far away for Indian boxers. They have the international potential. Previously, Asian games medal was our target and now it is surely Olympics.”

India has started dreaming about gold medals in the upcoming Olympics. If Beijing was the perfect door to welcome fresh ray of light then London will surely intensify the hunger and passion of Indians towards other sporting events.

Moreover, the performance of the athletes in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games raised the hopes of the Indians.

It was a magical performance by the Indian athletes that helped them in finishing at the second spot in the medals tally with 38 Gold medals, 27 Silver medals, 36 Bronze medals and with a total medal of 101 medals in the Commonwealth Game s (CWG) in 2010.

Immediately after the successful CWG campaign, Indians went to Guangzhou to participate in the Asian Games in November. Significantly, the Indian athletes continued their brilliant performance and the 2010 edition turned out to be the best performance of India in the Asian Games. They grabbed 14 gold medals in the grand event.

Ace shooters Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra performed well in both the CWG and the Asian Games. So, the country can surely expect a medal from the mega event this year.

India can also dream about something positive in other departments like archery, Badminton and Tennis where players like Saina Nehwal and Deepika Kumari have been proving their talent for quite some time now.

It was a flow of medals at the CWG with women archers team comprising of Dola Banerjee, Dipika Kumri and Bombayala Devi clinching the yellow metal by beating their English rivals. Rahul Banerjee claimed the individual men recurve Singles title to give India its third gold from archery piping Lyon Jason of Canada. In the Asian Games also India's men's team won the archery bronze medal after they defeated Chinese Taipei.

Table Tennis is another sports where Indians have been competing for quite some time but the chances of clinching the medal is still quite tough.

Experts believe that though the Indian Table Tennis stars are performing well in the CWG and Asian circuit, the chances of winning Olympic medal is still quite distant.

“You cannot compare CWG and Asians with Olympics. In Olympics, players from all over the world come to perform and participate. Generally, in Olympics Chinese people win and this time also they are likely to win,” ace Indian Table Tennis player Sourav Chakraborty says, speaking to TWF.

“I don’t think there is any hope for Table Tennis in Olympics this time. But apart from Olympics I can say players are doing good in Commonwealth circuit, Asian circuit and also other international tournaments in which we have been participating so long,” he says.

“I think it will take some time to get the medal in Olympics for sure, because the kind of system other countries have, and specially China, I don’t think we can compete with them so easily,” he adds.

On the mental preparation that the athletes undergo before performing in the major events, according to Chakraborty, “To win Olympic medal one needs to have strong mental situation.”

“We have various levels. Before the tournaments we have lots of plans, specially on our physical thing, our mental ability and our practice. So the technical thing should be there. We also see the videos of our opponents’ performances to prepare ourselves,” Chakraborty informs.

He says the government has been providing support to the players in recent times so that they can prepare themselves for major sporting events.

“Indian government has been paying lots of attention to the players and that is true. They are trying to do well and provide support to the players,” adds Chakraborty.

In the meantime there was some good news for all the Hockey lovers as the men’s team qualified for the event after beating France in the qualifiers in New Delhi.

The Indians roared into the Olympics after missing a berth last time in Beijing.

Sandeep Singh, the highest goal scoring star of the Indian winning hockey team, tells TWF: “Next five months would be crucial for us. Having an Australian coach in helping us. Traditionally we play attacking hockey and that’s what Australians have mastered today to be the best in the world. “

“I am hopeful of a good competition in the Olympics but it will be extremely tough because the level of competition will be very high,” he says.

So, the four years of preparation has nearly got over and it is time for the players to showcase their performance in the battlefield. If three medals had changed the passion of the people towards sports in India then a good performance in London will surely play a key role in charging the spirit of sports in this country in the coming years.
Trans World Features (TWF)
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