The Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, from August 6th to 21st 2016, have come to a grand close. We have no space here to cover all those terrific achievers from across the world. Therefore we will concentrate only on India, although it has been a disappointing tale. As usual, India sent the largest ever contingent to participate in various sports disciplines, but for eleven long days after the start of the Games the country fumed and fretted for an elusive medal which was made worse by some negative vibes, comments and hiccups. However, 4 magnificent ladies from a largely patriarchal Indian society came into sharp focus and concentrated attention giving the countrymen a rare opportunity to feel proud of them.
In Badminton expectations were mostly from the former world no. 1 Saina Nehwal, but she failed not even through to midway in the competition. And came PV Sindhu, not at all in contention for a medal, and fought like a tigress competing with players much higher in world rankings. She set the ball of euphoria rolling by entering the quarter finals of women’s singles event and then stormed into the semis. In that memorably aggressive match she defeated world no.6 and ensured a silver medal by entering the finals. For a change, cricket fever was replaced by Badminton as whole of India watched that marvellously fought final 19th August, 2016. Sindhu did everything possible to justify the country’s slogan ‘go for gold’, but finally was outmanoeuvred by some killer smashes by world no. 1 Carolina Marin from Spain. PV Sindhu won the Silver medal and made Indians proud and celebrating.
In wrestling focus was mostly on Narsingh Yadav who, unfortunately, got a four-year ban from the WADA on the day he was to open his campaign, and on Yogeshwar Dutt in 65kg freestyle who even failed to qualify on the last day of the Olympics. Meanwhile, coming from nowhere Indian woman Sakshi Malik in women’s 58kg freestyle wrestling won the country’s first Rio medal by winning the Bronze in the play-off. Medal hopes for India erupted after this wonderful moment and Indian girls commanded absolute attention.
Two other magnificent ladies captured the fascination of the country not by winning medals, but by making revelations what Indian women are capable of performing if given the right kind of respect and facilities.
Dipa Karmakar from the North Eastern state of Tripura represented India in Artistic Gymnastics for the first time ever and came agonizingly close to winning at least a Bronze. She finished fourth in the finals by the narrowest of margins and enthralled the country by doing the extremely dangerous Vault of Death. She became a celebrity and rightfully so.
Aditi Ashok did what was least expected even by the most optimistic. In the highly west-dominated sport of Golf she almost did it to the finals, but on the day that mattered most she could not go on and slid to 41st position. She too brought full focus on the fact what Indian women can do in disciplines that were not given enough thought by the sports mandarins of India.
These four ladies, of course apart from few other promising ones, saved the blushes for India in Rio. A Gold medal has been eluding India since the Beijing Olympics of 2008 while in London Olympics 2012 India did send the largest ever contingent and won the largest ever number of six medals, but without a Gold. This time India had to end up with just two medals even after sending a larger contingent than for London. In men’s Hockey in Rio India did very well initially, but could not keep the momentum going having only the consolation of defeating the ultimate Gold medal winner Argentina in the group stage. There is not much to write home about other fields of action in Rio as far as India is concerned.
Sports infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities still lack miserably in India and miles to go before the country of more than a billion could realistically hope for better performances in the world games. Our four ladies have given the Sports authority enough food for thought for the future. And of course, the Power of Indian Women can never be underestimated after the Rio experience. It’s time now for the right thinking people of this country to get clear of all prejudices, bias and gender discrimination.