I am a realist and accept that the Indian Olympic 2016 performance has been terrible. However I am an optimist too and amidst the dark gloom, I can see a few memorable performances which can be termed as silver lining in dark cloud.
Lets focus on 5 of such bravura performances.
PV Sindhu. Chinese badminton authorities have openly said she is the perfect physical example of a badminton player. They should know better after dominating the baddy world. This Olympics they had no medals in ladies singles, though the men’s gold was theirs. I am sure they will strategise and be back.
World Number 10 Sindhu in the QF played super badminton to defeat top ranked Chinese player and world Number 2 Yihan Wang in straight games at 20 and 19. Before that too in prequarter too she had defeated a higher ranked world number 8 player. In the SF too she outclassed the current All England Champion Okuhara in straight games, taking an incredible 11 points in a row to win the 2nd game at 21-10 from 10-10 after a hard-fought 1st game at 19.
In the final however she came up against the most complete player of last 2 years, the world Champion and World Number 1, Carolina Marin. She held her own and lost in 3 games. A super performance for silver by the golden girl. Sindhu is a potential world number 1 and Olympic Gold medallist of the future.
A brief mention of Kidambi Srikanth who stretched the great Lin Dan to 3 games in the QF, finally losing the 3rd game at 18. A huge round of applause for their common coach Gopichand who has given us terrific infrastructure and a pool of 100 plus badminton players.
Lessons; The importance of infrastructure can never be underestimated.
Sakshi Malik She got us a medal, the much awaited and elusive one as it was looking at a Nil olympics. That too she won after trailing in her last two matches(bouts) but dramatically turning it around both times in last 30 seconds. In the bronze medal bout she was 0-5 down and got it to 5-5 before getting a 3 pointer with few seconds to go.
Lessons; Dont give up till the last second.
Dipa Karmakar. Dipa become the first Indian woman gymnast to ever qualify for Olympics. In her two vaulting attempts she scored an average of 15.066 points, a mere 0.15 less than the eventual bronze winner Giulia Steingruber (15.216) of Switzerland. After 6 participants (out of 8) had competed she was at 2nd. After 7, she was at 3rd. But to her luck the last participant was Simone Biles, probably one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. She smiled her way to the Gold and Dipa slipped to 4th.
Dipa however won the hearts of all Indians by landing the fearsome “Produnova” , a vault described as Vault of Death. She scored 15.266 from her ‘Produnova’ with 8.266 points for execution for a difficulty level of 7. To quote Dipa. “This is my highest score in Produnova, I had 15.1 earlier. I am very happy with my vault. I gave my whole effort to bring an Olympic medal for my countrymen.” She also said that she is coming back for Gold in 2020. All the best Dipa.
Learning points- None for her, some for us. Go for it Dipa. Let us try to create infrastructure so that future gymnasts do not have to practice in abandoned marriage halls with vault spring board made from discarded scooter parts like u had
Lalita Babar The Maandeshi express, daughter of a driver/marginal farmer, was 10th. It may be a disappointing 10th for many. To me it signifies hope for the future as it was the best ever performance by an Indian in track and field after PT Usha’s 4th in 1984. It could have been better of course as it was 3 seconds outside her own best.
Still I applaud the effort from the 27 year from the drought prone Satara district who has shown that in athletics too we can try to do well. It is an inspirational story in itself as she was born in an area where girl children are named Nakushi (unwanted) and one of her sister is named that only. Today Lalita is an international athlete and her sister has joined the police service.
Learning points- In Olympics , do better than your personal best and national best
Hockey This may come as a surprise, but i will still put Indian hockey performance as creditable. For instance, we defeated Argentina 2-1, a team which went on to be the Olympic Gold Medallists by defeating the Germans in semi finals and Belgians in final. In the QF we led Belgians 1 Nil till the 1st half before they played brilliantly to win 3-1
Why i will still have faith in Indian hockey is that we are playing modern hockey, we are attacking well, defending well and most importantly counter-attacking well.
Lets come back strong in 2020. We can do it.
Learning points- Dont lose possession in last few minutes. It has proved costly for India several times in its hockey history. In this Olympics too we lost to Germany 2-1 by conceding a goal with 3 seconds left. Maybe the trick is to remember that attack is the best defence.
After London, we were targeting 10 medals this time. We end up with 2. However for the first time maybe there were creditable performances in many disciplines including in some where we have no international presence for last several decades. With focus, patience and intelligent patience we can have creditable Olympics performance in future.