These two medals should glitter as gold in every Indian's eyes
A picture tells a thousand words. So did PV Sindhu's after her gold medal match against Carolina Marin. Sindhu had trained throughout and sacrificed willingly in the pursuit of winning a medal in her debut Games – not bronze, not silver, only gold.
The 21-year-old was evidently disappointed with the result as she had a 2-3 head to head record before facing the reigning World No. 1 at Rio de Janeiro. But at the same time, she was gracious in defeat picking up Carolina Marin's racquet, keeping it beside her bag, and acknowledging the crowd.
The people are not feeling any signs of remorse that India haven't fetched a gold so far because the contingent recovered from a medal drought of 14 days and these two medals are a statement to ourselves, more than the world.
Earlier, Sakshi Malik finally took luck with her and started things off. India was waking up to yet another Olympics. That success topped everything else. A couple of days later Sindhu hit the nail hard. A silver.
She along with Sakshi Malik have now added two medals to the Indian kitty. It is not these two medals, that make them special. Both are special because of the long and painstaking path they have taken to get here. They have not just highlighted the two sports in every corner of India but have embodied a motto - inspire a generation.
Sakshi is a role model for the next generation not because she won a medal for the country when her fellow wrestler suffered a horrific injury or Sindhu because she gave hopes of winning the second individual Olympic gold after Abhinav Bindra. They are role models because they have given hope to every child to take up sport, any sport of their choice, and not give up on their sporting aspirations.
“We are the underdogs. I won't be surprised if we win a couple of medals at the Olympics,” was what Sakshi said three months before the Games. The grappler from Rohtak was trailing by five points during the bronze medal match, and true to her words as soon as the second half started, she took the aggressive route. She first went for Tynybekova's legs in the process of lifting her up and slamming down two points. In the dying seconds, the 23-year-old did enough to win the bout and end India's pursuit for that elusive medal.
On the other hand, Sindhu may have succumbed to a defeat against a better opponent, but the silver medalist made the whole country proud with a great display of sportsmanship on court, lifting a weeping Marin before hugging and shaking hands with her. Sindhu, with a million dollar smile, took India past the 'Bronze Age' in badminton. She was extremely skillful, superbly fit and well-composed throughout the Games, and handled herself very gracefully on and off the court.
Whatever luck came her way, she has earned every bit of it. Sindhu had worked hard in the lead up to the Olympics, and it was clear in her attitude and body language that she was here to win. Their roles will also go a long way in motivating aspiring female athletes in India to dream big, but in doing so they must look at not only the destination that Sindhu and Sakshi have reached, but the path they have taken to get there.
They are both champions in their own right and now have a medal each in their debut Olympics. But India has a lot to learn from their success at Rio 2016 and one has to dig deeper to see the reality. The sports authorities, including several governing bodies, need to show vision and long-term thinking in their approach to developing the Olympic sports. With the confidence both are carrying, it can be said that the duo have the mental make-up to sustain the hunger of another medal four years later. But only a slow yet rewarding process can build similar mentally tougher champions under great minds Pullela Gopichand, Kuldeep Malik, and Bishweshwar Nandi.
Let's hope their medals are a lesson to everyone who has an interest, a stake, as small as it may be, in Indian sport. With five new sports added in the next edition, Tokyo might beckon a new era of sport in India. Till then, appreciate the effort of two true champions in Sakshi and Sindhu.