Far away from home at 2016 Rio Olympics, females lead India to glory in world's biggest sporting spectacle
India, a country dominated by men, was led by females at the 2016 Rio Olympics
The moment it was established that India will be sending a contingent of over 120 athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympics, many took it as a given that the medal tally will certainly exceed the one achieved at the 2012 London Games. But little did we know that the two week outing in Brazil would fetch the nation only two medals.In what turned out to be a hugely disappointing Olympics for India, a country where women are far from being treated on the same level as men, two young girls took up the responsibility of saving the blushes and created history in their own way. Sakshi Malik opened India’s account at the 2016 Rio Games by winning a bronze in wrestling and then PV Sindhu cemented her place as badminton great by winning silver.
It had been 13 straight days that the nation had seen disappointments one after another in the form of some athletes coming close to the podium and faltering while some not even managing to put up a fight. This was the Olympic Games where India had hoped that they will finally make a breakthrough in the sporting world.Before the Games, there was a great buzz about India getting close to 8-10 medals in Brazil with the likes of Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Yogeshwar Dutt, Jitu Rai and Saina Nehwal being touted as sure shot medallists.
But as the events unfolded in Rio, we saw Abhinav Bindra bowing out of his last ever Games with a misfortuned 4th place finish in the men’s 10m air rifle event. Gagan Narang was another shooter who is as experienced as Bindra given their similar age and participations at the Games. But the former also disappointed and could not qualify for the final rounds of all the three events he took part in.
Jitu Rai was one of the most impressive debutants for the nation in Rio, the shooter qualified for the final round of his 10m air pistol event however he saw himself finish at the 8th and last spot in the finals. To make things worse, he could not qualify for the final round in the 50m pistol event.
Another such disappointment came from the men’s hockey team, which lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual silver medallists Belgium. The hockey side had looked impressive in their build up to the Games and started the tournament well against an Irish side. But as they progressed in the competition, their performances dipped which led to them narrowly losing to the silver medallists.
Yogeshwar Dutt was India’s last hope as he was set to feature at the end of the Games in Rio but the wrestler lost in the first round. India was facing the prospect of failing to win a single medal with just 4 days to go for the closing ceremony of the grandest event in Rio. The women came to the party and saved the blushes for India by producing exceptional performances.
It was not just Sakshi Malik from wrestling and PV Sindhu from badminton, who cheered up the nation by winning the medals. It was the likes of Dipa Karmakar and Lalita Babar who were doing something that no other Indian athlete has done in a long time (It was the first time that an Indian participated and qualified for the finals in gymnastics in case of Karmakar).
On the other hand, Babar became the first woman and athlete after PT Usha to qualify for the finals of a track and field event at the Games. Sindhu’s and Malik’s victories have been well-documented in the recent days as the former became the first Indian woman ever to win a silver medal at the Games whereas the latter became the first woman wrestler to finish on the podium.
Things could have turned out to be really bad had there been no medals at all for the nation. The political blame-game would have started with some people criticising the athletes while others would have held associations responsible. It would also have seen less Indians being sent to the next Olympic Games in Tokyo because such is the mentality of those holding power here in India, that if an athlete fails to win this time, he/she is not eligible to go the next time.
The Indian women, in the form of Sindhu, Malik and Karmakar, showed the kind of potential the females in the country possess and what wonders they can do if given the right sort of infrastructure and opportunities. It is the PV Sindhus and the Sakshi Maliks who have kept the pride of the nation in front of the whole world. Not only have they managed to save India from firing a blank on the world’s biggest sporting stage, the females have displayed their true capabilities and probably a glimpse into the future.