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Big-name golfers have lost out on the opportunity to create history at Rio 2016

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5.46K   //    18 Aug 2016, 14:35 IST
Justin Rose
Justin Rose won gold in golf after several golfers dropped out of the Olympics

"The Olympics remain the most compelling search for excellence that exists in sport, and maybe in life itself."

- Dawn Fraser (Australian swimmer, 3-time winner at the Olympics)

The Olympic motto, Citius Altius Fortius epitomizes the true essence of the Olympic Games. The Olympics, we all know, are a congregation of the best athletes in the world. Around 10,500 athletes descended on to Rio for the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet.

Golf has made a return after an 112-year hiatus, as you've probably heard. A total of 120 golfers will be participating from 41 nations across the men’s and women’s events. The format remains the same as any other event – 72 holes of stroke play, i.e., four rounds of 18 holes each. The players with the three lowest cumulative gross scores at the end wins the respective medals.

As was seen in the men’s event, the strategy of every golfer is to be aggressive as there are only three spots up for grabs. Normally even a top 10 finish guarantees world ranking points and a decent paycheck at other big events. But here, golfers have to be aggressive off the tees, attack more flags and try to hole more putts.

Being a golfer and a fan of the sport, I am extremely disappointed by the fact that some of the biggest names in the men’s event did not participate in Rio. Most of them stated the ‘Zika’ virus as a reason, and it is unfortunate that men’s golf has had to bear the biggest brunt. This does not bode well for a sport that is being played on trial basis at the Olympics till the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

Although every athlete has a right to decide whether he/she wants to compete or not, I find it peculiar that the highest number of dropouts came from golf. If athletes such as Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Novak Djokovic can take part, it is evident that they’ve done their homework about the safety and health aspects before going into the event. I do not believe that they would have competed had they felt that the situation was unstable.

What we need to understand here are the dynamics of what an Olympic medal means for these athletes and their careers as compared to top-ranked golfers.

In sports like athletics and swimming, for international superstars like Phelps and Bolt, their entire careers revolve around the number of Olympic medals they win. Everything, right from their current sponsorship deals to their fame and fan following, is a direct result of their Olympic performances over the years. In their respective sports, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of achievement – and the opportunity presents itself only once in four years.

On the other hand, the career of a Jason Day, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy is based on how many majors – Masters, The Open Championship, US Open and PGA Championships each has won over the years. An Olympic gold will not affect their sponsorship deals, fame or fan following.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy did not take part in the Rio Olympics

It will only be a matter of individual pride to have an Olympic medal in the trophy cabinet. Since golf was not a part of the Games for over a century, the kind of importance that it deserves from these current icons of golf is not yet certain.

After the recent success of the men’s event, I am sure those who missed the bus to Rio will feel like they have lost out on being a part of history. As an athlete, it is important to give back to the sport that makes you who you are. There is a certain sense of responsibility that one needs to undertake. I truly hope the big names participate in Japan for the sake of the popularity of the sport. Hopefully, the smooth running of the 2016 event will boost the chances of golf being retained beyond 2020.

I look forward to Tokyo 2020 – the Games in which Indian golfers will hopefully bring back a medal – and I personally hope to be part of the contingent that creates history!

Today we received the thrilling news of India’s first medal at the Rio Olympics – Sakshi Malik’s bronze in wrestling. This is yet another stellar example of Indian athletes overcoming severe systemic constraints to succeed at the global level.  

Apart from winning India’s first medal at Rio, Sakshi has broken stereotypes across platforms. She is the FIRST female wrestler from India to win a medal at the Olympics in a sport that is male-dominated.

I sincerely hope this will change the gender inequality towards the girl child, and that more young girls are encouraged to take up sport – not only in Haryana, but all across India. In the words of Marilyn Monroe, ‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world!’