Tokyo Olympics: A seminal moment for Indian sports 

Tokyo could well prove to be the tipping point for a sporting revolution in the country, writes Bindra
Tokyo could well prove to be the tipping point for a sporting revolution in the country, writes Bindra

Ask any Olympian and they will tell you the Games are much more than just a sporting competition. The Tokyo Olympic Village will perhaps be the most unique place on the planet, where athletes from 206 countries and a refugee team will live together in peace and harmony, in the spirit of respect and friendship, but, without forgoing the competitive spirit that brought them there in the first place.

More than previous editions, this Olympics will shine its light on the incredible power of sport to unite the world. And considering the difficult times that we've been through in the last couple of years, this will also be an occasion to reaffirm our faith in the human spirit and resilience.

Tokyo will present a vastly different experience to athletes, given that there will be no spectators and that their movements will be restricted. There will be a lot of first-time Olympians and perhaps this edition will more closely mirror competitions they are used to featuring in. This may be to their advantage.

But for athletes who revel in the energy that spectators and fans provide, Tokyo may prove to be a little more challenging. For a short putter or a long jumper who feeds off the crowd cheering them, that is going to be challenging.

Carrying the Indian flag at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Games
Carrying the Indian flag at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Games

Everyone will, however, be grateful for the opportunity to fulfill their Olympic dream. The success of the Summer Games will depend on each of these athletes. They must follow all the rules and guidelines so that the Games can be safe and secure for everybody.

A Games unlike any other

As far as India is concerned, we go in with a great degree of anticipation and hope. This has been unlike any time in the country’s sporting history, thanks to the work the athletes have put in over the last four years, and beyond.

We have never seen so many of our athletes starting as favorites in the Olympics. In the past, we may have had one or two at every Games to look up to. This time, more than half of India’s shooting contingent is ranked either world number one or two (nine of the 15-member shooting squad are ranked within the top two).

What is incredible is that this is not just restricted to shooting. Many of our wrestlers and boxers are frontrunners for medals. Badminton is already a high-profile sport. It is also remarkable to see lesser-known sports making waves. For the first time, we have a woman fencer and a woman sailor at the Games. While not all of them may win, yet, it speaks highly of the progress that India has made in sports.

Shot in the arm

That our shooters will start as absolute favorites is a huge achievement. We are going in with a contingent of proven world beaters. But they still have a job to do and I’m sure they are focused on the task at hand. But as a sports fan, I wish them the very best.

Indian rifle shooters at a practice session in Tokyo (Abhijit Deshmukh/Sportskeeda)
Indian rifle shooters at a practice session in Tokyo (Abhijit Deshmukh/Sportskeeda)

We should also be proud of what they have been able to accomplish. I would like to acknowledge the great depth that we have in the squad. It is a mix of the young and the experienced but each one has proved themselves consistently over recent years.

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The first few months of 2020 were obviously very challenging. Everything had come to a standstill. But what I am encouraged by, from an Indian perspective, is that there was a spirit of collaboration shown by all concerned. Even when the second wave of the coronavirus hit there was so much nimbleness shown to fly our shooters out of India, set base in Croatia, get their training going and get them to compete. I do believe that the shooters are the best prepared.

Eyes on the prize

There are great expectations from the Indian contingent and it’s a realistic hype. I have no advice to offer, other than that a little detachment from the outcome is good.

The world’s eyes are on you. Everybody is talking about medals and we are all waiting in anticipation. These are all distractions for athletes. When there are distractions thrown at you, your cognitive ability slows down, and your mental capacity drops.

What they really need to focus on is being in the moment, remaining focused on the process, executing skills to the best of their ability, and making the journey the reward. If they remain true to the process, the outcomes will take care of themselves.

All the COVID-19-related protocols and restrictions will be draining. It will not be an easy journey. Continuous resilience must be shown, and the athletes who are flexible and versatile, remain smart in recovery and whose batteries remain fully charged will be the ones who succeed.

I believe that we have the potential to make this an historic Games for India; perhaps the best ever in terms of performance. The record is six medals at the 2012 London Olympics and we should be able to better that with ease. That would provide a great fillip to sports in India. I believe the next decade in the country will be a decade for sport, and perhaps Tokyo will be the tipping point for that great revolution.

Check Out: Tokyo Olympics 2021 Schedule

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Edited by Prasad Mathew
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