India at London 2012: Are the expectations weighing us down?
A good start is half the job done. Late starters, we are, and our failure to press on a good start may severely hurt our chances of making this Olympics our best-ever. Day two of the Olympics brought gloom, despair and agony among the large Indian public who were expecting our athletes to glow in the glory of having a billion beats behind them. It wasn’t the losses that dented the confidence of our fans but the manner of abject surrender, in some instances, and failure to wrest control in others which is rubbing them.
The male archers, having had a forgettable day on Friday, had a chance at redemption. They threw the healthy lead against Japan to lose in a tie-break. Little counts (our world cup wins, rankings) when you fail to perform at the greatest sporting show on earth. Our mixed doubles Badminton pair of Jwala Gutta and V Diju were at a loss of words as to what hit them like a tsunami in their defeat against the Indonesian pair in their Group C encounter. They still have a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals but they have made their path difficult by putting up a dispiriting show.
Similarly, Sania Mirza who partnered Rushmi Chakarvarthi in the women doubles event of Tennis, failed to shine as a team, going down to the more experienced Chinese Taipei pair in the first round. In the run-up to the Olympics, Sania had created a storm by arguing that she was used as ‘bait’ to please the top-two Indian male players, who were involved in an ego tussle. Later, she defended her mother from critics who questioned Naseema Mirza’s credentials to be named in the tennis team as a ‘manager’. It will be only her performance which will be able to silence millions of fans, who are already questioning her professionalism in the social media.
Then there was the performance of 19-year-old young paddler, Ankita Das who went down to her Spanish opponent 1-4. It wasn’t expected of her to create miracles but she failed to wrest control of key moments in her match, showing the lack of self-belief. For fans who don’t know, India entered the Table Tennis singles event of Olympics through South Asian quota place, defeating much lower ranked opponents of countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
India’s teen boxing sensation Shiva Thapa too lost in the first round against his Mexican rival Oscar Valdez Fierro in the bantamweight category. Much was expected from Thapa, it looked that the pressure of playing his first Olympics and public expectations led to his downfall. In the weightlifting, Soniya Chanu gave her best to lift a total of 171Kg (74Kg + 97Kg) but she could finish only seventh in the 48Kg category. Her 74Kg lift in the snatch wasn’t good enough at this level to win a medal, the Chinese who won the gold, lifted a total of 205Kg (91Kg + 114 Kg). She was 34Kg off the mark, which shows we are going down in our weightlifting standards. A number of doping cases and failure to raise the profile of sport after Karnam Malleshwari won the bronze in 2000 Sydney Olympics have led to a decline in standards.
In Shooting, Vijay Kumar had a poor outing finishing 31st in men’s 10m air pistol. He was way off the mark, even a creditable display outside the final-eight could have given a lot of confidence to the much-fancied shooters who will be testing their mettle in the next couple of days.
The bright spots came on a gloomy day from star Boxer Vijender Singh (who entered the round of 16), young Shuttler P Kashyap (who won his Group D match) and promising paddler Soumyajit Ghosh (who entered the round of 64). Disgruntles have already begun pouring on the social media with fans ridiculing the hype in the lead to the Olympics. A fan has tweeted that with Kabaddi not included in the Games, our chances of winning a sure shot medal is gone. More such voices will grow with each passing day at the Games, till we win a medal.
A lot will be expected from women archers on the third day, a good performance will go a long way in lifting the low morale of our Indian camp. A fighting performance from the whole Indian contingent (be it in Badminton, Shooting, Tennis or Table Tennis) can easily set the tone for a better finish. Let’s see if we can make it a super Sunday!
By Aman Dhall
(The author is Co-founder & Partner, Pro4Sport Solutions, a high-performance coaching firm that trains young athletes in the sport of Basketball, Cricket, Football and Table Tennis)