It’s just 30 days to the start of the biggest sporting showdown. London 2012 truly promises to be one of a kind. From July 27 to Aug 12, 2012, we can witness more than 10,000 athletes battling it out in the world’s foremost sports competition for the pride and honour of their nation. With London 2012 right around the corner, critics believe that Indian athletes have got what it takes to come back with a rich haul.
The Indian contingent, with 84 athletes(as of June 26,2012), has former Olympian Ajit Pal Singh as the chef de mission. Former Olympians believe that we can return home with at least 6 medals this time with Saina Nehwal, Deepika Kumari, Mary Kom, Manavjit Singh Sandu and Gagan Narang being bright medal prospects this year. We also have 2008 Beijing Olympics heroes Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh looking for an encore.
India has never been a formidable nation at the Olympics. But this time our government has decided to spend over Rs. 2500 million in preparing for the games, including around Rs. 200 million on foreign coaches for various events to boost our chances of winning more medals at the quadrennial event.
India has earned 6 quota places in archery, 3 a piece in men’s, and women’s recurve event. Deepika Kumari, the 18 year old world no. 1 hailing from Ranchi would be the dark horse of the event. She would be teaming up with Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro in the recurve team event. In the men’s section, we have Rahul Banerjee, Tarundeep Rai and Jayanta Talukdar to compete for a position on the podium in both team and individual events.
14 Indian athletes have so far achieved qualifying standards in the athletics events, which is an all time high. Still many athletes like Sinimole Paulose, Anju Bobby George, Joseph Abraham etc. would be battling it out in the following week to clear the qualification time and increase the strength of the athletics team at London. The athletes that have so far qualified are Tintu Luka (800m), Sudha Singh (3000m steeplechase), Seema Antil, Krishna Poonia (discus throw), Sahanakumari (high jump), Mayookha Johny (triple jump), Vikas Gowda (discus throw), Om Prakash Karhana (shot put), Renjit Maheswary (triple jump), Baljinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Irfan T K (20km walk), Basanta Bahadur Rana (50km walk), and Ram Singh Yadav (marathon).
P Kashyap, Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, and V Diju have qualified for London 2012 based on their rankings. Saina Nehwal is the brightest medal prospect for our country. A game dominated by the Chinese in the past, Saina Nehwal is one among the handful of players to break their domination in the international circuit. Jwala Gutta, along with Aswini Ponnappa is a bronze medalist at the latest World Championships. If they can do an encore of their performance, then they would be a force to reckon with. In addition to women’s doubles, Jwala Gutta is also competing in the mixed doubles along with V Diju. P Kashyap would be India’s only representative in the men’s singles competition.
India has earned 8 quota places in boxing this year. 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medalist, Vijender Singh, and five time successive world champion Mary Kom would spearhead India’s challenge at London. Women’s boxing, being introduced for the first time in Olympics, is the perfect platform for 29 year old to bid adieu to the international circuit after having a lucrative career. Olympic glory is the only thing missing in her illustrious career, and she would give her best shot to return with a medal from London. Devendro Singh, Shiva Thapa, Jai Bhagwan, Manoj Kumar, Vikas Krishnan Yadav and Sumit Sangwan are the other Indian pugilists who will battle for ultimate glory at London.
The Indian team, after missing out qualification for Beijing 4 years back, have silenced all critics after qualifying for London with an impressive show at the qualifying tournament held earlier this year at Delhi. Under the leadership of goal keeper Bharat Chettri, the Indian team has an uphill task at hand to qualify from Pool B which also comprises of Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea and Belgium. Micheal Nobbs‘ men need to be at their best to outclass these top class teams as none of the matches would be cakewalks. Indian hopes rest on drag flickers Sandeep Singh and VR Raghunath, who were at their best during the qualifying tournament.
India has earned only one quota place in judo with Garima Chaudhary being the sole representative in the women’s 63 kg category. Garima, ranked 88th, clinched the continental spot along with Turkmenistan’s Gulnar Hayytbaeva (63) for London.
Swarn Singh Virk(single sculls), Sandeep Kumar, and Manjeet Singh(lightweight double sculls) are the three Indian rowers who have booked their tickets to London 2012. The berths were secured by winning their respective events at the FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta for Asia in Chung Ju. Bajrang Lal Takhar, the Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist, could not make it to the first team and will travel to London as a reserve.
With 11 shooters making the cut for London 2012, they are the ones who will spearhead India’s medal chances in this edition. The team, under the guidance of Dronacharya Award winner coach Sunny Thomas, will look to come back with a rich haul. Abhinav Bindra, who became the first individual gold medal winner for India at Beijing 2008 will look to repeat his fete at London in 10m air rifle event. But he faces strong challenge from fellow compatriot, and former world champion Gagang Narang who will also compete in the 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle 3 position events. Defending double trap world champion, Ronjan Sodhi, and former trap world champion, Manavjit Singh Sandhu are the two other promising shooters on whom our hopes rest on. Joydeep Karmakar (50m rifle prone), Vijay Kumar (25m rapid fire pistol), Sanjeev Rajput (50m rifle 3 positions), Shagun Chowdary (trap), Rahi Sarnobath, Heena Sidhu (25m pistol), and Annuraj Singh(10m air pistol) are the others in the fray.
4 Indian swimmers have so far achieved qualification for London 2012. A sport dominated by the Americans and the Europeans, India’s chances of a medal are slim. Aaron D’Souza (200m freestyle), Virdhawal Khade (100m,200m freestyle), Saurabh Sangvekar (15000m freestyle) and Sandeep Sejwal (100m,200m breaststroke) are the swimmers who will battle out against the finest in the world for a podium finish.
2 paddlers, Soumyajit Ghosh and Ankita Das will participate in the men’s and women’s singles competition. India will miss the services of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Poulomi Gatak, who failed to qualify for the ultimate showdown.
After so much controversy and hype, Indian Tennis team’s selection dilemma came to a stand still few days before. With both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refusing to partner Leander Paes in men’s double for London, 208th ranked Vishnuvardhan was made Paes’s partner. Paes, who was the only Indian player who got direct entry for Olympics was initially slated to partner Bhupathi. This decision made by the AITA was not accepted by the latter, as he insisted on partnering Bopanna. Finally, the AITA decided to take back their decision and allowed Bhupathi to partner Bopanna, and Paes was made to team up with Vishnuvardhan. Indian tennis will have its biggest ever Olympic tennis participation at the 2012 London Games, with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) giving Sania Mirza and Somdev Devvarman wild cards. Sania will partner her fellow fed cup teammate, Rushmi Chakravarthy, in women’s doubles, and will pair up along with Paes for the mixed doubles event. Somdev, the 2010 Asian games and CWG gold medalist is returning to the international circuit after a long injury layoff.
Katulu Ravi Kumar (men’s 69kg), and Ngangbam Soniya Chanu (women’s 48kg) are the only two weightlifters to make the cut for London 2012. This is the first Olympic quota place India has earned in men’s weightlifting after a gap of 12 years since the 2000 Sydney Games. All eyes would be on Ravi Kumar who won gold during the 2010 CWG.
In 1952 Helsinki Olympics, K D Jadhav and in 2008 Beijing Olympics, Sushil Kumar created history by winning bronze medals for our country in wrestling. At London 2012, 5 wrestlers will fight it out to increase that tally and create history once again on the grandest stage of them all. Amit Kumar (55kg), Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg), Sushil Kumar (66kg), Narsingh Pancham Yadav (74kg), and Geeta Phogat (55kg) will compete in the freestyle category. All hopes rest on Beijing Olympics bronze medalist and 2010 world champion Sushil Kumar, who is working very hard to improve his 2008 performance and bring the yellow metal home this time round.
“If you don’t try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody’s back yard.”
- Jesse Owens (American Athlete, 4 time Gold Medalist in Track and Field at the 1936 Olympic Games, 1913-1980)